Mother’s Magic

Mother’s Magic

From Chicken Soup for Every Mom's Soul

Mother’s Magic

Mama was my greatest teacher, a teacher of compassion, love and fearlessness. If love is sweet as a flower then my mother is that sweet flower of love.

Stevie Wonder

Ken, the sixth child in our family, was born with cerebral palsy, profound deafness and mild retardation. Though my mother was extremely affectionate and loving, she never babied Ken. She expected him to do whatever we did.

I remember one Christmas we got a new swing set and slide. Ken, who was nine years old, loved the slide from the first second he saw it, but because of the braces on his legs, he couldn’t manage the steps. So he spent the holidays watching the rest of us from the ground.

The first day we were all back in school, Mama put Ken in the backyard, this time without his braces, and watched him crawl right over to the slide. For the next three hours or longer, Ken climbed the ladder and fell, climbed the ladder and fell, again and again. He busted the knees out of both of his pant legs. His head was bleeding a little by one ear and so was an elbow.

The neighbor to the back of us yelled at my mother, “What kind of woman are you? Get that boy off that ladder.” Mama told her kindly that if it upset her, she would have to close her kitchen curtains. Ken had decided to go down the slide, and down the slide he would go. It took a couple of days of trying before he could go up the ladder and down the slide as well as the rest of us, and another week before he could do it with his braces on.

But to this day, Ken—the boy who was not supposed to make it to his tenth birthday and is now a forty-two-year-old man who lives independently and holds down a job— approaches everything the way he did that slide so many years ago. What a gift my mother gave him that day by expecting him to be the best he could be—and never settling for less.

Mama could also make things easier for Ken. One weekday morning, the ladies of the church altar society were seated in our living room enjoying polite conversation and cups of my mother’s coffee. Ken, an adult now, woke up and took his place at the head of our dining-room table in the next room. Mother excused herself, served him his morning coffee and toast, then rejoined the ladies in the living room. With his breakfast Ken sat with his back to the open french doors leading into the living room and the group of ladies. However, just as he raised his coffee cup to his lips, his arm experienced an involuntary spastic movement and he threw coffee all over both french doors, one wall and himself.

Mother rushed to him finding him embarrassed to the core, his head hanging, face beet-red, apologizing over and over to her for the mess he’d made. Mama didn’t miss a beat. She looked down in his cup, and seeing there was still an inch or two of coffee in the bottom, she threw the coffee on the only clean wall, and told Ken with sign language, “Looks like you missed a spot over here.” Ken dissolved in laughter forgetting all about his embarrassment and the mess he’d made, and with a gentle smile on her face Mother began to clean up the mess.

Though I often feel I fall short when I compare my mothering to hers, it gives me great comfort to know that her gentle spirit is within me, somewhere—preparing me to make “mothering magic” of my own.

Mimi Greenwood Knight

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