This Mother’s day my brother and I traveled back, in our memory, to the first time our mother took us to her native island home of the Dominican Republic. My brother was 12 and I was 10. We spent the summer at a relative’s country home in Manzanillo, located in the province of Monte Cristi, in the northwest region of the tropical island. One day while exploring the grounds, my brother and I discovered a nesting chicken hidden in some shrubs. My brother peered closer for a better look. Bad move. But what did we know? We were city kids: Brooklyn, New York. The hen zoomed out after my brother. With the wing span of a Learjet and her neck stretched taut trying to peck him, she chased him around the yard. My brother ran, hands straight out in front of him, just like in the cartoons, frantically calling, “Mommeee!” Mom banged aside the screen door and flew out of the house, a straw broom in her hand, and shooed the mama bird back to her place.
My brother never went back to the Dominican Republic.
That event made me reflect on how much mothers do to protect their children. Whether human or animal, they are fierce defenders of their little ones. What’s more, human mothers ignore age. In her eyes, you’re always her baby . . . and she can still cut you down to size if need be.
I continued my thoughtful journey recalling some of my favorite books and films that celebrate mothers. As the character Sophia from the television sitcom The Golden Girls would say, “Picture it. Sicily. 1868.” But for this first title, it’s not Sicily. It’s America.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, 1868. The star might be the character Jo, but Marmee is the real hero raising four daughters while her husband is away serving in the Civil War. And just as relevant today with spouses in military service.
I Remember Mama was a 1948 film about a Norwegian family, but the matriarch embodies mothers of all cultures: the tireless, resourceful heart of the family.
A widow and a mother with very little money during the Great Depression, actress Sally Field in the 1984 film, Places in the Heart, struggles to keep her children with her and the Ku Klux Klan at bay.
Then there are those brave enough to stand up against the status-quo. In The Blind Side, 2009, Sandra Bullock portrays the Caucasian mother who opens her heart and her home to a homeless black youth.
And who wouldn’t want a mom who takes on bullies, like Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver in the 1986 film, Aliens?!
Honor goes also to the many grandmothers, aunts, and sisters, who often champion the grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and siblings in their care.
Perhaps the most heart-rending examples of motherhood are those who, in order to save their child, must give them away.
The Broadway musical, Miss Saigon, was inspired by the decision a Vietnamese woman made during the fall of Saigon to send her child away for the chance at a better life. Reminiscent of that other self-less mother, Jochebed, who in order to save her son from the Pharaoh’s decree to kill all male newborns, set her infant adrift on the Nile entrusting her baby Moses into the hands of a greater King.
We have a sorrowful saying in Spanish, “Una madre puede criar doce hijos, pero doce hijos no pueden cuidar una madre,” which translated means that while one mother is able to raise and care for twelve children, those twelve children, when grown into adulthood, can’t find the time to care for their one mother.
May it never be!
See you next time on June 22nd.
I’ll Always Love My Mama
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