Mothers: Those gray hairs are well earned

Hi, Mom!

Sunday is Mother’s Day. I’m the kid who made you a mom way back in… well, we don’t need to go into all that. It was so last century.

But Tuesday was your 86th birthday. I don’t think you can blame all your gray hair on me anymore. Nature gets the assist.

Wasn’t it fun having me as the experimental child? My siblings benefited by all the practice you inflicted on me. Or I inflicted on you. I can’t remember which way it went; I was too young.

By the time our baby sister came along, I think you’d given up all hope of raising gentlemen and a lady, and had gone into survival mode.

We kept finding you in the basement, leaning over the washing machine, praying. I don’t know why the washing machine needed so much prayer. Or why you kept calling it by our names — Burton, Timothy, Daniel, Martha.

One would think that maybe you weren’t praying about the washing machine, but about… Nah, it couldn’t be us. I mean, I know Martha was a pain; all kid sisters are. There are probably six or seven chapters on that topic alone in the parenting manual.

By the way, you never did tell me where to find the parenting manual when I became a dad. I had to make it up as I went. I faked knowing what I was doing a lot.

If you had told me where you kept that handy dandy manual of raising kids, I could have been a pro, just like you.

Wasn’t it great that you had at least one perfect kid? I refer, of course, to myself.

Remember that time I hid my sister inside that cardboard box, and when Dad extricated her, she couldn’t straighten her tiny legs for a while? Yeah? Well, I don’t remember it.

You all keep telling that story over and over. Surely, I wouldn’t have done such a thing. I was the perfect one, remember? She must have crawled in the box by herself. I’m sure of it.

I know one or two of us must have caused you a spot of worry now and then. I understand that you used to have thick hair before you kept pulling it out. How come I don’t remember when your hair was full and dark?

They say being a mom is a difficult job. If it was easy, dads could do it. We can’t.

I kept trying to apply things I learned from you, like how scary a kid’s middle name is when shouted. Or worse, when first and middle names are whispered low and slow, accompanied by squinty eyes.

I learned that Mother’s Spit is the strongest substance in the world. Mother’s Spit on a tissue or thumb removed grease stains from foreheads and calmed cowlicks of the hair. If I’m short of WD-40, I’m sure that Mother’s Spit would loosen bolts, remove rust and increase gas mileage.

You taught us three boys how to cook, do laundry and mop floors “in case you can’t find wives who will cook and clean — or in case you can’t find any wives at all.”

Your reasoning dented my self-confidence, but chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting, the way you taught us to bake it, massaged away perceived insults. And your daughters-in-law appreciated you for teaching us those skills. They found them handy, even when I explained that mopping isn’t a lot of fun.

I often questioned why we had to grow such a big garden that needed weeding. All. The. Time. You said it was because you couldn’t afford to buy all the food we ate. Perhaps if you’d cut back on the asparagus and beets…

I asked you a lot of questions over the years. You always answered, even if it wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear. I learned a lot of wisdom about life, even when it didn’t sound like wisdom to me at the time.

And I eventually understood that “Because I said so” is all the answer a parent owes a child sometimes.

What we never questioned was that you loved us. I wondered how you could sometimes, as valuables shattered, new clothes ripped, doors fell from hinges, and when I nearly blew up the house (in a perfect kid sort of way).

But you never gave us cause to doubt that you absolutely did, even when spanking us. I mean spanking my siblings; I was perfect, remember? Which reminds me, you laughed a lot too.

And Mom, my sibs claim that I wasn’t perfect. Tell them to quit it! That can’t be true, can it?

There you go laughing again.

Anyway, Mom, happy birthday! Happy Mother’s Day! I — WE — love you.

Send detailed accounts of Cole’s misdeeds — and commiserations to his mom– to burton.w.cole@gmail.com or to the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.


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