Life Defining Moments, Lifestyle, Loss, Memoir, Motherhood, Stroke Survivor, Unconditional Love, Writing

And the Course of a Lifetime Runs, Over and Over Again

A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity. It dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.

― Agatha Christie

On Mother’s Day two weekends ago we discovered that robins had built a nest containing three beautiful wee eggs on our rose trellis. This discovery on this particular date seemed so apropos. It was very exciting.

Triplets were going to hatch right there at our home, almost as if they were human and not wild.  It was the miracle of life right under our collective noses.

Here they are, of course we snapped a photo that night ―

photo 6

Being that it was Mother’s Day and I am a mother, I felt a rush of warmth thinking about these babies-to-be. This inevitably led me to thinking about my own babies, who are not babies at all anymore.

Was mama robin going to have boys, like me, or girls like my mom had had? Maybe she’d have both. I really didn’t know too much about robins, but delighted to know they were there.

I had just finished chatting with my own mother right before we found the nest, so I hadn’t had a chance to tell her about it yet. I planned to though, she would know right where we had uncovered them, nestled up there on the trellis that my dad had built for the climbing rose bush she’d helped me choose, then plant (and knock-on-wood, keep alive).

My m-o-m…when we were kids she’d always claim that she really didn’t know what she was doing, just learning to mother as she went along. I have to laugh at this thought, I know that I’ve had the same one on many occasions over the last two decades, and I’m guessing most mothers feel this way sometimes.

We wonder if we’re doing okay or failing miserably.

A defining moment takes a long time to get over, if you ever do.
― Mick Jones

Life is filled with defining moments. Some truly great and wonderfully powerful instances that you rarely forget, those times that when you look back over your life, they are the ones that pop out.

My mom may have worried that she didn’t know what she was doing, but I can say with certainty that she had, and still has, without a doubt, that mother’s instinct that we always hear about.

Two of my own life defining moments are the results of this fierce, instinctive mother’s love. One was just a blip, the other more of an event.

I’m not exactly certain when they each occurred. It might have been within the same year, or up to three or four apart. The blip was a nice taste of what a mother is capable of when called to action.

The Blip

We were on a rare stop for lunch at McDonald’s, probably to redeem the coupons that back in the Eighties you’d tear off the bottom of each month on their children’s’ calendars. Back when Ronald McDonalds’cohorts were Mayor McCheese, the Hamburglar (clearly the villain in his black & white stripes) and purple guy Grimace…what the heck was he? The sidekick, I guess.

But I digress…okay, so I’m guessing after ordering, my younger sister and I went on ahead to choose a table while my mom waited for the “fast food”. I’m also guessing that we must have picked one, but then changed our minds and moved on to a second spot nearby.

This is the part I know for certain, Mom returned with our lunch because soon after, one of us mentioned my pink Strawberry Shortcake purse, containing every cent I had in the world. I had had it when we came in, but I didn’t have it anymore.

This part is sketchy, but the irrefutable facts are: 1.) Clearly, I’d left it at the first table. 2.) The table now had young teenagers sitting at it. 3.) I was devastated.

My mother did the responsible thing and told me I had to go get it. Can I possibly stress how much that was the last thing that I wanted to do? I slunk back over and asked the older kids for my purse, the word had never sounded so lame to me…it still does now.

As I returned with it, I can only imagine their laughter trailed along behind me. Obviously much of this I’ve had to block out. Devastation: Part 2 commenced, the purse was empty of money! My eyes brimming with tears, this little girl was at a loss, literally.

But my mother would have none of it. She took my empty pink canvas purse straight back over to the table and asked the teens where the money was. When no one offered an answer other than giggling she called them out.

She went into protective mode; she was angry, no-nonsense and without directly accusing them, she said something to the effect of she couldn’t believe anyone would take a little girl’s money!  Most of them buckled, one then the other told the “ringleader” to give the money back, which he, reluctantly and only slightly shamefully, did.

Smart…they got out of there alive; no harm, no foul.

The Event

On a sunny day in autumn, I was exploring the neighborhood around my father’s bicycle shop with a friend. Jennifer had come into town with me; we were suburban girls, just old enough to have some unsupervised freedom while my mom was doing errands.

We were investigating around the side streets and alleys, being silly and having fun like only kids can do. Laughing and carrying on while looking for things that might interest us.

As we were cutting through the parking lot of a local business two young boys spotted us and called us over. Once we got close we could tell they were a few years older than us.

We didn’t know them, they were town kids. Turns out the father of the darker haired boy owned the establishment, and they had a business proposition for us.

The parking lot had fallen leaves strewn about, and they said they’d pay us a few dollars to sweep them into piles and bag them up. We agreed upon a price, and set off to earn some money we could use later to go up to “Augie’s”, for some old-fashioned drinks & treats.

The light jackets came off and we figuratively rolled up our sleeves. Meanwhile the boys went up on the roof to “oversee us”. They called out instructions and redirected us if we missed any leaves. It was quite a bit of work, but we were committed!

