Mother’s Day

by Bethany M. Dunbar May 9, 2010

My mother, Helen Ellis Merrick of Craftsbury, will be 90 years old in July.  I am still learning from her.

Hi Mom! Helen Ellis Merrick. Photo by Bethany Merrick Dunbar

She has an enviable appreciation for moment-to-moment life — the beauty of the clouds, going for a ride to get ice cream, the neighbors’ kids, her family.

For Mother’s Day today, we all went out to brunch, and I gave my Mom and my sister little mother’s day cards sealed with sealing wax.

I tried to express on it my thanks for everything she has done.

Here are some of the things I said and I remember:

Mom always drove the neighborhood kids to the basketball games.  In junior high, there was no money for a bus, so Mom was the bus.  She went to all those games and never acted bored, but she must have been.  The kids in the group thanked her by pitching in to buy her a little salt and pepper set shaped like squirrels hanging on tree branches.

We spent our summers in Tamworth, New Hampshire, and in those days Mom was the one taking us kids for ice cream.  She took us to go swimming, to drive-in movies and to horseback riding lessons.  She didn’t come hiking with us, but once when we went backpacking and camped out on the river there was a thunderstorm.  My sister and our friend Lynne and I were soaking wet but still having a great time, lying there in wet sleeping bags reading out loud from My Side of the Mountain.

Pretty soon we heard, “Hello!!”

Mom was worried that we got struck by lightning.  I still to this day don’t know how she found us but she did.  Once she could see that we were okay, she left us until we were ready to come home and get dry inside.

Mom told me to wash my apples before I eat them, and to eat my spinach and don’t take medicine unless I really, really need to, and be careful with my money.

Mom grew up in Montclair, New Jersey, the daughter of an architect.  She was a Smith College graduate like her mother.  During World War II she worked on quality control at the airplane factory called Wright Aeronautical.

After my parents moved to Vermont my mother worked for the state of Vermont, Health Department, in the Women, Infants, and Children program.  She always said it was a really good experience because she got to know what life was like for the people in the program who were struggling to make ends meet every day.

My mother is an artist.  She used to make some income from selling house portraits — she painted people’s houses from photographs.  She also made a map of the whole town of Craftsbury with the names of everyone who lived in each house at the time of the map.

Mom taught me that it’s okay to express your emotions.  If you cry when you are happy, you’re kind of crying and kind of laughing.  She named that craphing, and that’s okay too.

We do it a lot in our family.

It always makes me feel very, very lucky.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms and kids out there.  How did you spend your day?

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3 responses to “Mother’s Day

  1. What a great Mom! She clearly knew how to love and have fun. We all can use this reminder about why we bother to create families. Helen found the parenting balance early, between caring and celebrating. Can she write a big How To book for us all???

  2. Bethany … great story! A number of years ago I wrote a Mother’s Day poem for my mother. I hereby dedicate it to all of the mothers who read your blog.

    Mom

    It’s your day, this time in May
    to the one that I call Mom.
    You’re always there
    with all you do
    to help your poetic son.

    But for today,
    please have some fun,
    I’ve got things under wrap –
    my house is clean,
    the laundry’s done,
    I’ve even had a nap.

    The years have flown,
    I know you care,
    you’ve kept us all together.
    Your wisdom
    and the days you’ve shared –
    the memories will last forever.

    The future looks so bright for all,
    so many have been touched by you –
    but on this day,
    this Mother’s Day,
    do what you want to do!

  3. I was not only one of the beneficiaries of your mom’s transportation services in high school (she was way ahead of all those “soccer moms”), but a frequent, happy visitor of her kitchen. One of the best parts about sleepovers at your house was all the treats your mom made. And the fact that she never made us go to bed. I still have the painting she did of our house in Craftsbury–a mother’s day gift from my sister and me to our mom. I think your mom charged us, like $20. I never forgot her generosity and kind spirit!

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