Did they know, those moms, what they had?

Categorized as Grounds for Insanity column, Rhonda's Posts

It’s a joy to watch him. Up and down, back and forth he runs for two solid hours, including commercial breaks.

In a move that utterly frustrates opponents, he throws up one long arm and bats down their shots as if swatting at so many flies. Then, in another maneuver that drives his opponents mad, he grabs a pass, leaps high in a powerful aerial maneuver and, using that famous long arm, he stuffs it in.

“Yes!” I shout from my end of the couch along with the roar of the fans. “Take that!”

When the camera cuts to the stands, there she is. It’s Cody Zeller’s mother, always wearing IU red, always smiling placidly. And there he is, Cody’s father, watching stoically as his son and the rest of the Hoosiers smoke whoever’s come to town.

Without knowing her, I feel a kinship with the mother in red. She with her three boys, I with my four. She, feeding a seven-foot giant, and I, feeding four who eat as though they are.

I can’t help but admire her self-control. When things get rough down on the court, she keeps smiling. They’re throwing elbows, pushing, shoving. That’s her baby. And she’s smiling.

No shouting, I notice. No earlobe twists for the pushers and shovers. Just smiling.

No wading in either, wildly swinging her purse. Which is what I—uh, someone else I know was tempted to do at certain wrestling meets.

Watching her watch her son, I wonder. Wonder when she knew he’d be a star. Did she catch him shooting three-pointers into a trash can from his crib? Did he practice jump shots and dunks with a Nerf ball and hoop? Was that when she knew what she had? I wonder.

How many sweaty uniforms has she laundered, and socks? How many pizza parties has she funded, and carpools? And when her son hit 6 feet and he didn’t stop there; when she had to buy shoes for the feet on that kid, I wonder. Was she smiling so sweetly when she wrote that big check? These are some things I want to ask Cody’s mother, sitting just there in the stands.

I’ve got questions, too, for a few other moms who’ve raised some incredible kids. Women like Morrow Coffey Graham, like Susannah Wesley, who raised Billy and Charles and John.

“Mrs. Graham,” I might say, “when did Billy start preaching? Did he practice while milking the cows? Did he play ‘revival meetings’ with his siblings and cousins, trying his sermons on them?

“Was he a man of prayer from the very beginning or just when he got into trouble? And what about church, Mrs. Graham? Did he ever act up, pass a note? Pinch his sister, steal a cookie? Please tell me. What did you do?”

Those are just a few of the questions I’d ask Billy’s mother. And the last one would be this, “Did you ever imagine, when you spanked him for fibbing, that you were paddling the next great evangelist?”

Susannah Wesley is another mom I’d like to meet. This brave woman gave birth to 19 children, 10 of whom survived into adulthood. Clearly, she lived to tell about it. Thankfully, so did those 10. And that’s not nothing.

Ten children. Two hoops teams. A choir. A village. One baseball team, one for the ump.

With two, you’re still even. At three, you’re outnumbered. But 10? That’s a whole ‘nother story.

Let’s say a simple round of fisticuffs breaks out in the family van because someone looked wrong at someone else. This, while the mother runs in to the store for some milk. If all 10 get involved, then that quick it happens. When she comes out, the van’s laid over on its side, and the windows are steamed up, a stunt that’s easy if they’re all throwing punches.

Ten working together can also stage a coup. They can, and perhaps that’s why Mrs. Wesley spent so much time with her apron over her head, praying. Her children knew good and well what that meant. Mom was talking to God, and it behooved them to leave her alone.

I admire her self-control. When things got rowdy, she flipped up her apron and prayed. Unlike me—uh, another mother I know, it never crossed her mind to use it for anything else. Like strangulation, for instance, when the kids got her freshly-washed rugs all wet. And she walked on them in her socks.

Sigh. I’m not exactly turning in my new spring scarf, the source of my own dark temptation. But maybe I need a snappy spring apron to flop over my head if the kids stage an uprising or flip the van on its side while I’m in getting milk. By counting to 10 and praying like crazy, they might live to tell about it. Just like Susannah’s kids did.

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