Green Eggs and Ham. Scuffy the Tugboat. Those are the books I grew up with.
But there’s a book my mother used to read to my kids. P.D. Eastman’s Are You My Mother? published in 1960.
Mother bird feels she must leave her egg to go and get food for the one who is not yet hatched.
While she’s away, baby cracks the shell but can’t see his mother.
So off he goes to a kitten, a chicken, a dog and a cow. Always the same question. Are you my mother? Always the same answer. No.
He sees an old car. Obviously not his mother.
In desperation, the hatchling calls out to a boat and a plane, and at last, convinced he has found his mother, he climbs onto the teeth of an enormous steam shovel.
The behemoth shudders and grinds.
“I want my mother!” the baby shouts. The power shovel, who obviously wasn’t a bird, lifted baby back into the nest and to a reunion of mother and child.
Who’s your mama?
She may have given birth to you. She may have chosen you. She may have been given to you the day you married her son. Your mother may have inherited you because she fell in love with your father.
But just in case you’re not sure who your mother is, here’s a checklist:
A mother will check on you in the middle of the night when you’re born to make sure you’re breathing and get up if you need her.
When you hurt, she hurts. She exposes lies, listens to I hate you, packs lunches at midnight, shivers in cold arenas, sits through banal recitals and still fits in an interview with the teacher because a math mark is slipping.
She’s your biggest fan and most ardent critic.
She tells you you’re the greatest in one breath and tells you to do better in the next. She can go from saint to witch and back in 60 seconds flat.
She’ll drive you crazy and then offer to drive you to your friend’s house. She’ll tell you stories about people as if you knew them when you’ve never heard of them.
Then again, she tells stories about you to people as if they knew you when they’ve never heard of you.
She knows all about you even if she gets your name mixed up with your brother.
Her list of credentials is slim. After all, she became a mother without regard for her health, finances and previous experience.
She works hard to prepare you for the day she dreads; the day when you leave.
But that’s not the end of it.
Two weeks before she died, my mother reamed me out over the phone for not calling her when I first arrived in New York to tell her I was safe.
A scolding that told me, as if I needed a reminder, that while you can plead with a mother to stop worrying about you, she will likely ignore your plea to her dying day.
A scolding I’ll never forget.
Bob Ripley is Senior Minister at Metropolitan United Church in London, Ont.