Friday, June 23, 2006

The Chicken-Neck Syndrome

Today is my Mom's birthday. I won't tell you how old she is, for from a young age I was forbidden from disclosing such a secret. I used to get around it by stating my Dad's age and then saying she was just a few months younger, but I have a slightly better understanding of the "letter" and the "spirit" of the law now! As long as I can remember, my Mom has never wanted anyone to make a big deal out of her birthday. When we'd ask what she wanted she would say "I just want my children to love each other and to love the Lord." Or, if pressed, she might say that she could really use some new dishcloths or a bathrobe or something equally exciting.
My Mom is truly one of the most unselfish people I know. I've always loved her but the older I get, and especially now that I'm a Mom, I appreciate her more and more. She gave birth to and raised five children, and I don't ever remember thinking there was anything she'd have rather been doing. Her time wasn't spent elsewhere with a little left for us- we got quality and quantity. She was always there, ready to comfort, teach, correct, and love us. She played with us, read to us, and taught us by her example how to cook and sew and garden and care for people. There was always room at our table for an extra person (or two or three or four) and whatever small space we lived in she made comfortable and welcoming to whoever might need it. While she extended love and mercy to many over the years I never felt like it was at our expense. We were part of whatever was going on. During my years growing up, I can remember only a couple of times my parents ever left us and did anything on their own. We were what they did and, for the most part, we did things all together, as a family.
I remember many, many times being afraid in the night and finding a warm cozy refuge in my Mom's arms. I would soon fall asleep again, safe with my parents, but now I wonder how often she lay awake on account of a frightened wiggly girl who had invaded her rest! She taught me many verses from the Bible and that God would never leave me or forsake me. How often she would open her old Bible, it's pages loose and its cover worn, to some familiar passage and read words of assurance over her children. She loved the Psalms, and in the mornings we would see her, stealing a few moments here and there to read through the Bible faithfully. She kept five little heart shaped slips of paper in there, one for each of us. On them she had written our names and the things she prayed for us daily. For many years there was little money but we were richly clothed in her prayers.
She tells a story of her grandmother, who emigrated from Italy many years ago. Money was tight and nothing went to waste. Her grandma would always eat the chicken neck, insisting to her family that it was her favorite part! In reality, it was one way of putting her family first, giving them the best and taking only what was left for herself. My Mom is a lot like that, and we often tease her about having the Chicken-Neck Syndrome. It inspires me and it puts me to shame. I so often want to keep what's best for myself and feel frustrated when I don't have time to pursue "my" interests.
So thanks Mom, for being who you are- a wonderful Mama and wife and friend. Thanks for keeping the Chicken-Neck Syndrome alive. I love and admire you and want to be like you when I grow up. A Happy, Happy Birthday to you.
Do you need any new dishcloths?

My Mom's Hands


  1. I could easily comment here on how lovely your mom is and i would probably fill a page, just from my short but sweet interaction with her in her home with the white bus, must have been in 2000. But instead i'm going to say... You and Gloria got your hands from your mom! So pretty and photo worthy! My hands are very clumsy and large and a good descriptive word for them would be, um... well i could'nt think of one. But your moms are graceful. I hope to see her again one day, i'd like to get to know all of your family more in this lifetime. We'll see.

  2. Happy, happy birthday to your mom! What a beautiful and loving tribute.

  3. What a lovely description of such a special person who has also made me feel very accepted and loved.
    Thanks for sharing.


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