Mother’s Day Lesson on Courage

There is nothing that compares to a mother. There simply isn’t. Due to the eyes they have in the back of their head they see things others don’t and they hear things that no one else does, usually from three rooms over or across town. Whichever. My mother was no exception. She was larger than life and as American as apple pie. She was profound in the simplicity of the lessons she taught but boy, did she ever teach a lesson. During a visit to my hometown, I was reminded of one of the lessons my mom taught me. I figure someone could use a life lesson taught from a mother so here’s mine.

Strolling around my hometown is a treat. There is a grand total of one food joint. I’m in luck though, they are sharing their WiFi password. Yesterday I sat in a town where the only place to eat wasn’t sharing the WiFi password. I found that very humorous, but it did push this task to today. The hubby and son are in the woods right now and the rest of the family haven’t arrived yet, so I have been filling my time getting reacquainted with the place that best represents my childhood. Right before I left to come here, I received a card in the mail from a friend and she wrote in it that she was proud of me and that in the middle of the hustle and bustle of life – I forget the young girl that I was. Boy, have we been getting reacquainted this week! So many memories have come back. As this happens, I am reminded of the blessings I have in my life.

The first place I went upon arriving in town was to lay a wreath at the headstone of mom and dad’s final resting place and tell them above all things, I miss them terribly. There are no words to express how much I wish they were still here. Then I took a drive. There is a dam not far from where my childhood home used to stand. The little Kanawha runs through the town and the dam is a perfect spot for fishing and swimming, which is exactly where I spent every summer of my childhood, on the riverbank. I stood on the edge of that river yesterday and I could almost hear myself as a kid begging my mom to let me get out of the river. 

That summer, my sister and I went to Girl Scout camp. I guess being the youngest girl my mom had somehow overlooked that I hadn’t been formally taught how to swim. Coming from a long line of avid fishermen and women this was not a good thing. My sister and I went to camp and were having a blast. We all got our bathing suits on and were having a good time by the pool when a girl walked by and thought it would be hilarious to shove me in the pool. Only – it was the deep end, and I couldn’t swim. I knew I needed to hold my breath, so I did as I quietly sunk to the bottom. I remembered not being worried at all. Being the baby in a family, someone always came to my rescue. I remember clearly being on the bottom of the pool and looking up, not knowing how to get to the top. It has stuck with me all these years so vividly. I started getting worried after a bit because no one was coming, and my lungs were starting to burn.  And then I heard her…I look up and standing at the edge of the pool I see my sister screaming that I couldn’t swim and pointing in my direction. I was thinking, please hurry Jackie, please hurry. And to this day in my mind, I can still hear the lifeguard hitting the water and the feel of his arms as he scooped me up. I don’t remember all the details once I got above surface, but those moments under the surface are seared in my brain. 

Afterwards, they wrapped me in a towel and sat me on a picnic table. I was so relieved when I looked up and my mother was flying down the driveway that led to the camp. She packed me in the car, and I felt so safe. It is also seared in my brain the moment she made the turn that led down to the river instead of going straight home. I did not want to go to the river. I started panicking and by the time the car came to a stop, I was in a full blown hissy fit. Screaming and crying as we got out of the car and down to the riverbank. She held me in her arms and walked right into that river and stood in the water until I stopped crying. As I fought like a wet cat to get out of the water, she took me by the arms and got down on eye level and calmly told me she was sorry – she should have taught me sooner. She said, “Sarah Willie, if I let you out of this water now, you will be afraid of it for the rest of your life. I don’t want you afraid.” By the end of the day, I was swimming. A proud river rat for most of my life. A beach bum – a water lover to my core. 

I stood on the banks of the river this week thinking about this and it really hit me. She taught me so much in that moment of life. About fear – and the conquering of it. About how fear really is bigger than the thing you are afraid of. She taught me that in the face of fear – I am to keep moving. Slowly, if I must, but keep moving until I master it. I don’t think I have ever been truly thankful for that moment until this week, standing alone on that riverbank. 

I am thankful for my mother and her wisdom. I am thankful for my roots even if they are the base of a tree full of nuts. (Kidding everyone.) If fear, has you in full panic mode – take heart, take it slow, and borrow some of my courage, mom taught me a long time ago how to kick its teeth in.


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