My mother’s couch

March 2, 2011 | Viewpoints | Number 5
Melissa Miller |

Waking from a nap on my mother’s couch, I stretch and think, “What a blessing.” My mother’s couch is a perfect spot for napping: generously long, wonderfully comfortable and cozily firm. It’s also lovely to look at, with a flowered fabric of rose and blue trimmed by light oak wood. For decades, this substantial piece of furniture has been the focal point of the living room, steadily offering welcome and comfort. Children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have sunk into its cozy embrace, napping, visiting, telling stories and savouring the simple pleasure of being together.

My latest naps on the couch occurred this winter when the family gathered to mark my mother’s 80th birthday, another blessing. We are all grateful for our mother’s long and fruitful life. In our gratitude, and in recognition that she has had few occasions when the spotlight shone on her, we wanted her milestone birthday to be special. So we planned a party in a beautiful space with delicious food and invited guests to celebrate with us. The party unfolded exactly as hoped for, with a hundred of Mom’s family and friends in attendance. By day’s end, Mom was glowing. When asked what was her favourite part, she replied with quiet joy, “Everything.”

It is no small blessing, I know, to have a mother who lives to the age of 80. It is no small blessing to be able to go home long after one has become an adult. It is no small blessing to know home as a place of security, warmth and love.

Such blessings include being able to hear my mother’s musical voice, constant and bubbling like a mountain stream, a soothing sound I have known from even before my birth. The blessings include gathering at her table to eat the food she has prepared, the food of my childhood, and holding her hand as we say grace, a hand that is marvellously soft and tender as a young girl’s.

The blessings include the continuity of past and present. Being in my mother’s home connects the dots between my childhood and the adult I am today and all the points in between. Through her and her home, I am linked to my great-grandparents and grandparents and father, now long dead. It is easier to see their faces and hear their voices, and to be strengthened by their memory when I am in my mother’s home.

Having a home I can return to is an invaluable source of nourishment and sustenance. Such a gift provides both roots that ground me and wings that enable me to travel to and from this home. A parental home that is steady and loving offers a firm foundation on which to stand.

I am mindful that homes are not always pure gold. Many of us do not have a family home to return to, nor parents who live to see a full and ripe age, nor homes that are welcoming and hospitable. Not all of the past, nor all of the present (even in the home with the perfect couch), is infused with grace and harmony. Still, we are wise to see the blessings we have and ponder them with gratitude.

As we honour our elders and the homes they provide, we might paraphrase a biblical text. The psalmist names sons as a heritage from the Lord, and gives thanks for the fruit of the womb as a reward (Psalm 127). How about naming our elders as a heritage from the Lord, and giving thanks for the womb that brought us to life?

Melissa Miller ( lives in Winnipeg, Man., where she ponders family relationships as a pastor, counsellor and author.

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