Generation Cedar

The following is an excerpt from the book Mother, by Kathleen Norris, one of the sweetest and most profound books about motherhood I’ve ever read.

Here is Margaret’s epiphany of her mother’s life-work–positively beautiful…Margaret, who had traveled abroad, found employment and witnessed a more “dainty life” than that of her mother who daily toiled, though joyfully, under the “burden and stress” of raising seven children, of which Margaret was one, finally realized what true living was:

How happy we all were!” Margaret said; “and how she worked for us!” And suddenly theories and speculation ended, and she knew. She knew that faithful, self-forgetting service, and the love that spends itself over and over, only to be renewed again and again, are the secret of happiness. For another world, perhaps, leisure and beauty and luxury–but in this one, “Who loses his life shall gain it.” Margaret knew now that her mother was not only the truest, the finest, the most generous woman she had ever known, but the happiest as well…

All her old castles in the air seemed cheap and tinselled to-night, beside these tender dreams that had their roots in the real truths of life. Travel and position, gowns and motor-cars, yachts and country houses, these things were to be bought in all their perfection by the highest bidder, and always would be. But love and character and service, home and the wonderful charge of little lives,–the “pure religion breathing household laws” that guided and perfected the whole,–these were not to be bought, they were only to be prayed for, worked for, bravely won.

“God has been very good to me,” Margaret said to herself…From now on, she thought, with a fervor…she would be a very different woman. If joy came, she would share it as far as she could; if sorrow, she would show her mother that her daughter was not all unworthy of her….

Margaret had a sudden tender memory of the days when Theodore and Duncan and Rob were all babies in turn. Her mother would gather the little daily supply of fresh clothes from bureau and chest every morning, and carry the little bath-tub into the sunny nursery window, and sit there with only a bobbing downy head and waving pink angers visible from the great warm bundle of bath apron….

And she had sometimes wished, or half formed the wish, that she and Bruce bad been the only ones–! Yes, came the sudden thought, but it wouldn’t have been Bruce and Margaret, after all, it would have been Bruce and Charlie.

Good God! That was what women did, then, when they denied the right of life to the distant, unwanted, possible little person! Calmly, constantly, in all placid philosophy and self-justification, they kept from the world–not only the troublesome new baby, with his tears and his illnesses, his merciless exactions, his endless claim on mind and body and spirit–but perhaps the glowing beauty of a Rebecca, the buoyant indomitable spirit of a Ted, the sturdy charm of a small Robert, whose grip on life, whose energy and ambition were as strong as Margaret’s own!

Margaret stirred uneasily, frowned in the dark. It seemed perfectly incredible, it seemed perfectly impossible that if Mother had had only the two–and how many thousands of women didn’t have that!–she, Margaret, a pronounced and separate entity, travelled, ambitious, and to be the wife of one of the world’s great men, might not have been lying here in the summer night, rich in love and youth and beauty and her dreams!

It was all puzzling, all too big for her to understand. But she could do what Mother did, just take the nearest duty and fulfil it, and sleep well, and rise joyfully to fresh effort.”

 

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18 Responses

  1. I’m going to start off with a confession. I used to be too wary of literature, fearing (yes, I think fear is the right word, and we all know that fear does not lead to good decisions–unless it is the fear of God, of course, which is the beginning of wisdom) that it would lead my children astray from the straight and narrow way. I didn’t keep them from all literature, but neither did I expose them to enough good literature, I now realize with hindsight. And I had spent so many happy hours reading when I was growing up!

    I have now almost radically changed my view. (I have teenage grandchildren now, so it took me a while.) I now believe that good literature, even if not specifically, overtly Christian, can be an invaluable aid to parents in forming true Godly character in our children. It can also lead to deep discussions about the truly important things in life.

    Kelly,thanks for pointing out this book, which I’ve never heard of.
    I’m praying for you in this final stretch before your delivery. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles”[this part reminds me of the elbows-out, holding-up-your-knees-to-push-with-your-contractions position!];”they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

  2. Wow! I think I need a copy of that book. I have Homemaking by J.R. Miller. But I never realized that Mother is a novel. Thanks for posting that excerpt, I’m putting it on my list!

    Ashley

  3. Tricia, that’s awesome 🙂

    Beautiful excerpt, but I strongly disliked the book’s conclusion: she thought pityingly of unmarried career women as being unloved and put mothers in a superior light. That repelled me.

  4. I so needed that thank you Kelly. I have no idea what being overdue is like so my prayers are with you. I keep “checking back on you”. Our newest little one Abigail (fill in the blank/undecided) Ferguson was born after 9 1/2 hours of labor (finally as my legs were about to fall off I’m sure…pelvic girdle pain…2 out of 9 pregnancies is not bad to get it thank the Lord.) Abigail weighed 7 pounds 9 1/2 ounces and has loads of dark hair, praise God for blessings undeserved. I started to have doubts as labor at the end was really hard work/painful, but reading this has humbled me. Next time (Lord Willing) we’ll definately get someone to keep an eye on the children while I labor…instead of my husband having to run in and out (except the first we’ve always done things this way.) I had to fight back jealousy (sp?) about the help you were getting, you probably deserve it anyway, I’m almost positive you work waaayyy harder than I do, praise God for you and your courage and forgiving spirit. When I know I’ll pray for you most definately, I know that it helps to know others are praying for you. I have to say that you are so good at graciously accepting others and deflecting undue criticism. I’m not so good at that, hence I haven’t commented for some time. I really don’t understand why a feminist would want to read this blog, except there are probably some answers in the Word, there always is if we look. Just know I’ll be praying for you.

    1. Such a sweet thought…the prayers of you lovely ladies! I had a really hard night–very little sleep. Baby moved excessively, hitting a nerve every few minutes (which can mean onset of labor or stress, both of which kept me awake ;-)). I keep *feeling* like I’m in pre-labor, but I have felt that for some days now. (Well, I guess technically I am in pre-labor, always closer than before!)

      Emotionally better today than yesterday…trusting in God’s timing, taking my thoughts/fears captive and reciting Scripture. Very uncomfortable so I know it can’t be long. The family is home from church today with a few still feeling yucky.

      My sweet husband ran me a hot bath, fixed me some red raspberry tea, and then put on the song “Waiting” while I soaked. Love that man.

      Thank you SO much for your continued prayers…it has been one of the sweetest “whispers” from God during this time of testing.

      1. Ha! Sitting here with my own red raspberry tea, just having got out of the hot bath my husband ran for me! Boy were our men thinking alike! 😀

          1. Isn’t it wonderful to be blessed with husbands who love and serve? So thankful you are in good hands and good Hands. May your spirit be filled to overflowing with Peace today as you continue to trust His perfection in every detail of the life of this precious new one. He is Sufficient! He is Sufficient! He is Sufficient! Still praying.

          2. Praying for you and your sweet new one. You have been so wonderful to me. The friendship, the fellowship and the way you put words to the feeling in my heart. Thank you. I can point friends to you and always come for encouagement. I am excited for the day we can meet maybe on this earth but you are so close to my heart. Thank you for your faithful spirit to stand for the things of the Lord. To God Be the Glory!!

  5. I was so excited to find this book as a free download through Amazon Kindle…started reading it yesterday on my phone :). Modern technology is amazing! Praying for you, Kelly. You’re almost there!

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