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Offering thanks on Mother’s Day

May 8, 2011
By PAUL GIANNAMORE , The Herald-Star

When my mother got about making a family in the late 1940s, there were a few different rules. Moms generally didn't work. Her job at the five-and-10 became the job of raising three kids and keeping house. That the three kids were born at intervals spanning nearly 16 years meant she raised three separate, barely overlapping families over a full generation. That, and I can't ever remember my sister not driving.

She was disciplined in a way I only came to appreciate after my kids had grown. My brother can still recite which rooms got cleaned top to bottom on which days. I remember that Friday was wash day. You had anything to be washed, it got into the hamper on Thursday night, or it was not getting done. And you weren't leaving it on the bedpost. Dropping it on the floor and leaving it there was not an option.

All dishes had to be dried as soon as the washing was done, lest the flatware got water spots. And we called them "knives and forks," not "flatware." No dishwashers for her, even when the kitchen remodeling was done in the late 1970s.

Go shopping with my mom, even a month before she died, and you'd know within a dime or so what the total was before the cashier rang up the last can of beans.

"How'd you do that," I'd ask. A cat-that-ate-the-canary grin was the only response. No one could calculate compound interest in their head like her.

She never let my dad get hoodwinked in a car deal, nor did she let any contractor ever take advantage on a home repair job.

A McCrory's job in youth apparently was good training.

She never believed in the saying, "Wait until your father gets home." She professed to be angry at mothers who said so. She was home. She was a parent. She had a voice, strong hands and the ability to pass guilt, judgment or instruction. Who needed to wait for dad?

She made sure I learned to cook at her table and stove, so some of the master's best work lives on in my kitchen. "One of you three had to," she'd say. I'm lucky and grateful I was the one.

There's an episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond" where Ray's mom praises his brother to Ray and praises Ray to his brother. When the now-adult sons ask why she never says this stuff to their faces, she says, "Because I didn't want you boys to get a big head."

I think I saw that to some effect growing up. Praise was for the day or the hour, but not forever. You had work to do and discipline to maintain if you were going to earn any more praise.

The best example was when I'd walk into the house and she'd be reading a story with my byline on it and would say, "Did you hear what the governor said when he was in town yesterday?"

"Uh, Mom, I wrote what the governor said when he was in town yesterday," I'd say.

"No, you wrote about it. Did you hear what he said?" And she'd go on and on interpreting what the governor said. At least she trusted I quoted him accurately. I think.

The chief executive of the house never went to college but she spurred my interest in reading, especially the newspaper from front to back. That way, she'd have a built-in political discussion group member as I got older. She spurred my interest in books, in history, in current events. Add to all of that the role of friend and adviser, to sit outside on the patio with until long after dark, talking about the events of the day. There was no vacation until she was in her 60s, and even then, surely with a fear that her last kid was going to demolish the car, leave laundry on the floor and starve, though she'd never admit to such thoughts.

I hope most readers had a similar experience, though I recognize the difference between a personal blessing and what life actually does to some people. That knowledge makes me more thankful this Mother's Day.

If you did have an equal experience to mine and your mom is alive, call her or visit her today. And tell her you appreciate her and all she does, sincerely. I hope I said it enough during her life, but the good moms always deserve to hear it again and again. She probably doesn't get newspaper delivery in the afterlife, though I have no doubt she eventually could have mastered laptop computers and read the newspaper on the web if given the opportunity.

And she'd say "thank you" for these words, right before she'd say, "When are you washing those dishes? Need any help?"

(Giannamore, a resident of Toronto, is business editor of the Herald-Star. His e-mail address is

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