Moms and saints, whatever will be …


Steve Burnette - Contributing columnist



It’s more than a few days away, but let me be the first to wish all the moms out there the happiest of Mother’s Day.

You have by far the most important job in the world — if you don’t count running a performing arts center — and you never get the thanks, appreciation, kudos or cash that you so richly deserve for your selfless ways.

I was lucky, blessed with a saint of a mother; we’ll call her Patricia, since that was her name.

My fondest, and I think first memory of my mother, was resting my head against her chest as she held me, rocking and singing Doris Day’s “Que Será, Será, whatever will be will be …”

We were of humble means, middle class, didn’t always have what we wanted, but almost always had what we needed.

No Levis for us, but a Sears Plain Pockets family, and mom would make our school book covers from brown grocery bags and write us happy notes and drawings on the napkins inside our packed lunches.

Now, as a parent, when I think about how much she sacrificed for us, how many meals she passed on because she suddenly wasn’t hungry, looking at four kids who were, you know, that kind of sacrifice. She always put us first.

I don’t know how they pulled off Christmas the way they did, but mom managed to make each one more special for us than the previous, creating memories and a lot of laughter.

Then came the Christmas where all Santa could muster was a stuffed Snoopy, a sweater, and a doctor’s kit. After I examined the ugliest sweater ever stitched, I laid it back down, apparently too close to the heater’s register, and yes, it burned, leaving in its stinky wake a swath of an even uglier brown stain. I never wore it.

Mom was a hugger, an optimistic glass half-full kind of gal. She came from very little, and everything she did, she did to give us kids a better life and never bring shame or embarrassment to our family.

She figured I’d take care of that years later.

And I was the “baby” of the family, so according to my siblings, mom always liked me best. For those of you who have met me, though, could you blame her?

As mom’s health started to fail, we would find ourselves joking about the inevitable. She was good-natured about it, taking it in stride, at peace with where her next journey was going to take her.

I was spending so much time in Ohio, while running a theatre in Maine, as mom was fighting the good fight in a hospital in Lima. I pushed most of my administrative duties onto other wonderfully understanding colleagues, and I squished all the things I couldn’t dump on them into one day.

So as I prepared to leave mom’s hospital room for my one-day trip back to Maine, I kissed Patricia on the forehead, knowing that would most likely be my last, and I told her, “Now don’t you go dying on me the one day I’m away. I’m coming back. Just one day, mom.”

And in my worst Arnold Schwarzenegger impression, I bid her goodbye with, “I’ll be back”.

Mom promised she’d try her best, and well, you can figure out the rest of that story.

A day doesn’t pass that I don’t miss that saint. I spend a lot of time in church, because my mom did, and she smelled like church. When I’m there I smell mom and I feel closest to her there.

My greatest regret? It’s a toss-up; never apologizing about the Christmas sweater, or leaving mom with the last words she would ever hear from her “baby” doing a lousy impression of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Happy Mother’s Day to all those moms selflessly creating wonderful memories for their kids.

“… whatever will be will be, the future’s not ours to see, “Que Será, Será …”

Steve Burnette is Executive Director of the Murphy Theatre and an occasional contributor to the News Journal.

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Steve Burnette

Contributing columnist