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September 2, 2014, 8:02 am

Mothers stay with us if just in memory

If you have your mother in your life, this is a day you should definitely cherish. For those who will go through this day with a degree of sadness because your mother is no longer around, be thankful for the fond memories of years passed. This might be a particularly difficult day for you if you are spending your first Mother’s Day without your mother. Whether this is your first Mother’s Day alone, or if it has been several years since your mother’s passing, the sadness remains deep.

This is the tenth Mother’s Day since my mother passed. Still, I reflect on the unforgettable memories I shared with her. While much of what appears in this column has been written about in the past, I write about these things again because it is a way to salute my mother on this very special day.

On this Mother’s Day, many of you will send cards, e-mails, text messages, give flowers and make telephone calls to mothers who are out of the area. Some of you will accompany your mother to church wearing carnations of various colors, but not white. Many of you will have your annual Mother’s Day dinner with your mother smiling proudly at the head of the table. Each child and, quite often, some grandchildren will jockey for position to obtain a photograph with their mother or grandmother, as a treasured keepsake. I have not done these things for many years. Thus, as the day passes, I will shed a tear or two and experience moments of loneliness because my mother will not be with me. There will be that time when I will sit in church and watch mothers being honored; the oldest, the youngest, the one with the most children and the one who has traveled the farthest. There will be that long ride out to Rolling Green Cemetery where the sadness will probably be strongest. I take this ride to my mother’s gravesite each year, where I have my private talks with her. Despite this sadness, there will be many moments of joy as I reflect on fond memories of times spent with my mother. If you had the type of relationship that I had with my mother, 20, 30, 40 or more years since your mother passed will not erase the desire to spend one more time looking into her eyes and saying what we all would like to say, “Mother, I love you.” So I invite you to take one of those trips back in the day to the time when your mother, just like my dear mother, contributed greatly to your growth and development.

Many of us have wonderful memories of our mothers. Close your eyes and your favorite warm thought will undoubtedly flash through your mind. For me, there is something about the kitchen that most often brings my mother to mind; for this is where she loved to spend most of her time. I can still see her dragging out the large potato chip can in which she stored the flour for use in her Saturday night baking ritual. Saturday night in my household always meant that my mother would be sitting on a small stepstool, preparing cakes, pies and rolls. I can still see her with the large, tan mixing bowl, preparing the batter. I can still see myself hanging onto her apron as I climbed up in a chair to place my finger into the mixing bowl to get a taste. No, there were no instant mixes in her kitchen cabinets; everything was made from scratch. What I would not give to have this experience again. While this was a back-in-the-day experience, of more than 62 years, in my mind, the image seems to be one of just a few days ago.

Perhaps it was not the Saturday night baking that brings your mother to mind. Saturday baking was very special in my mother’s kitchen. Maybe it was the next day, Sunday, when everyone gathered around the dinner table for the mandatory Sunday meal. Did your mother always sit in the same place at the table? At our dinner table it was always to the right of my father as he sat at the head of the table. Was there a special place where the desserts were placed? If your dining room was like mine, perhaps your mother placed the cakes and pies on the buffet. Did she wear a special apron as well as a special outfit for Sunday dinners? Recall the preparation your mother went through for a holiday dinner? Thanksgiving and Christmas were the most celebrated holidays in my household. All of the children and grandchildren would sit at tables that extended down the hallway in order to be part of a tradition that was so typical of Black family life, back in the day. On this day, it is hard not to miss this experience, for it was one that my mother put together and held together. Unfortunately, as mothers have passed on, many of these traditions which helped to bond families have disappeared.

Perhaps those trips to church on Sunday mornings bring back wonderful memories of your mother. If I go back in the day I can still identify the pew where I sat with my parents and siblings in my old family church. There have been several ministers at the church since that time, but the pastor’s name during this period remains prominent in my mind. Can you still hear your mother’s favorite Bible verse? My mother loved to hear the words beginning with, “Yea, though I walk thru the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil?” Or, were the words of her favorite song words that you still hear her singing as you sit through Sunday worship service? Words like, “Just a closer walk with thee...” God, church and mothers! Someone once said that God could not be everywhere, thus he created mothers.

Food shopping is not one of my favorite activities. The one great thing about it in the past, however, was going up and down the aisles filling up the shopping cart with basic needs and goodies. Although I was but a little kid, I felt like a big boy when my mother gave me a list of items to secure as she continued shopping from her list. I continued to feel like a big boy as I helped to bag the groceries at the checkout counter. These are but a few of those back-in-the-day experiences that cause me to long for another moment with my dear mother.

Are you able to go back in the day and resurrect experiences from your primary years that continue to be vivid images in your mind today? Could it be kneeling on the side of the bed learning your first prayer? Or, could it be your first instructions on how to brush your teeth? Sitting in the family’s claw-foot bathtub with my mother washing my back and my hair remain with me to this day. How can I forget those vivid memories of Ivory soap and Johnson’s baby oil?

Wrestling is not a sport that I care to watch. But, back in the day, while most Blacks were drawn to baseball because of the path blazed by Jackie Robinson, my mother grew to love wrestling. As kind and gentle; as loving and caring as she was, I could never truly understand her love for this sport. She could rattle off with ease names like Gorgeous George and the midget wrestler Sky Low-Low. I have fond memories of her cheering her favorites. Whenever I see a wrestling match on television, my thoughts go to my mother’s love for it.

Not everyone had or has a relationship like the one I have described. I must say that I have great difficulty understanding children who can go days, weeks or months without some contact with their mothers. A lot of people from back in the day argue that a young lady can learn a great deal about a potential boyfriend or husband simply by observing the relationship between him and his mother. Quite often, a young man selects a mate based on the qualities of his mother. My mother enjoyed 93 years here on this Earth and I enjoyed and cherished the years, days, hours, minutes and seconds I had with her. So, if you are fortunate enough to still have your mother today, I encourage you to redefine your relationship if it is not strong. I encourage you to strengthen your relationship even if it is strong. Understand that your mother will not be around forever and you too will experience, as I am doing today, a future Mother’s Day alone. Put yourself in the position so you can have warm, pleasant and fond thoughts of your mother tomorrow because of things that you did with her back in the day.


Alonzo Kittrels can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or The Philadelphia Tribune, Back In The Day, 520 S. 16th St., Philadelphia, PA 19146.