My Mom. Family matriarch and Mother of Dragons. She is the yin to my dad’s yang (though that sounds kinda icky), and gave birth to a daughter so amazing, you would have thought she would stop there, but nooooooo. They went on to have that stinky little brother of mine who wanted to take all my toys and doesn’t need sunscreen like his sister, Powder. (Kidding, Bro. Love ya.)
As promised, I am embracing my basic and looking around at all the amazing people who helped shaped me over these 30+ trips around the sun. First up, my amazing mother. Like me, she too had what would be considered a pretty traditional life, although, being born in the 50’s, having a working mom wasn’t quite the norm it is today. She was born in Pennsylvania to my grandparents, Lou & Grace. She was the middle child between two boys and is a self-described “Daddy’s Girl.” Everything they needed and much of what they wanted in life was provided to them by their two hard-working parents.
“We didn’t have a lot of money growing up but we always had what we needed and never went hungry.”
From a young age, my mom knew she wanted to be a teacher. She can recall a time when her great Aunt Beanie would let her pretend to be her teacher. (Fun fact: My Great-Great Aunt Beanie lived to be 106 years old! At her funeral, the priest got choked up on something, and my pristine-mannered mother AND grandmother proceeded to laugh so hard about it that the entire pew shook during the service.) At one point, she had a college professor deign to tell her she wouldn’t make it through college, but that just lit her fire more to prove him wrong. [The women in our family are known for their stubbornness. My daughter can make you shudder in your shoes. The force is strong.] I can speak from years of being exposed to students of my mother that she was an amazing educator. She is one of the ones that you want your child to have every year of their schooling. She was dedicated to the profession, passionate about her kids, and truly put 100% into every day. I am always amazed at how teachers function and the heavy responsibility that falls on them each day. It has to be exhausting. And yet she still came home every day to me, my brother, and my dad and put 100% into us as well. My dad, also a fantastic educator, did the same. My brother and I were fortunate growing up that we had both parents home during the summer and during holidays since they were both teachers. If school was closed, we were all together. Almost always a blessing, except during the blizzard of 1993, when school was closed for a month and we were all snowed in together. Yikes. We could have been our own reality show that month.
As I’m raising my kids, I often beat myself up over the “am I doing enough” thing. