The Human Species

After my mother passed away at age 97, my daughters and I went to clear out her apartment. We would stop now and again and hold up something that was “so Granny.”

Her visits at Christmas brought us so much love

It felt, to me, like traveling back to my childhood. Her lifelong “thriftiness” and “accumulating” was evident everywhere—tiny bits of leftovers in the fridge and letterhead notepads from my father’s business in the 1960s. I could hear her voice frequently that sad day “You never know when you might need ….”

Of course, she was often right. I threw stuff away, in some leftover rebellion from my childhood, and had to purchase its replacement.

Then, under her bed I found a small box. Folded up inside was this treasure.

Somehow her “stationery” was so my mother that at first I laughed and then when I read it, it brought me to tears. On a paper placemat – filling both sides – she wrote this about her 90th birthday.  My daughters and I had taken her out for brunch. Mom must have taken her unsoiled paper placemat with her when we left the restaurant. Not all of what she wrote is noteworthy, but some of it is either remarkable or very touching.

For remarkable

Mom turned age 90 that weekend. Here’s how she described the beginning of her birthday celebration:

“It started on Wed. 9/17/03 at 8:00 am when Barbara got me & we went to Trader Joes. I love that Food Museum, then on to Sea Tac Airport where we had clam chowder and cokes, waiting for two special girls [her granddaughters] to deplane at about 2:15 – Happy tears, hugs & kisses – all so special.” She wrote a detailed account of the dinner I made and ended the day with “I got home around ten and put the old bod to bed.”

I still have a few years before I’m 90 but honestly, she was like the energizer bunny, and certainly clocked in 10,000 steps that day and the rest of the weekend.  She was up for several more treks—out and about at Lake Crescent and to feed the birds on the beach at Fort Worden in Port Townsend. Her love of birds and duty to keeping her hummingbirds happy has been passed down through three generations. A treasured legacy.

For Touching

This is the last paragraph on the back of the placemat.  “When my ‘time expires’ I will go feeling proud of all the family being able to have fun, exchange ideas, appreciate nature in all its forms & show thoughtfulness, caring & good understanding. Am I blessed? Let me count the ways but I would need more placemats to convey my feelings.”

The Bird Species

Early last spring, my daughter and I were walking along the edge of Birch Bay and saw a family of Killdeer just below us on the pebbly beach. What I know about birds might not fill one side of my mother’s placemat, but what we observed was – both remarkable and touching. Their call is there name: kill-deer, kill-deer.

Mom, dad, and the Killdeer kids were walking in a line, staying close to the rocks so as not to be seen. The chicks couldn’t have been more than a few days old given their size and the super-protection the parents were providing. The last chick found something interesting and dropped back. Mom quickly brought it along while Dad did his “broken wing” act to distract a potential predator, an off-leash dog getting too close.

Closer to home, on the following weekend, three brand new Mallards were hugging the rocky edge of our bay, accompanied by Mom. Even before I bought the Sibley bird books, I knew how to identify the lady Mallard. She’s more conservatively marked for good reason. She was also making sure the wobbly chicks were safe.

It’s just a feather past Mother’s Day and while I may have stretched the mothering thing too far, it occurs to me that mothering comes naturally in some degree to all species. Fathering as well, but for now I’m focused on moms everywhere. Sitting on nests, nursing babies, caring for their beloved pets, expressing love and caring in so many ways.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, and All

Killdeer mom on the “nest.”

Photo credits – Mother – Joan Robins at, Killdeers and Mallards –