15: They’re My Children

15: They’re My Children

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

They’re My Children

An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy.

~Spanish Proverb

I wouldn’t be writing this if I hadn’t begged my mother to let me wear my hair down that day. It was a Sunday. I was seven. My sister was five. We were sitting alone in a pew in the middle of a big white church in a small Vermont town.

Our mother was up front directing the choir, my father home with the two youngest. My mother must have decided we were old enough to behave ourselves. My sister had her large doll with her, but she was more distracted by my waist-long hair that was usually tightly braided.

I like to imagine we were good for a while, at least until partway through the sermon. But the minister’s delivery was pretty dry. Very soon my sister lost interest in the doll and began toying with my hair. Soon she was draping it over and around her and whispering loudly. I was pushing her away from me and too loudly shushing her. As we became more rambunctious, our patent leather Mary Janes were knocking against the pew in front of us.

We forgot all about the minister until he stopped the sermon and said in a very loud voice, “You two girls come down here and sit in front of me.”

Scared, heads down, we clambered out to the side aisle and made our long way toward the minister. The church was silent. We passed in front of the choir loft and my mother motioned for us to sit in the pew nearest her. We sat down and the minister boomed: “I told you girls to come sit here in front of me.” We were frozen.

My mother replied in an amazingly strong voice: “They’re my children and I’ll tell them where to sit.”

I don’t remember the rest of the service, but I know the drive home was silent. My sister and I knew we were going to “get it” when my father learned of our behavior.

She never told my father.

Consequently, he never learned of her bravery until I told him many years later. Although she was a devout churchgoer, and certainly appalled by our misbehavior in a church full of friends and neighbors, she was not cowed by the minister.

It was then I knew that of all she valued, we were the most valuable.

My sister and I still repeat to each other: “They’re my children and I’ll tell them where to sit.”

~Susan DeWitt Wilder

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