Monday, May 14, 2012

Four Important Things About My Mother Bear

Let's imagine that you are at my house right now, and since it is Mother's Day, you say to me, "So, Diane, tell me a little bit about your mom. What is she like?"

Then I would say, "Hmmm. Let me tell you about Mother Bear, and then you will know about my mother." 

I would sort through my bookcase full of children's storybooks till I found this one, then I would invite you to sit down with me and I would read the whole book out loud to you. 

"Little Bear. By Else Holmelund Minarik. Pictures by Maurice Sendak."

{I always like to say the author's name out loud. Sometimes I go the extra mile, and say the illustrator's name too.}

Well, things are going to get a lil bit complicated because you are not in my home right now. As much as I would like to, I can't really read this out loud to you, but I can show you the actual pages of the book. 

You may read them out loud to yourself...and I REALLY hope that you do...or you may quickly skim over them...or you may even skip the lovely story and just jump ahead to my comments. It's all up to you. 

"I am cold," said Little Bear. "I want something to put on."

My mother was always a great maker of things for me to put on. Until I was a conformity-seeking teen who wanted store-bought clothes, my mom sewed or knitted pretty much everything I wore. I remember long, lovely trips to the fabric store to pick out patterns, fabric, zippers and buttons for my new clothes; I remember helping her cut out and pin together the outfits as she made them. Since we lived in snowy Michigan, she kept me outfitted in bright knit hats, long cozy scarves, and lots of mittens. And when I put them on, I was not cold. 

She also made things for my dolls to put on. I had the most amazing Barbie clothes imaginable. 

Cat says, "Can you really cook? If you can really make it, I will eat it."

My mother had great confidence in me. I don't know exactly how she did it, but she certainly gave me the message that I could take on any challenge in the whole wide world and succeed. There was an unspoken assurance in our home that whatever I would choose to do, I would do well. Whether it was driving five miles into town on a snow-covered country road, or swimming across our mile-wide lake with my friends, or making dinners for my brothers while she was taking night classes, she allowed me to take on great challenges and always expected me to succeed. 

Also, she never forgot my birthday. Not even once.

"Be back for lunch," said Mother.

My mom understood about adventures. Living out in the country, with a wide open lake and acres of woods to explore, I was allowed to wander and roam from a very tender age. I remember taking my youngest brother out into the woods with me for hours at a time when he was three years old and I was six. Yes, I'm serious. Most mothers now would laugh at the absurdity of such a thought, but my mom sent us off with her blessing. And what fun we had - eating wild strawberries, climbing trees, exploring the 'bear trap' (a big hole in the ground), digging for treasure, and making forts. She had a general idea of where we were heading on any given day, but really, she trusted us to keep ourselves alive and be back for lunch.

"Tell me about me," said Little Bear. "Tell me about the things I once did."

My mother was good at telling me about myself. Starting at the very beginning, she explained about the sleet storm that covered our world in a coating of ice on the night before I was born. The hospital was located on a hill, and nearby pedestrians were crawling on their hands and knees because the sidewalks were so impossibly icy. As a three- and four-year-old, I not only wanted to wear dresses every day, but also insisted that my mother wear them too. When she broke her wrist one winter, I took over duties for making instant mashed potatoes for dinner every night and also loved feeding my aforementioned baby brother. I was famous for saying, "Lions and tigers may bite me, but effalents are my friends." 

These stories are neither earth-shaking nor particularly clever. But by telling me about myself, my mother reminded me about who I used to be, and helped me imagine who I might become. 

And that is a very wonderful gift indeed. Thanks, Mother Bear.

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Ready for more stories about Michigan, my mitten-shaped home state? 

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More stories about my mom:


  1. very sweet. thank you.

    1. Mother Bear inspires me. I'm glad if she graced your day.

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  3. It is interesting to note how global the world was as far back as 1921. During the course of the history of the teddy bear, The J.K.Farnell & Co. manufactured bears in England. And, it was one of Farnell's teddy bears that Christopher Robin received as a gift from his mother for his first birthday in 1921. Christopher Robin Milne is A.A. Milne's son and it was Christopher's adventures with his teddy bear [he named him Edward Bear] and other stuffed animals, that inspired A.A. Milne to write stories about a boy, a bear, and other stuffed toys. So, where did the name, Winnie-the-Pooh, come from then? cute teddy bear names


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