Bonner Day: I have two mothers

Bonner Day

As Mother’s Day approaches in the valley, I realized that I have two mothers. Both are deceased but there is hardly a day I don’t think of them.

There are several ways to have two mothers. A divorce would bring two mothers. Or your father could remarry after your birth mother dies. In my case I lived with my grandmother so long she became my second mother.

When I was 10 years old I went to live with my grandmother for a year. My father’s job took him up into the mountains of Arizona, where there were no schools. Then, during my college years, I lived with my grandmother for another extended period.

The two periods, I now realize, drew me so close to my grandmother she was more like a mother. I was fortunate to have double the love and double the memories. My definition of a mother is a person in the family who always comes to your defense and chastises you when necessary.

For example, I remember being surrounded by a group of boys on the way home from grammar school and seeing my mother come to the rescue. She had been alerted by a classmate who had fled the scene for reinforcements.

I was surprised and disappointed when my mother said the boys could fight me, but only one at a time. Fortunately, the fire in her eye told the boys she might not be an objective referee. They passed on the opportunity to test my fighting abilities.

I remember my grandmother arguing with my grandfather so that I could mow the front lawn. My grandfather took pride in his lawn, which was a novelty for a boy from the rocks and mesquite bush of Arizona. And I remember my grandmother coming to my defense when my grandfather objected to me pushing the mower in all directions.

In the Shenandoah Valley, half the residents are women, roughly. Most of them will be mothers, or be afforded the opportunity. It is a terrific responsibility, as girls are repeatedly reminded. But what should also be taught, and what I failed to learn, is that children also should cherish and love their mothers.

And we should demonstrate that love. “Mom knows how I feel,” doesn’t cut it. Being too formal or too manly to show emotion also are not excuses, in my book.

Mothers were there for the routine stuff, changing your diapers, providing meals, washing your clothes, combing your hair, applying bandages on all those scratches.

And they were there for the crises – flunking a class, being cut from the football team, getting fired from a job, losing the girl you thought you were going to marry.

They were your first teachers, showing you how to conduct yourself at the table, how to tie your tie, how to respect elders.

My first lesson on insects was given by my mother. She tied a thread to a June bug leg, and, because I was afraid of bugs, threaded it through the screen door. That permitted me to hold on to one end indoors while the June bug flew outdoors on the other end. Who but a mother would think or do such a thing?

And my grandmother furthered my education in similar ways. My aunts were shocked when they learned grandmother had permitted me to splice a branch of one of her prize roses onto the limb of another.

When I was a teenager, my grandfather accused me of sampling his bourbon. Mother told me not to pay any attention, that he was getting old. Mother was wrong, but I never had the courage to tell her.

I say all this to convince everyone in the valley, and particularly the men, to remember your mother.

When my grandmother died, the memorial service was held up three days until I could get there. But time could not be held up for me to hug her. When my mother died, I flew back to California and was asked to speak at the memorial service. But it was my sister and brothers who hugged her before she died.

So learn from me. Hug your mother, not just on Mother’s Day, but every day you have the chance.

Bonner Day has been retired in the Valley for14 years. He grows cattle and dandelions with mixed success.