When Dr. Seuss published "Are You My Mother" in 1960, he chronicled the adventures of a newborn baby bird in search of its mother. A newborn is hatched into a world where it's 'Working Mother' is on errand for food, and finding himself alone he instigates a search. The world is filled with options, after all, and off he goes inquiring of the kitten, a hen, and then a cow all of who match his question with a qualified, "no." Raising the stakes, he chases a boat, yells to a plane, even climbs into the teeth of smoldering power shovel and shouts, "Are you my Mother?" True of the paradox, the power shovel kindly delivers him back to the nest whereupon Mother greets him with worms, the obvious introduction, and its subsequent warm conversation.
The 1960’s was synonymous with all things new, exciting, and subversive. Carl Jung, the father of analytical psychology, described this period as a natural cycle whereupon a rigid culture, unable to contain the demands for individual freedom, exonerates itself from social constraint by creating a new and vibrant counterculture. Gone were television shows like "Father Knows Best" and replaced with images of hard working women as single parents. Mrs. Partridge, for instance, demonstrated that a woman in power could single handedly both parent and provide for the contemporary family without ever compromising her polite affections. And while my own mother was such a modern lady, I, too, initially confused her with Grandma, the Babysitter and even, on one occasion, a persistent Avon Lady.
While race, ethnicity, and religion separate us, we are all bound by one universal theme – our mothers. These are they who hold the tone, tenor, and title of life in the delicate palm of their hands. Whether we mimic or mock, extol or scoff, respect, criticize, or merely talk of them we thus immortalize their image, their message, and the essence of their brand. For inherent in our existential search for meaning is encoded the script from which we rehearse our thoughts, recite our beliefs, and remand our theories to the world. And while my introduction to life came via a hard Working Mother, so too came our premature goodbye. Home from college, I sat on her bed reading aloud the stories she’d once taught to me as she prepared to take her final bow from a long and courageous battle with cancer. "Who am I," I began. "Why am I here?"