May 2017 Column Contest Winner

A note to my mother
John Small, Johnston County Capital-Democrat

I am told that one of my relatives apparently did not appreciate my sharing the following story at my mother’s funeral last Friday.
This surprised me; everyone else seemed to appreciate it.
But the fact that this one particular lone individual didn’t seems ample enough reason to share it again here...
It happened on Sunday, Aug. 13, 1978. I know the date because, for whatever reason, I thought to write it down at the time. I know it was a Sunday because... well, okay, I looked it up. I Googled it.
I don’t remember after all these years the specifics of what actually happened. I only recall that my two younger brothers and I got into some sort of worse-than-usual mischief that caused our mom to yell at us a little more loudly than she might have ordinarily. I was a sophomore in high school at the time, so whatever it was we did I’m sure I at least was old enough to have known better…
Sometimes, when she really had to get on to us for some stupid thing we did, she would yell at us and then go into her bedroom and cry. I never understood that when I was a kid. But it happened every now and then, and when it happened on this one particular occasion it really shook me up. So much so that I felt moved to apologize.
I was never much good at face-to-face emotional scenes - I’m still not, for that matter - so I went about it the only way I knew how. I wrote her a note. But not on a piece of notebook paper that I could place on the kitchen table or stick on the refrigerator or slide under her bedroom door.
Instead, for whatever reason, I went to the living room bookcase and pulled out Mom’s white leather-bound Holy Bible - the Bible her parents had given her when she was still a teenager, the Bible she held the day she married my dad, the Bible in which she wrote down all the important milestones in her life and from which she occasionally read to me and my brothers on Saturday mornings when I’m sure we would have rather have been watching Bugs Bunny and Superman - and quickly scrawled out some poorly thought-out lines on one of the few still-blank pages just inside the front cover.
This is what I wrote:
To Mother: I know that the kids and I don’t show it to you very much, but we love you as much as a mother could be loved by her children. We do some idiotic things sometimes, but we know that you and Dad have always tried to do what you thought best. I guess we just take it for granted. I just want you to know that we truly love you, and would even die for you if necessary. You are the greatest mom in the whole wide world.
And then I signed it, and dated it, and put Mom’s Bible back on the bookshelf... hopeful that she would eventually notice that hastily written note. And then I went on with my life and eventually forgot all about it…
Now I told you that story in order to tell you this one:
Many years later, after I had become a parent myself and was lucky enough to have forged a more-or-less successful career as a professional writer, Mom and I were sitting in her living room one Saturday afternoon just chatting. At some point the conversation turned to my work here at the Capital-Democrat and Mom started talking - not for the first time - about how glad she was that I was getting to do the one thing I loved most for a living and how much she always looked forward to reading my column even when she didn’t agree with what I had to say. It was a conversation we’d had a number of times before; Mom was always my biggest cheerleader. But on this particular occasion, Mom did something she had never done before.
She reached over to the bookcase, pulled out her Bible, and opened it to that note I had so sloppily written in a fit of remorse nearly four decades earlier and then forgot about.
And she said in a soft voice, “But of all the things you’ve ever written, this will always be my favorite.”
It was the first time she’d ever acknowledged having read it. And I’ll be honest: I had a hard time holding back the tears when she said it. I didn’t even try when I shared this story at her funeral last week. Because of all the memories of my mother that I will always hold dear - and believe me, there are many - this one stands far above the rest.
I am told that the reason the one particular relative greeted my sharing of this memory with such apparent disdain was because she felt I was bragging about being a professional writer. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have nothing to brag about. I don’t consider myself a great writer, or even a good one much of the time; at best I’ve always felt myself to be pleasantly mediocre at the one thing I am somewhat good at, and lucky enough to have experienced a small modicum of success at it along the way.
No, I wasn’t bragging. I was celebrating – celebrating the love between the greatest mother in the world and the son who still isn’t always sure that he deserved her. And I’d like to think most folks last Friday understood that.
I know my mother would have…

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