THE MARSHALL PLAN: Reflecting on my first teacher

This week I found myself standing amid the confluence of two tides of thought.

Teacher Appreciation Day allowed me to reflect on the great teachers that shaped my life, but it was Mother’s Day that had me thinking about my first teacher… my mother.  

When my mother died nearly 25 years ago she was in her early fifties—that doesn’t seem old to me today.

I would like to reflect on a few life lessons she taught me.

When I asked her in the toughest times how she always managed to find love for my brothers and I she answered, “I will always love you—I may not always like you, but I will always love you.”

I learned that creativity, laughter and imagination are limitless resources.

I learned that it is ok to sing aloud when you need a boost. I will never forget hearing her belt out “Blue Bayou” word-for-word with Linda Ronstadt or dancing to “Love Shack” by the B-52s.

I remember her pride in seeing my father in his Army uniform. I also recall the proud smile she gave me when I returned home from basic training wearing my own Army uniform. Eight years later, I wore it to her funeral one last time before leaving the military and returning to college.  

I remember her courage as a military wife and mother holding the family together during my father’s many deployments.  As a child, I remember my mother building tinker-toy airplanes with me. Out of a pile of colored sticks and wooden circles we built an odd assortment of flying-machines and named ourselves the “wrong brothers” in a parody of the Wright brothers. In the years my father served in Vietnam my mother and I deflected our fears by watching Creature Feature and popping popcorn.

I loved her laugh. She made every house we lived in a home.

I recall her love for the natural world and her limitless heart for animals great and small.  I once witnessed her step from a car and open her hands during a spring snow and a little sparrow landed in her palm.  It left me speechless.

My mother bought me my first novel, Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea.” She said, “I think this will be a favorite.”  She was right.

One of the great tragedies is that she passed away before the growth of the internet.  You see she loved to study UFOs, bigfoot, ghosts and other mysteries—I can only imagine where she would have explored.   

As a father with two kids I understand her so much better now. I realize I should have helped her more, talked to her more and of course hugged her a bit more.  

Sometimes it’s tough to see the struggles of our parents when we are young and selfish.  I wish I could thank her for the tough lessons too like sending me to military school, telling me that life can be unfair, and that life is fleeting. She also said, “Our faith is our last fortress.”   

Old age is a luxury she never received. She missed five grandchildren she would have adored.

If your mother is alive share your thoughts, dreams, attention and time with her while you can.

Our mothers are our first teachers.

When I think of the perfect image of a mother it resides in a little church in Buxton, North Carolina.  

A statue named Our Lady of the Seas, stands in the front entrance of a church of the same name.

The statue is based on an idea conceived by a Fr. André Izac and his parishioners. It was created by Demetz Art Studio in Italy. It is hand-carved, hand-painted, and the statue is captivating.  

The church’s description follows: “The statue depicts a youthful mother with sand and seashells at her feet, the sea breeze blowing through her hair – holding the globe of the earth for her son. His right hand firmly grasps his mother’s hair lest he tumble from her arms as he reaches out to touch the seas of the globe. Beneath his hand can be seen Hatteras Island, the Outer Banks, and the North Carolina coastline.”

Our mothers are the first to hold us above the waves of life and the first to tell us how to navigate them.

Happy Mother’s Day.



1 Comment

  1. This was really touching, Marshall. My fondest memories of my own are of the strength she always seemed to have despite being physically spent. That made the biggest impression on me and still does. I especially loved this line: “Our mothers are the first to hold us above the waves of life and the first to tell us how to navigate them.”

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