All of us have lots of loving words for our mothers. Those women who give birth to us and those who raise us. Many of us have deep connections to our mothers, aunties and grandmothers. Others of us live with a heartbreaking void where mothering is supposed to be. My mom always said she was a mother everyday. I feel that way myself, like each thing I do, how I act, and what I say with my children and grandchildren and all of my extended family are all lessons in how to be a mother, grandmother and a good relative. When I see what I am teaching in my children, I am honored that they listened and learned. When they don’t listen and learn, I feel that heartache that only a mother knows.
My mother, Vera ‘Tootie’ Whiting Compton, gave the best teaching of all, she gave us unconditional love. To each of us she was always supportive and accepting even when she shared her concern or disapproval. Oh, I know that she would complain about each of us especially to her sisters or sometimes to the other kids but I never felt anything but her love. I learned about how to be a mom and grandma from her. I learned to support and accept my children no matter what. I have a big family and she is the one who taught me that being an auntie is like being a mom and that a woman is grandmother to all. She also showed me to how to sew and bead, can food, and dry meats and vegetables. All important skills for a woman to have.
From my adopted mom, Doris Leader Charge, I learned how to persevere through humor and she taught me how to be a pipe carrier. The strength of prayer and the lessons of courage and discipline were lessons she taught me. She told me literally hours of stories and gave me lessons on how to sing ceremonial songs. I sundanced with her for many years. She modeled what our traditional adoption of the hunka family meant. I still think of her, Fred and all of their family as my relatives.
My mother-in-law, Marcella Prue, has taught me the importance of fierce loyalty to your family and models activism as an elder woman. She enjoys her life. She showed me the courage of survival and change in the face of tremendous loss, when her husband died at a young age leaving her to raise her children without him. My mom always said she felt lucky to have my grandma, Alice Cadotte, as her mother-in-law. They showed me that a mother-in-law can be your other mom if you let her,
Today I think of all my aunties who raised their own families and reached to all the rest of us with love and attention, I think of all the women I called grandma who gave out hugs and kisses and pressed their smooth, wrinkled cheeks against mine, smelling of roses and talcum powder. I look in the mirror and see their faces in mine.