“If I was damned of?body and soul,?I know whose?prayers would?make me whole,?Mother o’ mine,?O mother?o’ mine.”?- Rudyard Kipling, ?in his poem ?“Mother O’ Mine”
Much of the “mom ‘n apple-pie” comfort we associate with the word “mother” has been shaken, stirred and irradiated in the overwhelming disasters that have struck Japan. Suddenly, the land seems more fragile, the ocean more menacing and nuclear power reactors loom like long shadows over population centers in that country.
“Mother Nature” has flexed her muscles in powerful earthquakes and tsunamis. “Mother Earth” has reminded us once more that she is, in truth, a molten-centered planet traveling the vastness of space. And “Mother Courage” is left to sustain us.
I’ve been looking carefully at the young mothers in my particular world to see how courage is doing. And I can report it’s doing well. When first reports of the 9.0 earthquake that struck Japan arrived on the West Coast, there was more talk of “Armageddon” and “Apocalypse” than I can remember hearing in a lifetime. But it faded quickly.
The relentless television coverage of tsunami waters flowing into Japanese ports and farmlands, then flowing out again, sucking the life of the land with them, seemed to upend much that we thought we knew about tides and their ebbing.
Then came the baring of nuclear fuel rods at major reactors in Japan. And we realized we don’t know much about the stubborn endurance of radiation in the 104 reactors that dot our own country.
No question, it’s been a lot to absorb.
But – and this is the important part – absorb it we have. Our faith in the future – a future rich in such concepts as freedom and motherhood – remains intact. And on we go.
I was reminded a few days ago how much motherhood has changed from my own era. The daughter in our family who is an attorney and a mother of three was talking about a recent business trip she made from San Francisco to Houston. She was in full career mode and things were going well when, at one meeting, her phone rang.
“Hi, Mom,” her 8-year-old daughter chimed from home. “Can you tell Dad where to find my soccer socks?”
It was a familiar small-time crisis in a single American household where soccer socks and baseball hats, iPads and baseball gloves have a way of wandering off on their own. Mom will know where they are, whether she’s downtown at her office or practicing her profession in another state, even another country.
That’s a major American change. Not the fact that women work outside the home – my daughter is the third generation in her family to do that. But the nature of the work itself often has been considerably altered. Women head companies as well as work for them. While many still spend time at second-income jobs, others commit themselves to lifelong careers that once were reserved for men. And both take place for mothers in a world where soccer socks may sometimes trump a signature on the bottom line.
Demanding? Yes. Tiring? Yes, again. But worth it? You bet.
For the moment, others will have to monitor the radiation gauges, clear the tsunami debris and check the stability of tectonic plates beneath Japan.
My daughter, Caroline, has soccer socks to find.
And Mother Nature, Mother Earth and Mother Courage all have plans to go on.