As we were finishing up we could hear them high up above us. Now they were the ones laughing and carrying on. We called up that we were done and ready to be paid.

I’m sure you can see what was coming where we could not: they had no intentions of paying us. They pointed out the fact that there was little we could do about it from down on the ground.

We were totally deflated.

Not to mention embarrassed, we’d been swindled. We’d worked really hard for nothing. We had trusted those jerks. They were so smug, they knew they had us. Dejectedly, fighting back the tears, we made our way back to the cycle shop.

My mom had returned from her errands and was there waiting. Her cheerful greetings soon turned to concern though when she got a good look at us. Forlornly, we recounted how we’d been bamboozled.

I think I remember fire in her eyes upon hearing our woeful tale. She didn’t doubt us for one hot second. Plus we were disheveled, sweaty and kind of dirty from our endeavors. We must have been quite pathetic looking, come to think of it.

She sputtered something about knowing the owner, the boy’s dad, and also something like cheating little girls was not okay, I’m not exactly sure? But we quickly followed her out of the store and down the sidewalk. She headed right to the bagged leaves and accessed the situation.

The boys were still up on the roof so she called up to them. She asked them if they’d asked us to bag the leaves and agreed to pay us. The rest is a blur, I’ve no idea what excuse they had or possibly what lies they told, but it did nothing to appease her.

I’m certain she did tell the one kid that she knew his father and planned to have a little chat with him. I think this did scare them a bit, but before they could do anything she’d already grabbed a bag of leaves and begun dumping them back onto the leaf-free asphalt.

If you could have only seen their smug little faces fall like the leaves from the bag.

When she was done, when every bagged leaf was freed, she dusted off her hands, grabbed ours and marched us slightly triumphantly back to my dad and the bikes. I’m pretty sure she took us for cherry cokes, too.

Obviously I’ve never “gotten over” these two life defining moments that I’m still rehashing and I hope I never will. Our mother taught me and my sister to treat people how we would want to be treated, to try to always be honest and true to our word, and to stand up for ourselves, and for those who couldn’t stand up for themselves. She was fiercely protective when we were threatened, and she still is today.

When I had a stroke I was roughly 1100 miles away from her. She did not get to see me for twenty days because we agreed that she would reluctantly wait until I got home from the rehabilitation center. There was little she could do for me while I was stuck there intensely working on my occupational and physical therapies, and the boys were being well looked after by our awesome friends.

I imagine how difficult it was for her not to rush right to my side. How hard it must have been to tell people what was happening, once she was even able to articulate it.

She arrived the very same day I got released, and stayed by my side for nine weeks. She took care of all of us, but especially me. Something she hadn’t really needed to do for over twenty years.

But I needed her right then and I know that she wouldn’t have been anywhere else. She drove my car for me; basically it was her first time ever driving while she was staying with us, she’d never needed to before. She didn’t blink once though (well maybe once), and we went to my myriad of appointments week after week.

As an adult, I got a chance to remember what it was like to be her kid again. I was very scared when I first came home, partly because that was where it had happened, but my mom was there to take care of me.

And her child, albeit grown up, was there to be taken care of, and that she did.

A mother’s love is instinctual, unconditional, and forever.
― Unknown

Three days after Mother’s Day we had a rather sudden, incredibly stormy night, with extremely heavy rains which resulted in much localized flooding. School was even delayed for two hours until buses could get to most of our counties’ country roads to pick up the students.

It suddenly entered my mind that the little robins’ eggs in their tiny open nest must have gotten absolutely pelted with water and wind…and my heart now heavy sank.

I couldn’t muster myself to go look and asked my husband to do it. He quickly returned shaking his head. No longer was there a nest nestled into the trellis, rather it was down on the ground, empty.

Was mother robin out there in the trees morning her loss? Do wild birds mourn? I felt as sad for her now as three days earlier I’d felt happy. It was so unfair. Those babies never got to know their mother or be mothered by her.

For each one of us our circumstances are what they are at any given time. I didn’t know that I was going to have a stroke. Those robins didn’t know a storm was going to wash away their nest.

After searching around, all I could find was one empty oh-so-pretty-blue egg shell, almost in its entirety. So I took it up onto our porch along with the nest. I sat with it feeling very sad for the loss.

This pic shows where the nest had been, except on the other side of the trellis ―

photo 5

I wondered if this was a life defining moment for the mama robin, and if she would ever get “over it”? So I started reading up on robins. What I found quickly confirmed what I already guessed; they are all about instincts, of course.

But being different than ours, her mother’s instinct would have led her and her partner to have already abandoned this venture, and to go off  to begin building a new nest somewhere else, preparing to start their next egg undertaking. Her defining moments, if she has those, more likely might be each time her babies hatch, brood and then fledge.

Our defining moments continue throughout our lives as we learn, grow and transition to transform and evolve as human beings.  Seeing my mother stand up for me when I wasn’t able taught me essential character development, morally and ethically.

