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Saturday, April 19th, 2014

As They Guide Us to Greatness, Good Mothers Are a Gift to Us All

Like an all-powerful deity, she hovers over our lives from the very first breath we take. She feeds us, nurtures us, becomes irreversibly imprinted on our souls. Before we have the power to select or to resist, she becomes our lifelong muse.

As a writer, I take the idea of the muse very seriously. The ancient Greeks knew what they were talking about when they created the goddesses of artistic inspiration. It is the force that pushes me to tap the keyboard, to keep the words flowing, the thoughts brewing. Without a muse, my screen is blank. I am nothing.

But the power of my motherly muse has always extended beyond the computer screen. One day it dawned on me that her power actually had no limits. It was elemental to my life. In essence, since the day I was born, everything I have ever done has been with the sole intent of pleasing my mother.

And I don’t think I’m all that unusual. I think most of us, if we step up to our reflection and grapple with the truth, will admit that she continues to compel us, no matter our age or station in life. When the game is over, the curtain is drawn, the award is presented, she is the first place we run. The glory of accomplishment isn’t real until we share it with her. Even if it’s just a thought deep in the recesses, an impulse that we don’t immediately act upon, it’s there: I need to tell my mother.

So what it all means is this: she is the Earth’s most powerful force, the humanly equivalent of the Sun, providing the planet’s inhabitants with the energy to keep this thing going. If we could trace the source of human triumph, the key to our greatest discoveries, our most remarkable victories over the mysteries that confound us, the cord would lead us all directly to Mommy.

This is not to say that each of them are perfect; surely there have been mothers over time in need of a few maternal remediation classes. But that proves the enormity of her power—even when she is bad at her job, she casts a monstrous shadow. The bad mother creating the bad person is one of the most enduring of our well-worn crime narratives.

But, oh, when she is on her game, when the mom goddess is a maestro directing her charges to greatness, it is like a gift to every one of us. Inspired by the motherly muse, that boy grows up to find a cure for AIDS, that little girl grows into the greatest writer of a generation. And of course when that superstar wide receiver catches the winning touchdown pass, we all know the first person he will thank.

But let me not get too abstract here. I tend to get a bit carried away when the topic is moms. I am still amazed by the influence mine has over me, 46 years into my time here. By now it has become clear to me that the influence never wanes. Even when I am not thinking about her directly, her words, her voice, her conscience, her wishes, her dreams, are directing my actions, moving my feet to walk into my child’s room to have that serious talk, pushing my hands to help the old lady load her groceries into her car, forcing my fingers to fly over the keyboard to finish that great book proposal. I couldn’t shake her even if I wanted. She occupies a part of my brain, resting sometimes, prodding at other times. So I have begun to think of us as a team, my mother and me. We have been confronting every challenge for the past 46 years. Kicking ass together. No matter how many more years we have together on this mortal coil, I know that she will never be gone from me. I will never be without my muse. To you, mother, I say thank you. I love you.

And to the rest of you mothers out there, as you accept your Mother’s Day gifts and smile until your face hurts, know this: You are the most important person in every one of our lives. You are the Sun.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

About Nick Chiles

Nick Chiles is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author. He has written or co-written 12 books and won over a dozen major journalism awards during a journalism career that brought him to the Dallas Morning News, the Star-Ledger of New Jersey and New York Newsday, in addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief of Odyssey Couleur travel magazine.

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