Sunday, May 14, 2000

Mother, 365 days a year

The power of positive mothering

        Long past the time when I should have known better, I believed my mother had eyes in the back of her head. Not actual eyes, of course. I just knew she could see things that others — mere mortals — could not. When I was in high school, she could spot a hickey at 100 paces.

        If her eyes were formidable, her nose was a miracle. “That boy smokes, I'm telling you.” No amount of Dentyne would fool her. “Is that beer on your breath?”

        My otherwise gentle mother could leap tall bullies in a single bound. She could press her lips to my forehead and register a fever without benefit of mercury. She could make my brothers let me play baseball with them.

        Mothers in cahoots with one another are simply unbeatable. Bake sales. PTAs. Neighborhood block watches. The March of Dimes, established in 1939, finally started raining money on researchers when women in Phoenix turned it into the Mothers' March after a polio outbreak there in 1950.

        Today on the Mall in Washington, D.C., a new generation of mothers, connecting through computers and cell phones with old-fashioned motherly tenacity, will march to eliminate gun violence.

        After they come home, they will keep pushing. “There are more of us than there are gun lobbyists,” says Rene Thompson, the Covington woman who is Million Mom March coordinator for Kentucky. “You can't beat a bunch of mothers trying to protect their children.”

        Or even one mother.

        After the death of Rachel Burrell's son, David, she started Fernside Center for Grieving Children in 1986. One of the first in the nation, the Norwood center has become an international model. After the Gulf War, the Israeli minister of defense asked for and got help from Mrs. Burrell. She answered a plea from school officials in Paducah, Ky., after three girls were shot and killed in 1997. And, later, another call came from Jonesboro, Ark.

        This splendid woman conquered her natural shyness to galvanize others to action, spurred by the loss of a child to save other children. If not from death, from pain.

        Linda Clements did not lose a child. But almost.

        A sexual predator stalked Linda's teen-age daughter on the Internet. After Linda helped Hamilton County prosecutors put the sleazoid behind bars, she started Advocacy for Children's Internet Safety. She has been asked to testify before Congress and is sorting her way through the legislative process. She compares notes with other crusaders.

        At one such meeting, “Andie hugged me and said, "Why does it take the mothers?'” Andie is Andrea Rehkamp of the Southwestern Ohio Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, one of the most effective advocacy groups in the country.

        A force of nature, Linda says. “Something just kicks in. We can be incredibly fierce.”

        Emotional? You bet. There will be a lot of that emotion floating around today. In Washington and everywhere else.

        Today is Mother's Day. Some moms will march. Some will sway public opinion. Some will cook. Some will put away their Palm Pilots and take their kids to the zoo. They will exclaim extravagantly over handmade and store-bought presents, looking past the words of Hallmark and into our hearts.

        Because they see things that others do not.

        E-mail Laura at or call 768-8393.


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