But it also taught me that I will always have someone in my corner ― the amazing woman who gave me life.  And that was just the start of what she’s given me, obviously.  🙂

― Raina K Morton, May 20 2014

Mom & baby Raina
Mom & baby Raina

*Note* I have an amazing dad, too, but that’s for another time!

Thanks for reading!

20 thoughts on “And the Course of a Lifetime Runs, Over and Over Again”

  1. Wow, another fabulous blog!! Isn’t it great how these moments, however brief, stay with us. Although I didn’t remember all the details of that day, I particularly remember being very fond of your parents after that day, I can still see your dad’s shop clearly, but couldn’t recall the experience that shaped my opinions. Now I understand why that day stands out, thank you for jogging my memory! And thanks to Rita for demonstrating the strength of a mother!! This read made me teary, recalling some of my own childhood struggles, yet smile when those kids got a what for from Rita. Thanks so much for sharing!! XO

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  2. Thanks Jen! I love the so-called “life defining moments”, little snapshots or snippets of dialogue! Once you flesh them out you often see that they’ve actually shaped you, or guided you, or formed part of who you’ve become…pretty cool. Glad, so glad, you enjoyed it. Love that you were part of one of “my moments”! XO

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    1. Rai, I think these should all be part of your book. It’s amazing…everything you write falls right into place. You should find a publisher and then get at it. :o)

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  3. I have never experienced my own mother going “Erin Brockovich” on my behalf, she was not that kind of person, but I’ve done it myself a few times for my girls, and the feeling is mighty powerful! It’s funny, your mom saying she didn’t know what she was doing. You and I both know she was born to it. Such a good mom, and not just to her daughters. :o) I was one of the people who received the news of your stroke from your mom’s own voice and words and it was a very hard day, not just the news, but the relating of it, to know how vulnerable and stripped bare your mom was. She would have needed to be mothered at that moment too. Oh, and I’m sorry about your robins. If it helps, I met a big happy healthy duck family at the farm yesterday: mom and ten ducklings!

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    1. Yes that helps, Wendy! Thanks 🙂
      We all say that, I guess, because we want to be doing motherhood well, but we’re wingin’ it! And sometimes it’s so hard to know if you are making good choices, ’cause there are a LOT of choices we have to make. And we’re always thinking for multiple people….but it’s awesome.
      Going “Erin Brockovich”…that’s great! Definitely a force to be reckoned with!!

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  4. Wow, Raina, that was quite a blog! I love you, too!! It’s strange reading about things/happenings that you’re familiar with but from another’s perspective. Addendum to your leaf story: The businessman/father came out to see about the commotion and once I explained the situation and my displeasure, he immediately guided that boy [I don’t even know what happened to the friend] inside for a ‘talking-to’ by either his arm or his ear, and then we walked away, haha. I laughed til the tears came, reading that again, and the McDonald’s story. And you’re right, we don’t really know, as mothers, what we’re doing a lot of times but thankfully we mostly have pretty good instincts. Funny, it didn’t even occur to me to behave any other way when in such situations. And thank you for your loving words – of course, I’d do anything for you! I’m your Mom! Great quotes too! Looking forward to your next blog….

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    1. Mom, that’s a great addition. My memories of what happened after the leaves were “freed” was especially vague. 🙂 I have a feeling he might have been dragged off by the ear? Maybe not though. Glad you got to laugh about it! Of course I meant every word. Thanks & Love you too

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  5. Yep…definitely need to write a book! I find myself eagerly awaiting the next chapter. I shed tears when I relate to certain instances…and smile with others. Thank you for sharing! XOXO

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  6. Reblogged this on A Stroke of Good Fortune and commented:

    My apologies, I haven’t posted in three months, I just haven’t been able to, but I’ve been working on a piece. This however is a reblog of my second-ever post, about my beautiful & fierce mother. When I wrote it I truly would have believed she’d be here with us forever. I post this through my tears today, in her memory, on this day when we are remembering so many people already. Loss is so hard. But love is so worth it. Re-reading her “comment” at the end was exceptionally bittersweet and difficult, yet heartrendingly poignant today. I love you so much, Mom. I hope to share my next piece soon. Thank you

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  7. I loved reading this…again! You are an incredibly talented writer….I felt like I was curled up on the sofa with a cup of coffee, listening to a friend tell a story, hanging on every word, feeling as if I was re-living the moment with her and hoping the story would never end!
    I am sure that when you wrote this you had no idea of the events that would follow. But I hope you can get some joy out of knowing that through your story, you gave us the gift of feeling as if we knew your wonderful mom. And from her comments, she was obviously very proud of you and gave you another beautiful gift to remember her by. I am so sorry for your loss. Hugs to you.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh Rai , knowing this event , knowing your mother, I was always so proud of her ‘fierce’ loyalty to all our family and I always knew she would go to the ends of the earth to protect and defend all of us whenever she saw the need to do it. She always gave us everything she had. I love her.

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