My Mother And Me – 1950
Mother’s Day has prompted me to republish this photo I originally posted on 1HeckOfAGuy.com May 8, 2011.
Although my mother was, by far, the predominant force in raising me, I can come up with three stories about my father and me for every episode that features Mom. I think that apparent paradox is the consequence of my childhood being flooded with interactions with my mother that formed the background for all my own activities and the matrix of my inner life. On the other hand, whatever happened between my Dad and me stands out in relief, bracketed by periods during which I was, if not ignored, certainly not in his spotlight.
I don’t recall a time when I wasn’t in my mother’s spotlight.
The photo of my mother and me atop this post, discovered while excavating Mom’s collections, goes far toward explaining this phenomenon.
Psychoanalytic theory holds that one’s sense of self originates in the infant’s awareness of the mother’s unconditional (and, indeed, unreasonable) empathic care radiating from her eyes. The mother provides a nascent identity for the child, which, if all goes well, is, during one’s childhood, adapted and internalized as a psychological element independent of the external world.
Now, take a look at that 1950 photo. That young woman, who had recently become a mother while living in a tiny, poorly insulated, inexpertly constructed home in rural southwest Missouri, helping her husband try to make a living selling used cars, and tending to the remnants of their failed farm, should, by rights, be as upset as the squalling child in her arms. Instead, she gazes upon him with undiluted, unmixed approval, acceptance, and love.
And I grew up knowing intuitively that, regardless of my mistakes, errors, or misbehaviors, my mother continued to gaze upon me with undiluted, unmixed approval, acceptance, and love.
So, I have no wonderful stories about my mother today, not because my history with her is empty of touching moments but because that history is too rich and interlocked to provide convenient post-size chunks of inspiration. It is, instead, the kind of history a son needs with his mother.
My Mother Always Hoped For Snow
Bobby Ruth Showalter, my mother, died in her sleep at her home in the Ozarks March 14, 2013 after many years of worsening health. She was preceded in death by her husband, Doyle Ray Showalter, two decades earlier, and by her younger son, Bobby Lynn Showalter, 45 years ago. She was a caring, smart, forgiving, funny, altogether delightful woman, who was beloved by family, friends, and community.
I miss her greatly.
Mom was a big fan of snow, and her hopes for that particular form of precipitation were frequently and fervently directed to the heavens – and to anyone she thought might have influence in that sphere.
Given that longstanding preference and Mom’s record of getting her way, it was no surprise that the day her memorial services were held, March 21, 2013, the second day of Spring, the Ozarks were visited by a unseasonable snowstorm, as evidenced by the above photo taken from the deck of her home on Table Rock Lake following the funeral.
Years after my mother’s death, there is much about her I still don’t know.
I don’t know, for example, why my mother, who lived alone, kept four heads of lettuce and three packages of pie crusts in her refrigerator, more than a dozen sacks of beans, seven cans of sauerkraut, eight cans of fruit cocktail, and three cans of water chestnuts in her cabinets, and fourteen large boxes of cereal on her shelves.
I don’t know why my mother amassed a collection of several dozen kitchen towels, all new, with the sales tags still attached.
I don’t know why my mother accumulated enough yarn to knit scarves for every man, woman, and child living in southwest Missouri – with enough left over to make mittens for all the children currently enrolled at the Shell Knob Elementary School.
I don’t know why my mother kept the bill of sale for the Chevy Fleetmaster she and my dad bought in 1951, why she stashed away 60+ empty envelopes that once contained house payment checks received by my parents in the 1970s, or why she stored both the original & amended 1994 financial reports of the Eagle Rock Missouri All Faith United Methodist Church Women’s Group.
And I don’t know why my mother, who kept the walls of my childhood home pristinely bare, free of decoration other than the obligatory portrait of Jesus with the eyes that follow you wherever you go, moved to a log cabin and filled every wall with meat grinders, trivets, flatirons, two-man saws, butter churns, china sets, hay hooks, augers, toys, cooking utensils, china, brass buckets, ceramics, decoys…
I do know, however, that my mother was tremendously important to many, many people.
I do know that for a number of individuals my mother was a stabilizing force – and sometimes the only stabilizing force – in an dangerously unstable, chaotic world.
And, I know, with absolute certainty, that my mother always loved me – without reservation, without conditions, and without end.
I occasionally wrote about my mother. These posts, especially, the first couple listed below, are (in my judgment) some of the most interesting entries I’ve published.
- In My Mother’s House Are Many Tchotchkes
- My Mother’s Incredibly Christian Clock
- Maternal Tchotchke Inventory Hits The Charts
Credit Due Department: The photo of snow falling was taken by Gwen Stockton.
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