White Dog asked about the photo I was holding. It was an ancient black and white snapshot of my mom and I when I was about three. We were at my grandparents' cottage on a lake in Wisconsin, clearly on vacation, and she was smiling as she supervised my exploration of duck lawn ornaments.
I was trying to clear out some old stacks of things in the office to make way for newer things that needed a place to be stacked and I found it just sitting randomly in the papers.
"Crazy serendipity," I told White Dog. "Today is mom's birthday. She would have been 91." My mom passed away when I was in college, long before there ever was a White Dog...or an Army. She had not been raised with pets or animals so in retrospect, her patient acceptance and love of the goldfish, parakeets, lovebirds, hamsters, pups, rabbits, and turtles that we children insisted on making part of our family was rather amazing.
I suspect she might have lifted an eyebrow at the sheer number of our WDA, but that she would have been mightily impressed by their good manners and loving relationships. After all, she had chosen to raise six girls and undertake the MUCH tough task of trying to instill human good manners...fortunately she did not live to see the failure of her children to form loving bonds.
Photos of my mom are rare, mostly she was never part of the camera's attention. Those captured memories long ago were the spoils that often follow loss. So I answered White dog's curiosity not with more pictures, but in the way I remember things...with words.
I told her of a human grandma who loved to play the piano but restricted her enjoyment to when all were at school or work so she would not selfishly interrupt the flow of family life...or a woman so full of childlike enthusiasm that ours was the house where the entire neighborhood played...of a parent who graciously made cookies for the funeral of a pet bird that was buried in the yard...of a woman who neglected herself to better meet our needs.
White Dog smiled as she formed the image of my mom who set her life aside to nurture and encourage, to be a scout leader and pompom squad chaperon, to shield her children through tough times with a focus on grace and dignity. She had tremendous faith.
"Like you and I," I told White Dog, "I had the opportunity to know my mom as a young adult, really the only one of the children to do so. I am grateful to have been able to share those special moments. As a result she is more human and real as a person."
White Dog called the WDA together and called for a birthday salute. I am not sure she would have understood the words and noise, but I hope the loving sentiment came through. Happy Birthday, Mom!