A Mother’s Day Thank You

A few years ago I was introduced to a man not much younger than I am. “Your name sounds familiar,” he said. “Was your mom a teacher?”

I told him that she was, and that she loved the work so much she returned to the classroom as a teacher’s aide after she retired, and that at almost 80 now she still volunteers to work with children when she can. He told me he was one of her students when he was 8, and that his daughter had been in my mom’s classroom, too. They both remembered the same thing about her: That she cried at the ending of “Charlotte’s Web,” which she read to her class every year for more than 40 years.

“Your mom really loves animals, doesn’t she?” he said.

Yes, I said; she does. My mother is one of those people who always looks out for those who need it most, especially children and animals. The example she set when I was a child put me on my career path, and led to my own love of animals, which I’ve shared with countless others over the years.

With Mother’s Day at hand, I’ve been thinking not only of my own mother, who still can’t kill a spider because she could be some little pig’s friend. My own mother, who will tell you she enjoys her four-legged grandchildren almost as much as her two-legged ones.

I’m also thinking of your mother. The desire to be around pets is born in most of us, and our parents are the ones who nurture that love, teaching children lessons in caring that last for a lifetime.

Since my mother was a teacher and an animal lover, those lessons were a big part of my childhood. We had funerals for my goldfish, because my mom knew that grief is a life-skill we all must learn, and learn from. (And yes, she cried as we laid Goldie No. 3 to rest in a little shoebox coffin, same with Goldie No. 1 and Goldie No. 5.) We learned to care for our animals, because it’s important to fulfill our obligations to those who are counting on us. Perhaps because my mother was a teacher, I never remember pushing back on these lessons because I didn’t feel like cleaning the litter box or taking our dog for a walk. My Mom had a way of making these tasks seem too important to skip.

I grew up not just loving animals, but people, too. And I grew up taking my responsibilities seriously. (I don’t want to short my late father, by the way. He loved animals, too. And while I don’t remember him crying over any of the Goldies, he did dig the graves.)

While I never had children of my own, I can’t begin to count all the children I’ve taught these life lessons. I’ve heard from precocious 8-year-olds who’ve read every page of my book, “Dogs For Dummies,” and I’ve taught other children how to hold rabbits so they can’t hurt themselves, how to pet cats so they won’t hurt you, and how to teach a dog to walk on a leash nicely so a healthy hike is possible again.

And I’ve read “Charlotte’s Web” to a library full of second-graders, with my own dog working the room to make sure no tear goes unlicked, not even my own.

All I can think of to say this Mother’s Day is “Thank You.” And you know, I can see those words woven into Charlotte’s Web, put there not only in my imagination but also in those of countless adults who remember my mother words and the lessons of their own mothers as well, teaching them that’s it’s important to care, and important to protect those you care.

Happy Mother’s Day to you all.


-Photo Credit: Inset photo is from the author, Gina Spadafori. The feature image is from flickr by Ocean Yamaha.




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