BIDDEFORD – Moms – we all have one, possibly are one and know many – can have multiple roles in our lives. Those roles can range from nurse to confidant to adversary. One of the most important lifelong roles a mother has is teacher.
Our mothers may have taught us to cook, ride a bike, drive a car or climb a mountain, or something more mundane like the importance of clean underwear or a balanced checkbook, each of which is valuable in its own way. But some lessons we learn from our mothers have a deeper and lasting impact on our lives and become part of the core of who we are. Those lessons are as varied as the mothers who taught them.
Bonita Pothier’s mom Laurette G. Pothier was 85 years old when she died last year. For Pothier, 60, who was born, raised, and continues to live in Biddeford, her mother was a teacher and an inspiration.
“She taught me how to love unconditionally. She had a huge heart and capacity to forgive, and to always look on the bright side,” said Pothier, who is a regional representative for U.S. Sen. Angus King. “She also taught me that no matter what the challenge was, to never be afraid to try to overcome it. Challenges from a broken toaster or disposal (which she fixed), to life challenges with health, emotions, or relationships. She was rock solid.”
Morgan Gordon grew up in Rumford but moved to Biddeford last summer with her mother, Judy O’Neil. She is a senior at Biddeford High School. Just 18, Gordon says that her mother has already taught her an “incredible number of things.”
“She has taught me to not take myself so seriously when I am tired, and to go with the flow – to become one with the moment; to never stop loving, though it can be painful at times, and how to chop fire wood in a flowing skirt in sub-freezing temperatures!”
Buckfield resident Roberta Scruggs grew up on the farm in Alabama that her father and grandfather had worked. Her mother, Annette Farley Scruggs, was a native of Saugus, Mass., who didn’t have much experience on a farm but rolled up her sleeves and did her best.
“She worked hard, raising chickens and hogs, canning and freezing everything in the garden and going back to school to become a licensed practical nurse, her longtime goal,” said Scruggs, whose mother died three decades ago, but not before teaching her daughter some life lessons.
“The most important thing I learned from my mother: be tough. She never quit trying, even though she went through some incredibly hard experiences. She had real courage and she expected – demanded, really – that my two sisters and I face whatever we feared,” said Scruggs, who has had a long career in journalism starting at age 16 and is now the communications director for the Maine Forest Products Council. “She died from a heart attack almost 34 years ago, but I still dream about her when I need to be brave.”
“I remember telling a friend once that my mother would never let us watch ‘I Love Lucy,’ because she thought it made women look silly,” Scruggs said. “My friend said, ‘Wow, she was really ahead of her time.’ I was surprised, because I’d never thought of her that way, but I had to agree. She believed women could and should do whatever they wanted.”
Karen Lienhard of Wells, who is in her early 70s, was born the middle daughter of Walter and Leila Friedrichs and raised in Iowa. Her mother was born in 1911, the oldest of a farm family of 10. She died in 2005, one week before her 94th birthday. Lienhard remembers her mother’s work ethic and her love of nature.
“She attended college for two years to become a teacher, but after taking some time off to raise three daughters, her dream was to get a BA in education,” said Lienhard. “She did that by going to college in the summers and taking evening college classes while still teaching.”
Lienhard, a retired social worker, said that one of the most important life lessons, among many, her mother taught her was the “love of God’s creation and how to nourish, cherish, and enjoy it to the fullest. She also taught us by example how important it was to protect the Earth with her compost piles, putting egg shells and banana peels in the garden, conserving water, and [teaching us] not to litter.”
Lienhard’s family would often hike in county and state parks, looking for wildflowers, and her mother served on county and state conservation committees, the only woman on those committees at the time.
“She passed on her love of gardening to me and every time I see a rainbow, a sunset, a waterfall, the grandeur of the mountains, a cardinal or bluebird, I think of and thank my Mom that she passed on her love of nature and God’s creation to me, to embrace it with my body and soul,” said Lienhard.
Nearly 60 years ago, Joy Locher was born to Alma Marguerite Schrempf, a 42-year-old woman with a heart damaged by rheumatic fever, which made pregnancy risky for her. She came through the birth and continued to care for her daughter and the rest of her children and family until she died at age 82.
The way her mother lived her life, Locher said, “fed my soul and continues to provide guidance. Choosing right when no one was looking became my path for life because of her walk with God and her belief that there is an absolute truth that allows no other option.”
Locher, who grew up in Newburyport, Mass., and now lives in Cape Neddick, said her mother had an unlimited capacity for love and taught her about unconditional love.
“I learned from her that no one is beyond redemption and that each of us is truly created equal but with different talents and gifts,” said Locher. “Mama taught me that everyone is huggable and valuable so I know that I am, too. The human touch is healing. My mom hugged everyone. I happily (and sometimes with a little mischief) continue that family tradition.”
So what, you may wonder, is the most valuable lesson I learned from my mother, besides making angels in the snow and that it was good to laugh until you cry? To work hard to be as kind as you can. Thanks, Mom.