by Gail Farrelly
Gail has shared many fun stories with KRL and we are happy she is helping us celebrate Mother’s Day with this Mother’s Day salute. There is a coupon for the Reedley Sandwich Shop at the end of this story.
“Frailty, thy name is woman.” Rubbish! Shakespeare was all wrong on that one. Okay, okay, maybe Hamlet’s “Mum” didn’t measure up, but most of us don’t share his sentiments about mothers.
Take Mario Puzo, for example. Did you know that he based the character of “The Godfather” on his mother? A surprise, no?
And what about Queen Elizabeth, Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon, the Queen Mum? On March 30, she was dead ten years, but her life is still the stuff of legend.
Mother’s Day seems a good time to think about some of the “motherly” qualities that endeared her to a nation. She was such a unique example of toughness and tenderness. The first paragraph of a People magazine article (in the issue of April 15, 2002) about her death concisely summarized the personality and place in history of the Queen Mum:
Joseph P. Kennedy, FDR’s ambassador to Britain, called her, admiringly, “a cute trick.” Hitler, on the other hand, thought her charisma made her “the most dangerous woman in Europe.” But it was society photographer Cecil Beaton who best summed up her place in the hearts of her subjects: “She is the great mother figure and nanny of us all.”
Adjusting to the modern age did not seem to be a problem for the Queen Mum. But, then, living to the age of 101, she had lots of practice adjusting to a number of different “modern ages.” She loved to travel in helicopters, once remarking, “The chopper has changed my life as conclusively as that of Anne Boleyn.” At her death, mourners the world over were able to leave e-mail condolences at the Royal website. A modern good-bye for a modern lady!
She was a natural at boosting up other people yet never seemed to lose her sense of self. Helena Bonham Carter’s award-winning portrayal of the Queen Mum was a major part of the 2010 movie, “The King’s Speech”. Much has been said about the confidence the Queen Mum instilled in her husband and how she helped him, with the assistance of a speech therapist, overcome his stutter. In the war years, of course, her boosting extended to an entire nation, not just her immediate family. But then so many mothers seem to possess that quality of quiet, steady, unselfish, difficult-to-detect supporting of others.
And when mothers guide children, in some ways it never ends, regardless of the age of the child or whether we’re talking royal status or the lack thereof. Paul Levy (see “Hail and Farewell to the Queen Mum” in “The Wall Street Journal” of April 2, 2002) writes about the time Elizabeth, the present Queen, had a second glass of wine at lunch. Her mother asked, “Is that wise? You know you have to reign this afternoon.”
The wonderfully optimistic spirit of the Queen Mum calls attention to the fundamental role played by mothers in determining the outlook on life (pessimistic vs. optimistic) of their offspring. According to psychologist Martin Seligman, author of a book on learned optimism, “There’s a markedly high correlation between your level of optimism and your mother’s, but not your father’s.” Interesting. We are used to thinking of moms as being “good for” physical-care items. Of course these are important, but there’s so much more involved in the nurturing of a child. It’s nice to know that mothers have such an important role in imparting an attitude about plain old positive thinking.
Layne Staley, lead singer and guitarist for the band Alice in Chains, found dead in 2002 at the age of 34, once said, “At the end of the day or at the end of the party, when everyone goes home, you’re stuck with yourself.” For better or for worse (and most of the time, thank goodness, it’s for the better!), mothers have so much to do with the “self” that each of us is stuck (or blessed) with.
Few mothers are queens, yet most of them provide royal treatment for their offspring all the same. So on Mother’s Day, it seems appropriate NOT to focus on Shakespeare’s “frailty” comment. Instead, a “mother” comment from the Old Testament (Proverbs, XXXI, 28) may be more appropriate: “Her children arise and call her blessed.”