When we were very young, my mother ended each evening, sitting with us on the living room couch, my brother cradled in one of her arms and I in the other. Over the years, we journeyed through a library of children's books, especially mid-20th century classics like "Madeline," "The Little Engine that Could," and anything by Robert McCloskey. Ed’s favorite was "The Happy Lion" and mine was "The Story of Ferdinand."
“Ferdinand” is the tale of a young Spanish bull who loved to sit peacefully beneath a cork tree, smelling flowers. One day, he accidentally sat on a bee, and, not surprisingly, got stung ("what would you do if a bull sat on you?"). Ferdinand went crazy, and this caught the attention of five men who were roaming the countryside, seeking “the biggest, fastest roughest bull to fight in the bull fights in Madrid.” Suffice it to say, when Ferdinand ultimately entered the ring, he became distracted by the flowers in the Spanish ladies’ hair. Instead of confronting the matador, he just sat there and smelled. And so, Ferdinand was carted back to the countryside (“And for all I know he is sitting there still, under his favorite cork tree, smelling the flowers just quietly. He is very happy.”)
I will leave it to family and friends to consider the impact of my early identification with a bull, but there can be no doubt about my mother’s impact. It was my good luck to be the son of a first grade teacher, and her endless stories and limitless devotion to her children shaped who I am today.
My mother has had a challenging start to 2017, beginning in February with a sudden retinal hemorrhage and followed last month by a food impaction. But thanks to modern medicine, her sight is returning and food is finally going down like it should. We are enormously grateful.
On this Mother's Day, let's give thanks for the gift of motherhood. If we are fortunate enough to grow up into curious, generous, loving adults, it must be because there was a parent who cradled us in her arms, night after night, year after year, leaving a precious imprint that would last a lifetime.
Happy Mother's Day, everyone.