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Posted: May 9, 2010 12:00 a.m.

Mothers and other mothers

Is there any better time to recognize how special mothers are than on Mother's Day? No matter our circumstances in life, and despite possibly being at odds with our moms occasionally, Mother's Day provides us all with a moment to put things in perspective, doesn't it?

I remember when I was a kid, my Daddy making sure my younger brother and I had our cards ready for the big day. Those many years ago we'd actually make our own cards utilizing construction paper, cutting out a big heart with scissors and then coloring it in just right. Primitive as those efforts were, you'd have thought Rembrandt had been at work when Mama opened them up.

As the years rolled on and Mother's Day arrived, it became a whole lot easier to seek out a Hallmark shop and go through a million cards until just the right one jumped off the display rack. But, oddly, I learned that a store-bought card seemed to have the same impact on my mother when she opened it as had my little handmade cards in the long ago.

I reckon it was then that I realized that moms pretty much just enjoy the notion that their children love and appreciate them, no matter whether the card is handmade or store-bought, expensive or bargain basement, beautiful or a little bit tacky. It really is the thought that counts.

By the time my wife and I decided to have children and the Mother's Days started rolling by faster and faster, I must admit that on occasion I was guilty of the last-minute, late-night dash to whatever grocery store or pharmacy was still open to procure a card. And I still think it's a pretty good argument that procrastinators waiting until the last second to get their Mother's Day cards are the main reason grocery store chains got the idea to stay open 'round the clock.

But just as I thrilled at the way my own Mama's face lit up when she opened one of the cards I'd labored over as a child, so I became awash in the glow of pure love when my wife opened the cards our own little children had made for her. Experiencing those moments opened the door of my heart to a deeper understanding of what that ineffable bond is that makes a mother special, indeed.

And it dawned on me, as I grew older, that oftentimes on Mother's Day we tend to overlook the "other mother" who, thanks to a legion of comedians, have long suffered as the butt of many a joke: the mother-in-law.

So today I want to state, for the record, that I have the greatest mother-in-law any man could hope for. My wife's mom, Frances Drummond, has done more for me than I could ever possibly put into words. She has remained a constant source of comfort and counsel over the years as I changed professions, moved her daughter and grandchildren hither and yon, put on 100 pounds, lost my hair, done some wonderfully thoughtful things and then turned right around and evened it out by being totally stupid at times.

Through it all - and she's been my mother-in-law for 36 years, four months and 23 days if we make it to 6:30 this evening - "Nana," as our children call her, has written the book on how to be the greatest mama-in-law ever. And I do so much love you, Frances Drummond.

Then there's the 94-year-old lady who still insists on telling me how to do things, and who every once in a while pats me on my balding head and calls me her "good little boy" just to see how red my face will turn. I've long since passed the point of cutting out hearts and coloring them with crayons, but I hope she'll enjoy this Mother's Day as much as she did the first one way back in 1951. And I do love you, too, Mama.

It's hard to believe, but my wife today celebrates her 31st Mother's Day. It's even harder to believe, given that it seems only yesterday that I was cutting out my own little handmade card for my mom. Remembering helping our three little babies make their special keepsakes, and seeing the inexpressible look of love that a mother has for her children light up her face when she opened them, reminds me of how much I love you, too, Louise.

Typing along, I've been anticipating how these three special women in my life will like their Mother's Day cards. Speaking of that, I'd better get to it. After all, it's been a few years since the last time I made one.

Nat Harwell is a long-time resident of Newton County. His columns appear regularly on Sundays.


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