Kathryn E. Barnard
JoAnne E. Solchany
University of Washington
Think about the word “mother. ” Close your eyes and allow the images evoked by this word to come into focus. What comes to your mind? Images of a woman with a child? Images of your idea of an ideal mother? Images of your mother? Maybe the image you have is of a special person who mothered you at different times in your life? Regardless of the image you create in your mind, it is most likely a powerful image, spawning intense feelings of love, adoration, fear, sadness, or even rage. Continue to hold the image in your mind. What else do you see? A child? Someone you knew? A sad, withering child who is in need of mothering? A happy, robust child who is in the arms of a loving mother? The child that was once you? Do these images jog your memory? What comes to mind? A quiet moment over homework? An outing? Sitting down to a meal? Being held as you cried over your skinned knee? Being punished? Or perhaps, the sight of your mother walking away from you on that first day of school?
There is nothing small about a mother; she evokes powerful images, feelings, and memories. Throughout history mothers have been revered just as often as they have been feared. Even death does not alter the power of mothers. Folktales and traditional beliefs of several cultures maintain that the power and influence mothers have in the lives of their children and their children's children transcends death and remains strong. Scandinavian folklore includes the story of the passing of wisdom from one generation to the next through grandmothers, mothers, and daughters (Paxson, 1998). Paxson tells of the young girl who sets herself down on her grandmother's grave in order to learn from her teachings. Through the night the girl experiences a dreamlike phenomenon within which her kerchief-wearing grandmother appears with a plate of strudel. Come morning, the girl awakens to find herself still on the grave of her grandmother. She also finds the taste of sugar on her lips and the teachings of her grandmother in her mind. The maternal power has been passed on to her, adding maternal strength to her family. Mothers transcend boundaries to share wisdom. In