Motherhood! The dictionary defines it as “the state of being a mother or having the spirit or qualities of a mother.” And so what is a mother? Again, according to the dictionary, a mother is a creature who “creates, nurtures and protects.”
Today we will once again celebrate Mother’s Day. We will honour mothers who have borne offspring and those who have adopted a child or who have a maternal relationship with another human being. Motherhood is a grand and mysterious state – one which we may never fully comprehend.
I have often written about women, many of whom were mothers, who have achieved fame in their lifetime. This time, my story is a little different. I would like to tell you a story about a mother who, during over nine decades on earth, did not become famous, did not seek the limelight for herself, and did not do anything outstanding which will go down in history. Nonetheless, she was very special. Her name was Eleanor but she was always called Nora.
Nora was born in 1909 in England into a middle-class family. Her own mother was a pragmatic, no-nonsense woman who bore and raised six children with little emotion or fuss. On the other hand, Nora’s father was kind, soft-hearted when necessary and always had a twinkle in his eye. He adored his two daughters and four sons.
In return, Nora worshipped her father and was intensely proud of his achievements. He was one of Sir Isaac Pitman (of shorthand fame)’s first students and went on to become Private Secretary to Lord Lonsdale in London. Nora was content to bask in her father’s glory and was proud of his own writings. He read extensively, loved the written word and wrote many short pieces for the newspapers, all of which Nora cut out, saved and pasted in a scrapbook. Nora’s father died when she was 18 and her heart was broken. Two years later, she met the love of her life and was married the day after her 21st birthday.
One of Nora’s brother’s was an artist of note. Again, her pride knew no bounds. Much of his art work adorned her walls. Another brother had a penchant for acting. Although he never took it up professionally, his talents were incredible. Nora often recalled how this brother would go to one of the early movie houses to see a film (black and white and silent in those days) and then come home and act out the whole drama for the rest of the family. When “talkies” came in, he would do the same thing, imitating each actor’s voice and repeating the lines of the movie word for word.
Nora’s own talents often went unnoticed because she wanted it that way. She would never seek the limelight for herself and much preferred boasting about her family. For instance, not many people knew she was an accomplished, self-taught pianist, but when in later life her eldest daughter and later both her grand-daughters enjoyed music and played the piano, Nora was thrilled. The acting talent also came out in one of those grand-daughters and again Nora’s pride was paramount.
One grandson began to draw at age six and his passion and talent for art was very apparent. Nora pointed out that both he and his great-uncle artist were left-handed, and said it with a smugness that made it seem that it was a foregone conclusion the grandson had inherited that artistic talent!
Nora was also an accomplished dressmaker and embroiderer, and could do incredible things with knitting needles and crochet hooks. But she never boasted of these talents. Neither of her daughters inherited this skill in any great way, which might have been a disappointment to her, but she never said as much!
Her piano playing oldest daughter showed her talents in hair design, flowers, gardening and the simple pleasures of being a mother. That was more than enough for Nora. The other daughter also became a mother, a journalist and an author. This delighted Nora who always maintained that her long-deceased father had a hand in the writing part.
Nora’s husband was a successful businessman, but again Nora was content to merely stay in the background while, at the same time, being her husband’s right hand, helping where necessary and being proud of all his accomplishments. She was basically a simple woman who was satisfied with her life and all the pleasures it brought her. Although she enjoyed the lifestyle her husband’s position offered them, she would have been just as content to live more modestly. She was “happy in her own skin” and I admired that quality about her, above all else.
She never cared about appearances, even her own. Her daughters often despaired over her lack of interest in material things. She wore little or no make-up and didn’t like to “fuss” over clothes. She was what she was, but even into her 90s, her skin was soft and wrinkle-free and her hair was a lustrous silver colour. She was simply a mother who loved her family and basked in all their successes.
She created, she nurtured and she protected her own with a fierce passion. She was the ultimate mother. Always ready to listen, always there when you needed her, always a calming influence in times of stress.
Her favourite expressions were “always think positively” and, when things got tough, “this too will pass.” She had a strong faith in God and believed that life always worked out the way He planned it for us. “If it’s meant to be, it will be,” she was often quoted as saying.
She had lived through two wars and a depression. In later life, she lost her hearing, suffered three strokes and the agony of arthritis and many of the indignities of old age, but she rarely complained to her caregivers.
How do I know so much about this lady? I know because she was my mother and early on the evening of the 13th day of January 2005 she passed away peacefully, surrounded by her family.
I know we were fortunate to have her with us for so long—but when it’s your mother, it’s never quite long enough. I will always miss her wise counsel, her unconditional love and her warm hugs.
Even seventeen years after her death, there is still an enormous hole in our family for she was one of a kind. Life will never be quite the same without her for any of us.
This year once again I honour her and all the motherly women who create, nurture and protect.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!