By Nancy Lamar
Women’s Fund of Smith County
I have a confession to make: I am not a big fan of Mother’s Day.
My mother was what we called in the Deep South “a mess.” Where I grew up, that was a perfectly acceptable – and readily understood – mental health diagnosis. “A mess.” As in, “That Sally… She’s a mess!” My mother was charming and witty, with a big personality and a mind and habits like bright balloons on a string that she could never quite seem to keep tied to her wrist. Finally, they floated away with her. She died when I was 13 and my sister was 11.
I didn’t like Mother’s Day even before my mother died. For so many years prior to her death, I was often embarrassed by her because, Oh Lord, she was “a mess.” After she died, my sister and I were trapped by that awful custom of wearing a corsage of roses to church on Mother’s Day. Red if your mother was alive, white if she had passed away. We stood out like sore thumbs at Sunday School, or I thought we did, sorrow and pity directed at those pretty blooms on our shoulders.
I didn’t become a mother myself until I was 38 years old, after 15 years of marriage. It took me decades of work to believe that I was capable of something so monumental, something so powerful that it could shift and shape a life. It took the love and kindness of other women, my grandmothers, family and friends, who gave me and modeled for me what a mothering relationship could be like. My own experience of motherhood has been as wonderful and as fierce and fearsome as I imagined it to be.
I write about this here, on this day, for two reasons. One is that I know that Mother’s Day is not an easy day for others as well. While it can stir up precious memories, it can also be a bittersweet reminder of a painful path some might still be walking. This is messy business. Mothering is not simple. We all do the best we can. My mother did the best she could.
The other reason I write about Mother’s Day is that in my years of experience with the Women’s Fund, I’ve come to realize that the work of the Women’s Fund is really about mothering.
That’s not just because we members of the Women’s Fund are all female. It’s because to be a mother or a father or a parent is, at its best, about one thing… creating the right context so that another person can grow, and bloom and flourish. To give them love and stability and safety, to encourage and prod them, help to educate them, give them experiences that open the world to them, to model and teach them the art of living. The work of a mother is to lift the lids that could limit their children’s lives, to lighten the load of baggage a person might have to carry around so that they can live their best life, the one God meant them to live.
And that’s what we do at the Women’s Fund! Really! Our grants, through the very good work of our nonprofit partners, help to create the kind of environment in which women and children, and ultimately our community as a whole, can grow and bloom and flourish.
With funding from the Women’s Fund, Sarah blooms at Christian Women’s Job Corps when she learns the skills she needs to return to the work force after years of believing she couldn’t. A Women’s Fund grant at The Mentoring Alliance opens a window to a new way of life embodied in a mentor who cares. A Women’s Fund grant to Habitat for Humanity gives Miss Estelle the stability and safety of a roof that doesn’t leak and a floor without cracks. A Women’s Fund grant to the East Texas Symphony Orchestra opens the joy and wonder of classical music to a fourth grader in Lindale.
Mother’s Day is a day worth celebrating, no matter how perfect and precious, or fractured and difficult our own mothering was or continues to be. There are many ways to open our arms and our hearts so that others can grow and bloom and flourish. The work of the Women’s Fund is just one of those ways. Through the generosity of our collective giving, and the generous spirits of our members, like good mothers we are watching with pride as our neighbors bloom and our community grows and transforms.
Happy Mother’s Day to all!
Nancy Lamar is Vice President of Community Relations at The Hospice of East Texas and currently serves as Chair of the Women’s Fund of Smith County Board of Directors. Membership is open to women wanting to be a part of collective giving and grant-making. Visit www.womensfundsc.org to learn more about mission and membership opportunities.