Elizabeth Willis Barrett
October 11, 2012
I used to squirm on Mother’s Day when I heard the rather sentimental speaker speak of her Angel Mother. Angel Mother! That term will never be given to me, I thought.
It is highly unlikely that I’ll hear those words in reference to myself, but I have come to realize that time has a way of smoothing the edges of existence. It is as though we live life in full glaring sunlight without any sunglasses; but we look back on life with the help of protective eyewear that softens the blaze of reality.
When I was growing up, I don’t remember my own mom speaking of her mother as an “Angel Mother.” But as Mom grew older, she’d say things like, “I wish you had known my mother. She was an angel!”
I actually did know my Grandma Erikson. But by the time I came around she was harried by dementia and would stand behind doors to scare us or drink from the syrup bottle or walk out the front door to visit her sister, Louie, who had been dead for 60 years. I didn’t think of Grandma Erikson as an angel.
“She never raised her voice,” Mom continued. “She had such a beautiful garden and kept the house so clean. She was an angel,” she repeated.
While I was growing up, I wouldn’t have referred to my mom as an Angel Mother. In fact, I stored every one of her slips of the tongue or, as I viewed, grievous actions against me in a private place in my soul. I would pull them out often and nourish them with angry thoughts. But now that I am older, I am amazed at what a wonderful mother she was. Her glowing attributes considerably outweigh any faults I may have perceived. I was blessed beyond deserving to have such a great woman be my mother. And it is easy to say, “I wish you had known my mother. She was an angel.”
Perhaps time will soften the memories of my children. I hope they will someday be able to empty their own jars of injustices they felt I hurled at them and refill those jars with sweet remembrances. And maybe they will be able to say in some distant age, “I wish you had known my mother. She was an angel!”