The only teenager I ever met with the last name of “Ponder” that was not my sibling happened to be my future wife. We met in the seventh grade at Girard Junior High School in Dothan, where our Algebra teacher made us sit in alphabetical order.
Mary Lou and I were great friends for ten years, before we discovered that we were meant to be more. 44 years ago, she became Mary Lou Ponder Ponder. Twenty five years after we were married, our oldest daughter connected the final dots of our common lineage. We are 10th cousins.
Our common ancestor was the immigrant John Ponder, who once lived where Heathrow Airport welcomes planes into the London area. Our common bloodline intersected some three hundred and fifty years ago.
I have often thought about the mathematical odds that the continuing male descendants of two brothers would produce offspring centuries later that would one day sit beside each other in a junior high school class.
It was an unbroken chain in our family tree that allowed our children to be “pure Ponder”. But it was not the unbroken chain that I am referring to in this article. Just a day after Mother’s Day, I am reminded that we all have a chain, an unbroken chain, of our mothers. Very few would have the same last name, but their connections tie families together since the beginning of the human race.
I was blessed to know one of my great-grandmothers and to see how much my own grandfather loved her. He was a reflection of her influence and he honored her until the day she died.
My other grandmother lost her mother when she was only four years old. She was raised by an aunt and uncle, proving that motherhood does not have to be genetic. In fact, I could supply a long list of women I have known that never had biological offspring but provided unconditional love and positive influences in the lives of countless children.
This year during Mother’s Day, Mary Lou and I were keeping grandchildren in Auburn. I am not sure, but there must have been other times when we were not around our mothers, or our daughters who later became mothers during this holiday. Nevertheless, the circumstances made me think about the common thread that weaves through our family. Indeed, most families.
There is a powerful link between a mother and a child. That relationship may manifest itself differently between siblings and mothers. Certainly, the relationship is not always perfect, but it is always there, in some form or fashion.
For the most part, that connection continues through grandchildren and if the family is lucky enough, through a relationship with great-grandparents. Genetically, it is the same as the paternal line, like our Ponder connection. However, each and every Mother’s Day, I am reminded of how strong and powerful the maternal relationship is between a mother and her children.
Over twenty years after my own father passed away, I still treasure our time together. He taught me more than I ever gave him credit for, and I still rely on those lessons in my life. My mother, 90 years old and still healthy and wise, continues to influence my life. That is a result of luck, fate and incredibly good genes, which I hope I have inherited.
Nevertheless, as I watched my grandchildren run to their parents upon their return this weekend, I smiled inwardly about watching my daughter as a mother. Both of my daughters love their children and are raising them to be a better part of themselves, thankfully with the full help and aid of their spouses.
I have now lived long enough to see the influence of mothers and grandmothers going back three generations in my life, and my daughters as mothers going forward two more generations after me. My wife is the mother that connects this family past, present and future.
I was and continued to be touched by them all. Happy Mother’s Day to all those mothers that have had an impact on my life, and on the lives of so many others. You touch many more than your own children and provide that unbroken chain that binds us together.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org