I spent last weekend with my 84-year-old mother, who made her first trip from Pennsylvania to Virginia in many years, thanks to her escorts–my sister Doris, her husband Dave, and their standard poodle Rodney. We celebrated Mother’s Day live and in person, albeit a week late.
Yesterday I posted two wonderful Mother’s Day tributes found on other websites, including the Six-Word Momoir contest at The New York Times.
In the spirit of the six-word “momoir” here’s a tribute to Barbara Ann Hess Hershey Becker, my mother:
Your rainbow story launched us all.
Let me explain. Mother wrote one story in high school called “The Magic Elevator” that she memorized and told hundreds of times to each of her children, to Sunday School classes, to cousins and family friends–and to anyone who asked. The story evolved over the years with technological and cultural changes. Later versions featured a magic rocket rather than a magic elevator. (My brother and I both like the elevator version better). I posted the latter version of the story online at the DivineCaroline website. Read it here if you want a story that never fails to capture the imagination of children. The one thing that never changes is that two children slide home to safety–and their Grandma–on the back of a rainbow.
Now it just so happened that this past weekend was a rainy one in Virginia. And wouldn’t you know it–we noticed the yellow light as it rained, so we opened the front door to this sight (only brighter in real life).
I didn’t think of it then, but as I was compiling pictures from the weekend and looking at this one of my mother and sister’s face in rainbow light, I felt a little shiver. That’s when I thought of my own six-word momoir: Your rainbow story launched us all.
How did a single story told over and over again influence the five Hershey children? I can only speak for myself, but I hope some of my siblings will offer their own reflections in the comment section.
For me, this story is the very definition of unconditional love combined with adventure. It gave me both roots and wings in childhood.
- It told me that I could play in the woods, disobey some commands, experience fear and danger, and still slide back down the rainbow to Grandma’s loving arms.
- It told me that stories themselves are a powerful tickets to other worlds. When Mother told her story, even to a group of 20 or so rowdy kindergarteners, they looked slack-jawed.
- It told me that nature can be both enticing and dangerous but that nature responds to human longing for home.
- It reinforced my role as buddy to my brother (the main characters were Shirley and Henry when I heard the story) but also my “big sister” leadership.
- As the maker of the story and the compelling story teller, my mother demonstrated–no, she embodied–creativity to me and all her children.
Thank you, Mother, for your steadfast love to all of us and for the permission you gave yourself and others to explore the imagination. You were a true pioneer in the Lancaster Conference Mennonite Church in the 1950’s and beyond.