Five Bits of Wisdom

I’ve been noticing a lot of lists made by bloggers. Maybe blogging is synonymous with listing. I’m not sure but I thought I’d attempt one of my own. Bear with me as I try it out.

 Five Bits of Wisdom My Mother Gave Me.

1.  Give them roots and give them wings. – She gave me this little nugget while I was struggling with whether or not I should allow my daughter to participate in something that a lot of other people were cautioning me about. She told me, you have given them some great roots, Sara, and Allison has a very good head on her shoulder. Sometimes you have to let them go. Let her have her wings. Give em roots and give em wings! I love that woman.

2.  Look your baby in the eyes and talk to him.  That’s how he will know you love him. Let him feel your love. – I was seventeen and a brand new mommy. I still lived at home and mom was showing me how to bathe my little guy. I still can feel the sun shining through the bathroom window as we held him in the sink and swished the warm water over his slippery little body. Two dark heads bowed and totally absorbed in the new little love of my life. It’s a special sunny memory I pull out from time to time. This bit of wisdom applies throughout their lives. Look them in the eyes and talk to your children. Let them feel your love.

3.  Pray for each of your children by name every night. – I truly believe this is what brought each of us twelve siblings into adulthood with no harm. I remember when mom told me that she and dad prayed for every one of us children by name every night. I also wonder if this helped them to sleep more peacefully. By giving their worries to God he gave them sweet peace and rest in return.

4.  Aquiring material worth does not make one rich. – I remember coming home from a friend’s house to tell mom of all the exotic things their family owned. She told me that owning material things didn’t mean someone was rich, in debt maybe but not rich. Richness, she told me, came from the people in your life and the things you do for others. I didn’t really know what she meant at the time but I have found myself realizing her words so many times as I have grown. I remember being a young single mama and struggling so often. When my babes would fret that we couldn’t buy this or that, I would tell them we were indeed very rich because we had each other and so much love in our hearts. The smile in their eyes always made me know they understood what I meant. I love those kids.

5.  Always wash your hands and face and comb your hair before coming to supper. And no hats at the supper table. – I don’t know why this impressed this little girl so. It instilled respect as I watched my brothers take off hats that seemed a permanent attachment and comb hair that probably hadn’t been combed since supper the night before. Standing around the sink with two or three of my siblings and washing our hands together gave us a family ritual that seemed to bind us together and give us a sense of unity. Such a little thing with a huge impact.

So my list is done. I stop typing to read and reread before publishing. Gratitude and deep love well up for those two gentle people that raised me. I’m sure they were just muddling through life, raising children, loving each other, getting by with no instructions like the rest of us parents. Somehow though with, I’m sure my mother would say, much help from God, they really seemed to have found their way.

I Heard the Church Bells Toll

I hear the church bells toll just down the street. The tolling causes an ache and melancholy rings from my soul. The lonely sound marks the hour and I feel a pull, the church, or maybe it is God, calling to me. Where are you, where have you been, I miss you. The feelings and memories of the little girl inside begin to stir. As a member of a huge Catholic family, I was made to go to church very regularly.

Everyone in our small town was Catholic. Our school was a public one but even it was owned by the church.  We had nuns to teach us in their long dark garbs and funny headpieces that reminded me of the mouth piece of a whistle. They took us to church every morning and taught our religion classes too.  Each day started at school with the Pledge of Allegiance and was followed with the Lord’s Prayer.

We spent our time in church trying to pay attention. Somehow our minds would wander.  One of us would begin playing with our hands daring the next to twist one finger across the other and stack all five if possible. Soon giggles and whisper would be heard and then quickly silenced with a swat on the shoulder and a very stern look from whichever nun was in charge of us that day.  There are really only so many mind games and finger games and distractions a child can invent when made to sit unnaturally still and quiet for so much of their lives. Yet, the giggles and the games rush back echoingly clear when those church bells ring.

Some of the priests were so ancient and so boring. Some we couldn’t follow due to the monotone credence of their voice. Yet, there were a few, just a few, who had a twinkle in their eye and a gift of engaging even us small children. These few would come down from behind the alter or podium, walk up and down the aisle, calling on us by name,  gently talking to us like we were real people. Kids sat up straighter, craned their necks and ears to see and listen. We would actually pay attention and want to participate. Yes, I recall those gentle priests with fondness when I hear those old church bells.

Oh and those sweet, slow Sundays, our whole family would go to church together. Dad would go sit in the car and patiently wait until each kid eventually tumbled from the house. Quietly he would remain until mom appeared to take her place beside him. Away we would go in that old station wagon tucked so full with all his love.  I remember the feelings that ran through me as we took up two whole pews in that old church. The older kids, some sullenly, some motherly, some still trying to wake up, filled the spaces of those benches. Ahh, but they never knew they also filled the corners of a little girl’s soul. I felt so safe and secure and yet a part of something huger then my little mind could even begin to imagine. My dad would sing bass and my mom would harmonize right there with him and I thought I heard angels chiming in. I still feel these things whenever I hear those beautiful church bells ring.

Safe and secure and loved and a sense of always knowing what was expected of me. My family and my church laid the map of my life. I may have strayed and taken paths not approved of but my love of both of them has always managed to pull me back. I love God and I love the Catholic faith even if I rarely attend anymore. God, my family and my church were good to me through my childhood. When those church bells ring I remember I have been blessed.

My childhood church:

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