by Jan Irons Harris
With rumpled hair and floppy robe, I go to the kitchen before the sun rises to retrieve my morning cup of coffee. After selecting an inspirational cup and filling it with my favorite brew, I light a candle and sit before my laptop. Mother’s Day is approaching. As such, I am reminded of the lessons I learned from Mother simply from watching her through the years.
My mother, Sarah Perkins Irons, and my father, Bobby E. Irons, provided a loving home for my sister, Rhonda Irons Anderton, and me. Daddy made a living for his family and my mother made life worth living - as they say. She gave us her best and she brought the fun. She set an example by her actions. She was a Proverbs 31 woman who rose early. Mother popped out of bed each morning, ready to go! I have no memory of her lounging or sleeping in late. When she came to the kitchen, she was dressed with cute clothes, and hair and make-up ready for the day. She delivered her morning cheerfulness with the kitchen table lovingly set for breakfast, and had our lunch bags filled with PBJ sandwiches, chips and a cookie and/or apple. She wrote an “I love you” note and placed it in the brown paper bag.
Mother opened the curtains to let the sun in as soon as she walked in the room. She turned on the radio, and I caught her moving to the beat more than once. She was and is a happy person and that happiness shows in her winning smile and demeanor. She established routines that provided stability for us. She was at school in the afternoon pickup line early, and she had a snack for us. She cooked supper every night (unless there was a special event), and after supper we had a delicious, homemade dessert. As soon as she put the dishes away, she announced, “The kitchen is closed!” We knew there would be no more snacking. It was time to wind down for bed.
We faithfully attended church. In fact, I never saw the end of The Wizard of Oz until I was grown! We didn’t have ways to record and watch shows later (in the 60s), so I watched the beginning of Dorothy’s adventure, and then we left for church.
I watched Mother give her best - not to the world first - but to our family. Mother didn’t wait to provide a pretty table or celebration for company. She did it for us each day! Her high standards were displayed in the excellent meals she cooked for us. One day around supper time, a neighbor, Dr. Rivers Lindsey, came by to get his daughter, Stacie, who had come over to play, and he saw the attractive food on the kitchen counter. There was fried chicken, potato salad, baked beans, rolls, congealed salad, and cupcakes. He asked if we were having company for supper? No, it was just a regular night at our house. The table was set and ready for Daddy to walk in the door. As usual, he would be welcomed by the aroma of a home-cooked meal at 5:15 p.m. Mother has the gift of hospitality and often entertained our friends and family.
My sister and I are the daughters of a beautiful mother. When we lived in Virginia, our neighbors called her Miss Alabama! I saw Mother primp in the afternoon before Daddy came home. She taught my sister and me to put energy/effort in our appearance. Don’t look slouchy or unkempt. Look nice when you start your day and freshen up before seeing your husband. And, don’t complain! Don’t sigh when you sit down and be positive! Smile!
Mother loathes lounging. She told us, “If you don’t have to go to work, don’t lay around watching television. The good life can kill you! Get up! Do something!” My parents are believers in walking. They log the number of miles they walk each day and usually can report walking between 400-500 miles each year. Mother went to exercise class throughout her life and she took care of her body. We learned to respect our body and not even take over the counter medicine without need. She didn’t want us to over lift or over do, but exercise, eat well and strive to be healthy.
Mother created celebration rituals that we continue to maintain. Rule #1: Balloons are necessary! She put balloons on our mailbox when our birthday arrived, and we faithfully had birthday cake and a party to celebrate. She created a celebration for significant events for each family member and often took cake to widows when it was their birthday, too.
Mother planned for an exceptional quality of life for us. She and Daddy took our entire family to Disney almost every year. At last count, I believe we had been 27 times. They took us on other trips such as trips to the beach, Washington D.C., New York, New Orleans, and Williamsburg. Mother did not like flying so I was fortunate to travel with Daddy to Hawaii and Europe. Mother loves pictures and we have boxes and albums full of captured memories. Nobody loves Florence more than my mother. She took us to parades and local events routinely.
Additionally, Mother taught us to be dependable. She took care of little details and she expected us to do the same. When a special event was held for me in Huntsville, I was standing at the door when my parents unexpectedly arrived! They drove 1 1/2 hours after Daddy got home from work to attend a reception for me. Then they had to drive back to Florence. When I expressed my appreciation for their efforts, Mother said, “You can put on my tombstone: You can depend on me.” She said they didn’t want to miss this fun event.
Several years ago, we ran into a friend at Walmart. His wife had passed away over a year before and he was still mourning her passing. He looked sad and depressed. When we got to the car, Mother said, “Did you see how sad he was? When I go, I want you to live life, celebrate holidays and enjoy your life. That’s what I do. I enjoy every day.”
Mother is a role model and I admire her. She took care of us, and she put us first. She is our greatest cheerleader. My sister, Rhonda, my daddy, Bobby Irons, and I were the lucky recipients of her love and hard work on our behalf. She maintained a clean, warm, loving home for us. We had hot, delicious meals every single day. She was there for us everyday. Abraham Lincoln said, “All that I am or ever will be, I owe to my dear mother.” Mothers are often taken for granted. I’m sure I took mine for granted. Now that she turned some of these home responsibilities over to Rhonda and me, I appreciate her hard work and dedication even more. Mothers are gifts from God. I learned these 10 lessons from my mother and many more. May we all show our appreciation and love to our mothers not only on a Hallmark holiday, but every day of the year.
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Jan earned her bachelor's degree in math/education from the University of North Alabama and her master's degree in math/education from the University of South Carolina. She earned her doctorate in school administration from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. She is married to her college sweetheart, Wholey Harris. She and Wholey live in Florence, Alabama.