Production Blog

Give Mothers a Gift of Grace

Mothers are often our touchstone no matter where we roam. United Kingdom photographer Wayne Hutchinson brings us a beautiful reminder in a scene that often plays out in the barnyard. (Photo courtesy of Wayne Hutchinson)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- There is a brief window each spring when the sheep lot turns into the woolly equivalent of nursery school let out for recess. Lambs zoom about kicking back legs in the air as they play games and jump imaginary fences.

I've often seen these cheeky infants ride upon the backs of adult sheep and even jump from one broad back to another. A mother will sometimes have enough of these antics and stamp her foot in disapproval or head butt an unruly charge into time-out. Those who have tended a flock learn how to read these huffy gestures, especially when ewes turn protective or dismissive.

Still, when Wayne Hutchinson's photo of a lamb reaching out to touch its mother rolled through my Twitter timeline, I was filled with wonder. Maybe I've been locked up too long, but it instantly became a metaphor for so many things happening right now. The photographer, based in North Yorkshire, United Kingdom, graciously allowed me to share the photo in honor of Mother's Day.

Nature, if we stop long enough to observe, can teach a thing or two about mothering and/or the lack of it. The past few months of social distancing has shown many the importance of the basic need for contact or at least the need to pull back a comforting memory -- whether it be from mother, grandmother, aunt or that special someone who simply fills that supportive role.

Last weekend, longing won out and I finally drove two hours to see my parents. Mother sat on the front porch and I stood at an appropriate distance in the yard and we shouted our howdies into the Illinois prairie wind. I yearned to hug her tight. At the same time, I was also swamped with memories of more heated discussions we probably had from these same spots, decades earlier.

My mother would likely say I was the perfect child. She's prone to convenient white lies when the truth doesn't matter. And, by the way, she fibs about that too.

The truth is, I much preferred outdoor farm chores to housework. The only thing I ever wanted to do in life was farm, so I often balked at being called into domestic service.

Still, with a firm resolve and the nudge of a good 4-H program, my mother taught me most of what I know about baking, cooking and sewing. These last few months, I've watched others trying to cope from home by leaning on these same practical skills. It causes me to confess, that yes, Mother knew best.

Suddenly, the entire world seems to crave things remembered. We want Mom's cookies mixed up in that yellow Pyrex bowl she always used. The need to do something wholesome now has bread baking so popular that flour and yeast are a scarce commodity.

Singer sewing machines are also being dusted off and threaded with hope. And, if forced to wear a mask, it somehow makes sense that it might feel more protective sewn on a machine passed down from you-know-who. I've even heard people are willingly taking piano lessons -- virtually, of course.

As we approach what has to be the mother of all Mother's Days, it is hard to know how to give Mom her day.

Parents, especially mothers (again ... grandmothers, sisters, etc.) are being put to the test -- enlisted and re-enlisted into roles of teachers, barbers, chefs, day care providers, dog groomers, plumbers and who knows what else. In other cases, we are isolated from children and/or elderly parents who desperately need our reassurances.

Time has marched on since my mother raised five children only scant years apart in age without many of the luxuries we know today. Dual incomes and more services have changed expectations. Even those who choose the job of parenting full-time are finding the restrictions we are currently living under to be more challenging.

Decades from now, what memories will the children today write of their mothers during these strange, pandemic times?

My hope is that they will touch their mother(s) with grace. That the memories of gardening together, working jigsaw puzzles, playing music or perhaps just being allowed to lick the cake batter from the beaters will be a salve for the things missed.

That while a few feet were stamped on both sides, we let our resilient roots show (and I'm not referring to hair). That we all let go a little and admit that we did the best we could at the time and be kind.

That would be a gift.

To see more of Wayne Hutchinson's photography go to:…

Pamela Smith can be reached at

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN


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