"It [the State] has taken on a vast mass of new duties and responsibilities; it has spread out its powers until they penetrate to every act of the citizen, however secret; it has begun to throw around its operations the high dignity and impeccability of a State religion; its agents become a separate and superior caste, with authority to bind and loose, and their thumbs in every pot. But it still remains, as it was in the beginning, the common enemy of all well-disposed, industrious and decent men." ~ H.L. Mencken
I remember how, after the brakes went out on the station wagon after coming down a hill, she reached over just before we crashed and held me back against the seat with her arm. I remember that vividly even though I was only a little boy. That probably saved my life, as my head still cracked the windshield.
I remember how she'd pick us up from swimming lessons and take us to Vacation Bible School while we changed into dry clothes in the car. I remember her taking me to baseball games and picking me up from football practice.
I remember her letting me stay in her bed by the fire when I was sick, and nursing me back to health.
I remember how she'd take me up to spend a few days with her mother'a classy and honorable woman'and tell me stories about my grandfather, who died before I was born.
I remember how, when my musical tastes began to expand beyond Tom T. Hall, and I wanted to buy my first real record ('Freak Out' by Le Chic), she grilled the owner of the record store about the song because she was concerned that it might lead me to a life of drugs. It didn't, but it did lead to a life of opposition to the War on Drugs.
I remember how she'd buy me a tub or two of butter mints from the Charles Chips man when he came around in his truck. I can still taste them now.
I remember how, starting in the seventh grade, she'd have me read classics like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Yearling, Our Town and For Whom The Bell Tolls instead of the less challenging books that I wanted to read.
I remember how she encouraged my interest in Thoreau. She'd give me his books, bring home videos about him, and tell me all kinds of stories about him and his circle of friends: 'When Thoreau and Emerson had a spat, Emerson called him the captain of a huckleberry party, and Thoreau said Emerson couldn't trundle a wheelbarrow through Concord .'
I remember her teaching me how to write. She would review my essays and patiently instruct me in the often obscure rules of grammar, spelling and punctuation ('Think of the root word.'). To this day, whenever I have a question about the English language, she's the person I go to to get the right answer.
I remember her sense of humor. She revels in telling funny stories, and even plays along with callers who have the wrong number (listening to her ad lib one of these calls is pretty funny). Even something as simple as her requests for me to take the organic waste to the organic pile became a hilarious exchange. She's a real character.
I remember the sympathy, concern and understanding she'd show whenever I did something stupid and got in trouble. She would defend me with the loyalty and tenacity of a defense attorney, even though she knew I had done wrong.
I remember the importance she placed on staying married, so her children wouldn't have to grow up in a broken home.
I remember how she quit her job so she could stay home and take care of her children while they were in their formative years.
I remember the thousands of meals she cooked for me, which were always wholesome and delicious. I remember how she would get up early every morning so we could eat a hot breakfast before leaving for school.
I remember the care and affection she provided to my family's pets, right up until they drew their last breath.
I remember how she hosted at least four foreign exchange students'one of them several times'so that her children could see other countries and experience their culture.
I remember her passion for what Thoreau called 'the right.' There was many a night when Dan Rather and Peter Jennings would have felt the wrath of her invective if TVs could receive as well as transmit.
I remember how while I was in the Army, she would tell her students: 'As long as my son is sleeping in the freezing fields of Germany , you will stand for the Pledge of Allegiance!'
I remember how, several times a week, she'd send me envelopes (always 'recycled,' with all kinds of stickers and notes on them) full of handwritten notes, coupons and interesting or funny newspaper clippings. In fact, I received one yesterday (always the kidder, the envelope said, 'Happy Mother's Day! :-) ').
I remember her generosity and generous spirit. Her family was very poor when she was growing up, so she always wanted her children to have nice things.
I remember those quiet moments when we'd be reflecting on something we'd just discussed, and she would offer up some bit of wisdom or recite one of the natural laws of life ('Time and the river . . . .').
But most of all, I remember the nurturing love, warm home and unwavering devotion she gave to each of her children. Happy Mother's Day, mom. I love you.
c4">[Photo taken in my rose garden in April.]