Wednesday, May 8, 2013

No June Cleaver Here!

“My mother's on the phone again—I talk, but she won't listen—she said “just one minute honey!"---I think it's been a year.  

Awhile back I received a card in the mail, actually a very late Holiday card from the family.  It was one of those custom made photo cards. The card was delivered at school, where no sense of privacy exists, therefore, I was immediately swarmed by kids anticipating what on earth is gonna come out of the white envelope.  When the card appeared, after oohs and ahhs, pointing and grabbing, I slowly went through each color in the photos, what the writing said, and pointed out who was who. Telling them about each person like it was like sharing hope with them.  But then something happened---I pointed out who my mother was, and instantaneously, kids started smiling, and then screaming---Tshepo's mom is here, come look. Well, come and look they did, about 250 of them smothering me to see my mom.

When I left that day, I asked around to find out why the photo of my mom got such a strong reaction.  I was told two things---one, they learn in the Bible that any time a mom lives after the age of 70 is a gift because most people around these parts don't live long lives. The next is that most of these kids are orphans, their moms either are to poor, or have died of AIDS, so the novelty of even having a mom, let alone one who is about to turn 80, is a real thrill for them.  They know nothing of a June Cleaver, the quintessential mom during the post war era, who exemplified the idealized mom, dishing up moral guidance and comfort alongside her hearty and well balanced 5pm dinner.  (Secretly though, I always wondered what June would be like after a 6 pack!)

Maybe these kids don't get to sit around the dinner table hearing stories about their relatives, maybe they don't have that Cleaver clan that builds true identity, and maybe inside they are longing for a real family. I'm lucky now to have two mom's---my mother at home, and my new mom here in Botswana. I want to say that my mom here in Botswana has treated me no different than she treats her own kids. I have to do chores, she doesn't listen to me when she's on the phone, she tells me stories about her family in the past, she yelps at me when I do something wrong, and this has certainly helped form who I am as a Botswana PCV. There is no need for the actual genetic connection, our connection is just as intricate as if I really were born to this wonderful family.

Yet, it's funny that 50 years have gone by since the day of June Cleaver, but we still get hung up by own stereotype of "good" mother, and have our own pre-conceived notions of "good."  I've come to realize that each wonderfully unique woman in every culture and life circumstance can be a truly great mom in her own right.  Ultimately, aren't we all a combo of many factors---and while we may have certain proclivities, expressions, talents, or shortcomings, it's what makes us unique and complex. So for the kids in these villages who rarely have a family as we know it, I hope that they have some special mom figure in their life to say Happy Mothers Day to---and for me, I'm lucky to get to say to two mom's this year.