I ran over and sat on her lap, smelling onions from the roast she'd just thrown in the oven. A cool breeze blew into the living room from the open sliding glass door behind the couch, adding a hint of moisture from overnight rains that had blown in from the Pacific. She pulled out a well worn collection of picture books with stories from the scriptures, books my three-year-old mind had long since memorized, and began to read in a voice only a mother can produce.
There we sat, me and my mom, alone in a house that so often exploded with the chaos that comes with having six children, and quietly read about Samuel, Nephi, and Jacob.
That is the first memory that comes to mind when I think about my mom. I have earlier memories of course, but for whatever reason, that's the one that holds its place above all others in the pantheon of reminders.
Growing up as the youngest of six kids in the town of Chino California, much of life was a mass of arguments about my sisters wearing each others clothes, pounding Def Leopard and Bon Jovi beats that my older brothers would sing along to, and financial stresses that my parents mitigated with hard work and determination. Growing up in a big family brings with it an epic number of relationships to navigate, particularly with the very social and outgoing group of siblings I was blessed to join. From an early age they conditioned me to adapt to varying scenarios and different people, a skill that has served me well and that I would not have enjoyed otherwise.
But it's the quiet moments that linger for some reason, perhaps because of their rarity.
Being the youngest afforded me an opportunity none of my brothers and sisters had. All of them were born in fairly close succession to one another, but by the time I came along, four years had elapsed between my sister Laurie and myself. All of them had started school during my early youth, leaving my mother and I alone to read and play in a world that for me seemed full of possibility and adventure.
Those times of siting on her lap, immersed in the smells of her cooking and the Southern California blossoms, influenced me in ways I couldn't fully appreciate until well into adulthood. Listening to her voice as she read tales of scriptural heroes mixed in with Dr Seuss and Shel Silverstein, fostered a love of words that put me on my path today. The warmth and safety that surrounded me in a tumultuous world helped built a framework that is still under construction today as I attempt to do the same with my own kids.
I'm fully aware Mother's Day is a cliched time to reminisce about the impact our moms had on all of us, and the cynic in me cringes. But that's a cynical way of looking at it, in truth. My mom was never a cynic, and would smack me if I ever became one. Maybe Mother's Day is an excuse for all of us to take a breath and realize the impact our moms had on us in the myriad of tiny and imperceptible things she sacrificed so we could smile, or succeed, or look to the future with hope.
I'm lucky enough to still have my mother and father alive and close by so I can see them on a regular basis. While the current pandemic keeps us from having a large family gathering as would be customary in the Heumann household, we're still able to communicate, share smiles, and create memories that are unique to this time in our lives.
And those memories would be meaningless without my mother.
We all have words to describe our feelings for mom, but somehow they never quite do the trick in conveying our gratitude. All of us are debtors to our moms, and there's nothing we can ever do to repay beyond passing along that love to our own children.
My mom certainly set me up for success as she sat with me on those warm spring days and read to me like I was the only child in the world.
If I failed my children by not doing the same then I would be failing her.
And I will not fail my mother.
No way in hell.