A Mother’s Day letter to my boys

crazy_mom_postcards-r9a9b9ade6fc949b88182745fd025d7a5_vgbaq_8byvr_512Just a little break from my new format in honor of Mother’s Day:

Dear Boys,

I’ve never tried writing a Mother’s Day letter. I thought about starting it like an acceptance speech:

I’d like to thank Joshua William and Michael Caleb, for if it weren’t for you two, I wouldn’t be the recipient of this award–I mean day.

I thought about writing an apology.

Truth be told, the weirdest traits you have, you got from me. Just be thankful I rebelled and didn’t let my parents raise me like a girly girl. They tried, but I pretty much peeked as a toddler, and it all went downhill from there. I won a baby show contest, but I absolutely HATED wearing the frilly dresses and sitting for hours with rollers in my hair. I hated smiling at the judges. As I grew older, I never won anything else anyway. I couldn’t wait to get rid of the dress and head to the horse barn so that I could ride the ponies at the county fair.

So, boys, despite all the quirkiness you got from me, it could have been worse. I traded my foo-foo for an adventurous spirit, and I think I passed a little of it on to you.

I can’t blame you for your quirkiness because I know you come by it honestly.

The day after I brought you home from the hospital you had already learned how to raise your head and were looking about the room. You’ve always been so curious. You still stay up through the night thinking. Your mind never stops. Your teachers labeled you gifted, and I always knew you didn’t think the way the other kids did. I always knew you were a writer. As a pre-schooler (before Michael came along), you introduced me to your imaginary siblings—Kinder, Mark, and Falla (and your uncle from England, who rode atop our car). You made me make you business cards so that you could create your own detective agency in first grade. You still create stories stories today and bring them to life through your videos.

When you were in elementary school, you told me that you were going to be a great adventurer and go off on safari to film documentaries for National Geographic. I never hassled you because you were too afraid to feed the dogs when the sun went down. That’s okay. We both know that the wild things come out after dark. I think you are pretty courageous going off to Nashville to make your own way in the entertainment industry.

Things have a way of working out the way they should. You were always incredibly fast and athletic in school, but I have to admit I’m kind of glad you never played football. I tried to teach you how to throw a football, but I hit you square in the face. You didn’t care too much for football after that. I didn’t know back then that your eyesight need correction and you couldn’t see the ball. But look at it this way. If our little football incident had not have happened, you might not be filming games for ESPN. Perhaps you were destined to look at the sport from a different perspective.

And you indulged my love of music, taking piano lessons with me. Maybe my love of music rubbed off on you, and that’s why you make music videos today.

I understand your spirit of competition. I know how it feels to be the little guy against the bigger. That’s why I didn’t punish you when you trapped your brother in the bathroom and charged the door with a wooden sword. But one of you two could have confessed to the hole. I have to give you kudos for keeping a secret so long.

You’ve always had a sense of justice. You have always been one to stand up for the weak. I remember the special little boy on your coach-pitch team who was being picked by the big boy on your team. The doctors said you were in the 1 percentile because of your height and weight. I worried you would never grow. But that didn’t stop you from telling the big guy to leave the little boy alone, and when he wouldn’t, you punched him in the nose. I will never, ever, ever condone violence, but I’m glad you aren’t afraid to fight for what is right.

Like me, you don’t open up to all people. Some people think you are very quiet. I laugh. When you let your true colors show, it’s hard to reel you in. When you are around people you like, you talk and talk and talk and talk. Your teachers have been very kind to shelter me from all the mischief you create, i.e. ninja crawling across the classroom. When you were born, it was you and me against the world. I coached your basketball team, your soccer team, your baseball team. Your Pa Bell was right there by your side too, and I tried to echo the words he taught me: Elbow up. Swing level. Watch your feet. Don’t push the ball. I put on the catcher’s gear.  I took you to every football practice before you hit middle school. And I raced you around the house. I’m so proud of the athlete you have become.

And like Josh, you indulged my love for music and took lessons with me, an experience that has changed my life forever. Whenever I see you play, my heart sings.

Final Thought

Boys, what I’m trying to say is I love you. I love everything you have given me. I love the fact that you accepted part of me to become part of you. I thank God for you EVERY DAY!

You are what makes Mother’s Day so special.

Love, Mom

For my mom

Mother’s Day will have passed by the time I finish writing this, but I’ve spent all day trying to come up with the right words.

I write a lot about my dad’s side of the family. I know a lot about them, but my mother was an extremely private person who never said much about herself. The week before she died, she hinted that some of her people may have been moonshiners. I don’t know if it’s true, but it makes for a good story. My mom liked a good story.

She was one of nine children, the oldest girl, and spent most of her life taking care of other people. I know she was proud of her siblings. She talked quite a bit about her twin brothers. Being the oldest, she probably had to keep them in line, and from what she said, they were a handful. She said she remembered them riding their tricycles in the house in the middle of the night.

She and her brothers and sisters attended a small one-room school near Shady Grove. The twins tormented the poor teacher by throwing firecrackers in the potbelly stove. Just as the teacher prepared to stoke the fire, the firecrackers exploded and just about scared her to death. They boys escaped punishment by climbing out the window.

My mom was never that mischievous although I remember her telling me stories about the Bell Witch. My maiden name is Bell, and those stores were passed down through the other side of my family. My greatest fear was that Old Kate, another name for the Bell Witch, would visit me at night and yank the covers off my bed as she had done to poor Betsy Bell. Old Kate also had a habit of knocking on the walls. My bedroom was on the other side of my parents’, and sometimes after telling me a story about the Bell Witch, my mom would knock on the wall and then giggle. I usually ended up sleeping between them that night.

When she and my dad were dating, my dad’s younger brother went along with them and sat in the backseat. It was my mom’s idea to put him out of the car at the graveyard and make him walk home by himself.

At least I know where my mischief comes from.

My mother was overly cautious and fearful to the point of making me fearful of just about everything. But that was just her way. She knew all about spider bites and worm bites and bee stings and a myriad other things. All of my aunts and uncles on my dad’s side of the family used to call her up for advice about everything. She knew everything. She really did.

Her strongest advice to me ever was, “Actions speak louder than words.” She was right. People may say one thing, but you can always tell a lot about people’s character and true motivations by what they do. Now that I’m older that advice means so much more to me.

My mom was smart. She never went to college, but she could fix anything. She could make anything work. She understood how anything worked.

And she was super neat. After I was born, she never worked outside the home, but she never let up a bit working at keeping her house in top-notch order. She hung every item in the closet perfectly straight with the hangers a uniform distance from each other. Her refrigerator was spotless, and so were her floors.

When she packed my lunches for field trips, she wrapped my sandwiches in wax paper and then wrapped them again in aluminum foil, folded to perfection. The bag was so heavy with goodies—she didn’t want me to go hungry—that it almost overflowed.

Everything she did was to perfection—and beyond.

I guess that’s why I’m a perfectionist. But I’m working on loosening up. (I still like things organized and neat and clean. I get distressed when they’re not.)

Above all, I’ve always wanted to make my mom proud. I think I did. She kept a scrapbook of all my awards and accomplishments from grade school up, my perfect attendance certificates, newspaper clippings from the math contests I attended, my softball pictures and trophies, and all the things I’ve had published, especially my Chicken Soup for the Soul story. I think she liked that one the best. She always supported my writing.

I hope I made her proud.

Happy Mother’s Day.