Mother’s Day… by Nancy Brophy

This mother’s day weekend I’ve been missing my mother who died two years ago. I could use her use her wisdom and advice.

My mother was an early feminist.  That designation was thrust upon her because she refused to follow the rules. When she graduated from college during WWII her career options were limited. Teachers, nurses or office help were available and very little else.  Her father and grandfather were small town lawyers who had never told her that her gender would hold her back until she wanted to go to law school.

Her father believed she was bored because all the men were at war. But the war would eventually end and my mother would get married, so any money he spent on law school for a daughter would be wasted. He was wrong.

My mother did become a lawyer and practiced law for over fifty years. When the woman’s movement reached the forefront of American awareness in the late sixties, a lot of women were overjoyed to have thrown off the oppressive yolk of male domination. I, however, had not been raised with limited options. My mother raised me with these words. “You need to have a career, because while you might marry a man who can support you, he could die and you will have to go to work.”

We laugh at that advice now, because everyone works, but in the fifties and early sixties that was not true. The woman’s movement changed the relationship of men/women. As women became empowered, men struggled to figure out their role in a changing society.

Statements like, “a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle” told women it was okay if they weren’t marching in step with a man, but it didn’t tell men what their options were.  The seventies were a decade where men did not fare well.

Fast forward to present day. The pendulum has definitely swung in the other direction. It appears easier to be male than female.

Why? Well, one reason I believe is because we are living our lives on social media so every decision is dramatic for high impact. The drama exhausts me, but there are no longer any easy decisions.  Everything has consequences and maybe always has, but it seems more so now.

Thirty years ago there was a time when I sat in my mother’s office and believed God was in His heaven and all was right with the world. My mother emitted that kind of confidence, but also crazy people didn’t dominate the landscape. I clung to the illusion that America was the most powerful nation on earth. The world wasn’t at peace, but we, as Americans, felt safe on our soil.

My mother couldn’t have solved today’s problems. I know that. And in fact as she aged she worried more and more. In reality it would probably be me saying “there, there, now, now” to her rather than the other way around.

But she was my first anchor. And when the world appears to be staring into the abyss, I find the need to ground myself in sanity more and more. Today I wish I was scrambling to send her flowers or Harry and David’s because this weekend has crept up on me rather than remembering how much I miss her.

I am also thinking about my heroine and her relationship with her mother. Incorporating these feelings into a story is what we do because the first rule of being a writer is to bring universal truths to the reader even if they are only from your own perspective.

Posted on May 11, 2013, in General and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Maggie Jaimeson

    Hugs to you, Nancy. Thanks for sharing your memories of your mother. You have done her great justice in your descriptions. It sounds like a wonderful upbringing to have.

    I am very fortunate that both my parents are still alive and live close in Salem. My mother is one of those women who loves unconditionally–not only her 9 children, but their spouses and children, and cousins and aunts and uncles, and even people she meets on the streets. She maintains this unconditional love of someone she’s known or befriended even when the person in question does something horrific–steals, molests, abuses. I’ve seen her reaction to each of these things. She hates the action but still manages to love the person.

    As a young adult I believed this unconditional love was a product of being uneducated (she barely graduated from high school as one of 4 graduates in a very small town) and always excused her reactions as nothing important. However, over the years I’ve learned that it is a deep, personal belief that one makes choices about how to live in the world: with trust and love, or with fear and prejudice. She always chooses the former and, because of that choice, her life is amazingly wonderful no matter what happens.

    I share this about my mother because I have often wondered if the problems we see now in the news are more frequent/difficult/horrific than in the past, or is it only that we are bombarded with media about the problems and every “news” outlet engages in sensationalism. I can easily become overwhelmed with a sense of guilt for not doing more to create change, or a sense of nothing being able to make a difference. Fortunately, I have my mother’s example. As much as possible, I choose to make a difference by treating those I come into contact with in the best way I can. My ability to effect peace in the world is not with negotiating great treaties or changing groups of people. My ability is only reflected in the one-on-one impact I can have with people in my daily life.

    I don’t know if I will ever get to that unconditional love of every person in my life that my mother seems to exude. But I’m going to keep trying. I think it is a marvelous way to live.


  2. You’ll get a big hug from me. I am scrambling this weekend. I had every intention of sending my mother a potted gardenia for her lanai. She’s lives in Hawaii, so I don’t get to see her as much as I want.


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