Thursday, May 8, 1997
Applause for good mothers

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Betty Archer,
Laura's mother
Thanks to my mother, I will never be famous.

While Joan Crawford was beating her daughter with wire clothes hangers, my Mommie Dearest was signing up to be a Girl Scout Brownie leader. Therefore, Christina Crawford had the opportunity to be a best-selling author and talk show guest. I learned how to tie a square knot and sing "Do your ears hang low" in a three-part round. So far, this has not qualified me to be a guest on Oprah.

Mom never abused me, although she did make me go to school on the Queen Mother of all bad hair days - right after a Toni Home Permanent. And she had some terrible, awful, old-fashioned rules. She would not let me shave my legs until I was in the sixth grade, and I was not allowed to wear a bra until I actually needed one.

"What about a training bra?" I wailed desperately.

"It depends," my mother said darkly, "on what you will be training them to do."

Man traps in training

Some mothers taught their daughters how to be man traps: "Never beat him at any sport, Dear." That was not my mother's way. Instead, she told my brothers that they had to let me play baseball with them and made my brother Steve show me how to throw a spiral pass.

She told me I should play to win, even if my opponent was a good dancer and one of the few boys in the seventh grade who was taller than I.

Thanks to my mother I had to settle for brainy boys who didn't mind if you were smart and beat them at tennis. I can probably blame her for the fact that I married a man who is bright and secure.

And, for that, he can probably blame his mother. A wonderful cook, she headed for the kitchen after a full day of bouncing around on a tractor or some other big, incomprehensible machine that cultivates the modern farm.

Her garden was both beautiful and bountiful, and she "put up" what they couldn't eat right away and gave it to families who did not have gardens. Or good cooks. She devoted her life to making a home for her husband and two sons. But she never made me feel guilty because I "worked outside the home" and she never played politics with holidays.

At her funeral, people we didn't know came forward to say how much they loved her. I hope they told her. I wish I had.

The familiar good mom

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way," according to Tolstoy. Maybe that's why somebody else's good mom sounds familiar. My friend, Jan, says that thanks to her mother, "I could always go home and be wonderful even if I stunk everywhere else."

That probably just about sums it up.

There are some terrible mothers in this world. Just for today, let's ignore them and talk about our moms instead - yours and mine, the ones that helped Hallmark make a fortune.

Let's celebrate the mom who let you get a dog even though she knew you wouldn't really be the one to feed and walk it. The mom who ruined her eyes making your prom dress. The mom who stayed up all night with you to finish your science project. The mom who thought you were the bravest and handsomest boy on the team. The smartest girl in your class. The best one. And you knew that she thought so. And still does.

Our mothers, of course, are wonderfully unique. But they are the same in that one way. If you do not believe me, picture your own mother's face the last time you surprised her with a visit or maybe after you hadn't seen her for a while.

Remember how she looked when she caught sight of you. Just then, didn't you feel, well, kind of famous?

Thanks to your mother. Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU (91.7 MHz) and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.