By Billie Johnson
For me, Motherâ€™s Day is a day of remembrance. During a visit to New England last summer, I caught up with my momâ€™s old college roommate. I love to hear peopleâ€™s stories about my mom. Her friend Kaye told me how excited my mom was to become a mother â€” how there â€śnever was a more wanted child.â€ť Momâ€™s former co-workers have told me how she displayed my report cards at work, kept everyone apprised of any athletic accomplishments and how she always called me â€śmy Billie.â€ť
My mom herself told me that when she encountered my dad at a bar in Hailey, Idaho, the booming of her biological clock was deafening. After meeting his children from his second marriage, she decided he â€śhad good enough genes,â€ť and they were married six weeks later at the Elko, Nev., courthouse. I came along three and a half years into their marriage, and they divorced before I turned 4.
Although I saw my dad maybe one weekend a month, my mom had full custody and was the parent. I really just played when I hung out with my dad. Mom did all the school shopping. She took me to school. She picked me up from daycare. She cooked dinner until I was old enough to scramble eggs and master Hamburger Helper. She held the stress when I outgrew shoes and had to wait until payday to get a new pair, and she handled all the questions about God and sex and politics with candor and a comfort that led me to think everyone talked like we talked.
One of my favorite things my Mom ever made me do was in the days before Motherâ€™s Day when I was 6 years old. She had me pick out a Motherâ€™s Day card for my first-grade teacher. I thought it was weird at first, but then she explained. Who did I spend my days with? Who was helping her raise me the most? She sat me down and had me write in my best Dâ€™Nealian handwriting, â€śHappy Motherâ€™s Day to my other mother.â€ť I can remember giving them to a couple other teachers and the lady who ran my daycare over the years.
I thought this was normal. I thought everyone, too, viewed teachers and other childcare works as secondary parents, but the older I get, the more unique I realize my momâ€™s perspective was. Mom viewed her relationship with my teachers as a joint venture. They were in it together. Raising me to be a happy, healthy, confident, contributing member of society, although it truly fell on her shoulders, was a mission assumed by every adult who worked with me. She knew she couldnâ€™t do it alone, and she sure as heck knew they couldnâ€™t do their jobs without her doing hers.
It was a brilliant motherly move. We want kids to feel loved and nurtured and constantly supported, and in framing my teachers as part of a mothering network, I never felt alone. Another element of this brilliance was what a diverse group of â€śother mothersâ€ť I had. Some were more nurturing than others. Some more disciplining. Some imparted humor through their teaching while others focused on harsh realities of the world I was growing up to live in. I consider myself to have had some of the best â€śparents,â€ť and because most of them were women, â€śmothersâ€ť in the world.
Iâ€™m sure an Internet search could let me know the origins of Motherâ€™s Day in May in seconds, but I think itâ€™s uncanny that it occurs toward the end of the school year. Moms and teachers always love to hear a grateful or encouraging word, and at this time of year, itâ€™s especially appreciated.
I naturally miss my mom each Motherâ€™s Day, but I know Iâ€™m surrounded by so many other mothers who continue to nurture and scold and coddle and correct when we need it, just like she did. Happy Motherâ€™s Day to all the other mothers out there.
Billie Johnson of Pocatello holds a bachelorâ€™s degree in engineering and a masterâ€™s degree from Idaho State University. She works as an engineer, is an avid community volunteer, and maintains a blog about her adventures in a cow suit at www.CowSuitSaturday.com.