How do you define what makes a mother figure?
"A Goddess. A Moonbeam. A Beautiful Soul."
This is the title of a poem by Ella Griffin, Class of 2023, that explores the many things that "make[s] a mother a mother." In the poem, she arrives at the conclusion that "I believe it is the love."
Love was the theme of the day at the annual Upper School Mother/Special Friend + Daughter Coffee and assembly. Mothers and daughters filled the McMurry Center and enjoyed coffee and breakfast together before moving to the Frances Bond Davis Theatre for a special program.
"I love hearing all this chatter!" said Armistead Lemon, Director of the Upper School, referring to the large and vocal crowd that sounded very pleased to be with their daughters for this special event.
In addition to love, gratitude was a shared sentiment among the speakers. As Ms. Lemon welcomed the attendees she noted, "The throughline here is enormous gratitude. Soak this gratitude in this morning, because let's just admit: it's not easy being a moonbeam. It is hard work being a goddess. In fact, it is the hardest work that there is, and yet it is also the most rewarding and wonderful." She concluded, "Our program is dedicated to you, and we hope you enjoy it."
"Today my goal is to search for Definition," Gabby Welhoelter '22 explained in the first student speech of the morning. "My definition and your definition don't have to be the same. Essentially I am trying to figure out what exactly makes a mother figure."
Welhoelter used carefully crafted, and often funny, similies and metaphors to describe the mother figures that she has and has had in her life. "My mom is like the peanut butter you get stuck to the roof of your mouth; a little nutty and once she's got a grip, she's never letting go."
Senior Camryn Lesh looked back on her high school years with humor and gratitude. She shared that her mother likes to show physical affection by hugging her, holding her hand, and stroking her hair - a lot. It used to embarrass her, but she now has a greater appreciation for her mom and all that she has taught her. She also admitted, "Sometimes you just need your mom."
"Looking back, I wish I would have relied on my mom more because there are just times when you need your mom. I'm a senior in high school, a legal adult, and I need my mom to hold my hand when I get a flu shot. I need my mom to hug me and say 'good job' after my dance concerts, and I need my mom when I'm sick or stressed or sad." She closed with this advice for her younger classmates, "Moms always know the answer and they always have the cure so take advantage of them while you can."
The program's keynote speaker is well-known by many students and faculty and staff who were in the room. Dr. Nancy Beveridge, class of 1980, is the parent of two Harpeth Hall graduates, Betsy, class of 2003, and Glory, class of 2008. She is also Harpeth Hall's former board chair and remains an honorary trustee. Additionally, she is an outstanding pediatrician who has in this role supported countless families in the Nashville community (including many of the students in the assembly) while raising her four children - her two daughters, along with her sons, Stockton and Henry.
Armistead Lemon returned to the podium to introduce Dr. Beveridge, "Her love and devotion to this school and its community are invaluable gifts. Strong, witty, a joy to be around, and refreshingly down-to-earth, Nancy Beveridge cares deeply about supporting adolescents and their parents." She continued, "There is always a lesson to be learned in her presence. I am delighted that we have an opportunity to listen to and learn from her today."
Dr. Beveridge began her remarks by sharing the following meme that she said she received via text and laughed out loud when she read it.
"It got me thinking about how many things have changed since I started practicing 28 years ago... but also fundamentally how little has changed," Dr. Beveridge said.
According to Beveridge, the benefits of scientific and technological advancements including vaccines, computers, and the internet are many. Parents today are much more informed due to access to medical information. The benefit of that change in parents' medical knowledge is that it has created a "culture of collaboration and teamwork with families that feels more like a partnership regarding care, and I like that," she said.
The downside of some of these advances, she continued, includes the effects of social media on all of us. "Social media wreaks havoc on the confidence of new parents, who in the past had to rely on their good common sense and instinct to know what to do with this little demanding, non-verbal and usually hungry person called a newborn. The information has become so available and so varied, that many new parents find themselves overwhelmed and losing sight of the beauty of just having a new baby," she said.
She offered this advice, "Turn off the noise."
Speaking directly to the students, "My conversations with you have taught me so much about the power of this access to information. You guys increasingly are questioning the world in which you live or the social 'norms' in which you have been raised, emboldened by access to other young people not just in your school or community but around the world...It is heartwarming to see your interest in so many subjects beyond yourselves as I believe you will ultimately be our problem solvers."
Shifting to what hasn't changed she said, "We are ALL still members of a species that fundamentally wants to connect with each other. We want to be heard, understood, seen, touched."
Following is an excerpt from Dr. Beveridge's uplifting and hopeful remarks that sum up her thesis for the day:
"The point is that no matter gender, age, or station in life, human beings desire connection with one another. And despite the overwhelming presence of technology in our lives and the conveniences that technology can provide, what I experience is that we still want it and we want it in person. In fact, I think we crave it and from that I see other very human and reassuring behaviors, ones that cannot be provided via a phone.
"I see grace. And I am not using that word in the religious sense only as it is a word that applies to any belief system, even to those who are non-believers. Grace being the oﬀering of forgiveness and acceptance, despite fundamental diﬀerences, dearly held beliefs or maybe just a desire for independence. I've seen parents extend that Grace to kids and maybe as often kids towards their parents. After all, not a one of us says and does the right thing all the time. Ask MY kids.
"I see kindness, and often even without any expectation of kindness in return. Anyone who's interacted with my nurse Faith knows this.
"I see a desire for a better world, not just for ourselves but for everybody. Only human beings can take that desire and turn it into action that matters and we do it because our instinct shows us the way.
"We are genetically programmed to take care of one another and honestly that idea is no better illustrated than in the relationship that happens between parents and children: and speciﬁcally today, mothers and daughters."
The full text of Dr. Beveridge's remarks can be viewed in the video, and will also be shared in the next edition of Hallways.
Poetry featured in the event program:
"A Goddess. A Moonbeam. A Beautiful Soul."
by Ella Griffin, Class of 2023
Mother. One word that transcends the tales of time.
Mother. A sacred title given to a woman when she gives birth.
A Mother is more than a person. They are a goddess.
A force of nature. A moonbeam. A beautiful soul.
And so I wonder. What makes a mother a mother?
My mother was a daughter once, what makes her a mother now?
Some say it's the creation of a new life. I believe it is the love.
Love that will never fail no matter what I do.
Protection that will exist long after I've grown.
After she is gone, my mother will always be with me.
And I can only hope that as a daughter I will become
A goddess. A force of nature. A moonbeam. And a beautiful soul.
by Taylor Nesbit, Class of 2022
Brighter than the gym lights
Her face a ray of pride
In my always changing life
Forever by my side
Forever there to catch me when I fall
And cheering me on
When I get back up
Her scent of picnics in fields of flowers
Envelops me in a comforting hug
by Abigail Nichols, Class of 2020
She is an ocean
Her waves swell
Taking everything into her warm embrace
move to just the right place
A steady flow
She rises like the tide
A constant churning
whirling deep within her
To was the pain away
She is alive
As she gives the gift of life to others
She is dynamic
Generous and self-sacrificing, the mother ocean would give up everything
for what she has created inside of her
She unknowingly draws those in, like the tide in the late afternoon
Working in harmony with the sun and the sand to create a serene scene
for those around her
She is the protector
The mother of all
A home to all
She is alive