Saturday, May 12, 2012

“I Often Go Walking”: the rest of the story

Many mothers in the church have been serenaded on Mother’s Day over the years by their cherubs lisping the words from “I Often Go Walking.”

I often go walking in meadows of clover,

And I gather armfuls of blossoms of blue.

I gather the blossoms the whole meadow over;

Dear mother, all flowers remind me of you.

O mother, I give you my love with each flower

To give forth sweet fragrance a whole lifetime through;

For if I love blossoms and meadows and walking,

I learn how to love them, dear mother, from you.

It might be easy to think that this song is antiquated and idealized almost to the point of saccharine; after all, how many children often go walking in meadows of clover these days? (You can tell I'm isolated from farmland these days, huh.)

It was when I discovered the back story to this song that I began to see how relevant it still is to us today, and how much of an inspiration it can be.

The song was written by Phyllis Luch. “Phyllis Luch says of her inspiration for the words: ‘My mother was mentally ill….Nearly the only time she was at peace was in the fields and meadows….She knew the names of wildflowers, which as a child I thought was amazing.’” (Our Children’s Songs: Teaching the Gospel with the Children’s Songbook, p98)

When I first read that, I thought there was some bitter irony that a song that sounds so idealized was written for a mother with such difficulties. Was Phylis trying to gloss over the hard times and make some sort of pretty picture to cling to and fantasize about?

No. When I read more carefully, I noticed that Phyllis was expressing how she had learned to love blossoms, meadows, and walking because her mother loved those things. It is a message that any mother, no matter what kind of difficulty they may labor under to nurture and train their children, still has the ability to pass on to her child an appreciation for the things that she loves.

It is comforting to know that Phyllis knew that her mother was mentally ill. I don’t know whether she knew it while as a child or whether she learned it as an adult, but she knew it. And she chose to give tribute to her mother for something good she learned from her, rather than dwelling on the difficulties and pain.

So, here’s to ALL MOTHERS! Here’s to the mothers that press on through feelings of inadequacy. Here’s to the sacrifice and selflessness and especially the inner struggle that leads to it. Here’s to the courage and the dignity in spite of the sneers of the world. Here’s to the hours of changing diapers and spooning baby food into little mouths. Here’s to the chauffeuring and the homework help. Here’s to putting your foot down and taking a stand. Here’s to the perseverance to repeat the same righteous teachings as many times as is needed before it finally sinks in. Here’s to the pleading prayers, the deferred me-time, the falling into bed exhausted at the end of the day.

Mothers, I salute you!


Ramona Gordy said...

I love that song too. I have a version of it sung by James Conlee. He has a similiar confession for singing and dedicating this song to his mom. I love it because it is so simple. My mom loved to garden and she would let me and my brother help her. She has passed and now 2 years since, I miss her so, but I am comforted knowing that she loved me and still does. So I love these really sentimental songs. Happy Mothers day Micheala.

Becca said...

I have loved this song since I was a child - my mother is an avid gardener, and I got my love of tending a garden and planting flowers from my mother. I can't sing this song without getting emotional.

I didn't know the story about the origin of the song, thank you for sharing.


Michaela Stephens said...

Happy Mother's day, RGG and Becca!