What Is a Mother?

Apologies to Mr. Webster

Louise Shattuck

Do you know that Webster defines a mother as "a female parent"? This is the understatement of all time, and I'd like to tell Mr. Webster why his description should be revised.

A mother is a walking encyclopedia who is ex­pected to know Stan Musial's batting average, how to tie a half hitch, and where somebody left last Sunday's comics. She must answer unhesistantly such questions as where the sun goes at night, how jet propulsion works, what the principle exports of Thailand are, and where baby kittens come from.

A mother is a master mechanic who can get a trouser leg out of bicycle chain, and can fix any­thing with cellophane tape and a hairpin. She is a plumber who knows that the water won't run out of the bathtub because the tissue-paper sails have come off the children's boats and are clogging the drain. She is an electrician who can make the elec­tric train back up without blowing a fuse.

A mother is a practical nurse who knows how to make a splint for a bird's broken wing. She must also be able to remove splinters and loose teeth painlessly, stop an earache in the middle of the night, and cure a case of measles before the fourth-grade picnic.

A mother is a detective who finds the missing mate to every sock. When her scissors and flash­light disappear, she can recover them long before the culprits plead guilty.

A mother is an untiring seamstress who sews on Pathfinder badges, designs tricky patches for jeans, replaces lost buttons, and lets down and takes up dozens of hems. She must also be able to make such a beautiful halo and pair of wings that the school play audience will never notice that the angel's two front teeth are missing.

She is a sage who is wise enough to know when her son has reached the stage at which he would rather die than be kissed in public, and when her daughter's best friend has won the admiration of the only boy in the world. Yet she is also an inno­cent who never ceases to wonder at the miracle of life when the first crocus peeks through the snow and the first blue egg appears in a robin's nest.

A mother is an heiress! Although she may not feel wealthy when she is trying to stretch the family budget to include braces on teeth, she is rich in rewards. She is rich in the pride that engulfs her when her teenager offers to mow the neighbors' lawn while they are away on vacation, or her Little Leaguer insists on pitching with a sprained finger rather than let his teammates down. She is rich in investments. As she watches her small daughter ten­derly tucking her doll into bed, she hopes her child will grow up to know the happiness of being a mother. It is then that she knows, Mr. Webster, that a mother deserves the longest definition in the world!

This originally appeared in The Pioneer.