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Milestones a time to reflect on mothers, families

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By Julie Muhlstein
Herald Columnist
  • Jeanne Ahrens, the mother of Julie Muhlstein, holds baby Julie in their Spokane home in 1954.

    Ahrens family photo

    Jeanne Ahrens, the mother of Julie Muhlstein, holds baby Julie in their Spokane home in 1954.

On Mother's Day 1983 -- it was May 8 that year -- I was a new mom. I stood up in church holding our baby girl. She was dressed in a handmade christening gown.
This Mother's Day morning, I'll again be in church -- St. Mary's in Seattle. I'll stand up with my daughter and son-in-law. They'll hold their baby boy, dressed in that same white gown.
A rite of passage for a brand new family, this baptismal day will live on in pictures and our memories.
It comes just a week after another milestone, an overwhelming family experience for this mother still in the trenches of parenting. Last weekend, I was in Spokane for my parents' 65th wedding anniversary. They're both about to turn 90.
Invited to a quiet dinner at my sister's house, my parents instead walked into the surprise of seeing all three of their children -- two of us from out of town -- their six grandchildren, two grandsons-in-law, and that baby boy, their first great-grandchild.
In advance of the party, we each had emailed to my sister photos and favorite recollections of times spent with my parents. She compiled them in a photo album.
Those emailed memories were intended to fill out a list of "65 things we love about" our parents and our children's grandparents. We ended up with so many memories that my sister simply added "... and counting."
Before dinner, we took turns reading our memories from the scrapbook aloud to my mom and dad. It was an amazing display of family dynamics, long-standing relationships and new ones, love tested by struggles of every kind, forgiveness and unbreakable bonds.
I can't and wouldn't share many of the memories we wrote and read to my parents. Some that I can share made reference to my mother's cooking; my father's fondness for hockey and football games; summers spent at lake cabins, and our swims and hikes with my father; and my dad's driving lessons for a daughter and a granddaughter.
Two teenage grandsons read to their grandparents with true emotion and sincerity, a tall order for boys their age. The young men who have married into our family had only recent memories of my elderly parents.
It was when my sister, brother and I got up to read that the words unspoken were as powerful as the ones said out loud. Siblings share plenty of private jokes and secrets. We were raised by parents married just after World War II. A common childhood unites us.
It wasn't the perfect childhood, because there is no such thing. Mine weren't the perfect parents, because there are no such people.
My siblings and I have lived through each others' sorrows. Yet there we all were, together with my parents at dinner, raising a toast to life's goodness.
Life goes on for the family created by my parents' bond.
From last weekend to this Mother's Day, I've had an incredible look at the sweep of time.
At the end of the anniversary dinner, my father was holding his great-grandson. My 89-year-old dad can do a wicked Donald Duck imitation, a crazy voice I hadn't heard in years. With a baby in his arms, he was coaxed to perform a Donald Duck revival.
Anticipating my grandson's baptism, I can't help but think of all that my parents went through raising their children. There were injuries and illnesses. There were graduations, moves and weddings -- and phone calls no one would ever want.
Parents learn soon enough that being a mother or father is not only the greatest joy, but the hardest work. My daughter is learning every day what life taught my mother decades ago.
Today we celebrate -- not only Mother's Day, but the bonds of faith and family that endure forever.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460;
Story tags » CelebrationsFamily

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