It was just over 13 months ago that the pandemic disrupted the normal routines that we shared with our extended family. Holidays that had been celebrated for generations were suddenly no more. Big family gatherings held on Memorial Day and July 4th at Compass Lake were cancelled. Labor Day went by quietly.
Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts normally held around the family table were scaled back. New Year’s Eve was a non-event compared to past years. We celebrated birthdays virtually which was a gallant effort at maintaining the traditions of our family, but it was not the same.
It somehow seems fitting that the resurgence of normalcy seems to have hit full stride on Mother’s Day. After all, for most of us it is the mothers that have led the way through tough times. There is a quiet calm that mothers possess when all the world seems to be in turmoil. Many, like my own mother, Jobie, are a rock in the family.
My mother joined my wife, Mary Lou, and me for a long weekend to celebrate Mother’s Day. It is the greatest step we have taken in our path back to normal. It was a great weekend. Therapeutic, in fact. We caught a glimpse of past and charged forward with the future.
Thanks to vaccinations and responsible interactions, I was fortunate to attend two concerts with the two greatest mothers I know. Mary Lou, Mom, and I ate every meal at a restaurant except for breakfast. We joined with our friends in celebrating the occasion, and for the first time in over a year my mother met new people in a social setting. Our neighbors hugged my mother after they met her. Who could have imagined a year ago what a monumental step that would be?
At the same time, I was afforded the opportunity to reflect on other ladies that have been surrogate mothers for me over my life. I was raised by a village and in an extraordinary coincidence, my mother and her old friend, Ike Todd, ran into each other at the Mother’s Day Brunch we all attended at the Auburn University Club.
Our families lived in Cottonwood and we all commuted to school in Dothan together. The Ponder and Todd families shared so many joint gatherings over the years until the families both moved away. It had been years since Ike and Jobie’s paths had crossed. Mrs. Todd was one of the many “other mothers” that helped raise me and it was so special to see them together, if only for a moment.
I have had many ladies that influenced me during my life. Mary Ward worked for my parents and helped raise me. The collective mothers of my friends in Cottonwood nurtured me along the way. The mothers of my high school friends helped guide me during that hormone driven whirlwind.
“Mom” Cost was the housemother that helped keep many during my college fraternity days. Ladies in our church and new home in Donalsonville took up the role when we moved to Georgia. Sally Bates looked after me while I was in the Georgia General Assembly.
My wife and I were blessed with older friends we cherished that slowly and quietly gave us direction, comfort, and spiritual guidance. The guardrails of our life were steadily held up by women who did not give life to us but nurtured us just the same.
I have been blessed to have had a mother that has encouraged, supported, and protected me for over 66 years. She remains one of my biggest fans. At the same time, I have been blessed to be married to another wonderful mother, my wife Mary Lou, who was instrumental in raising our two daughters into the amazing women they have become. They are now fine mothers themselves.
I realize I am blessed. I know there are others that were not fortunate enough to share a long life with a healthy, energetic mother. One of my grandmothers lost her own mother at the age of four. For many reasons, many did not always have a positive, loving relationship with their mother. Life can be hard and difficult, even under the best of circumstances.
While there may not be anything quite like a mother’s love, we all have had other women in our lives that were part of the supporting cast that made us who we are. If you were blessed like I was, then remember all those who also helped along the way.
Happy Mother’s Day to the woman who gave me life, raised me, challenged me and most of all, loved me. Happy Mother’s Day to the woman who 43 years ago married me and has been an incredible mother to our children. Happy Mother’s Day to all the others that have been a part of my life. I love you all.
Dan Ponder can be contacted at [email protected]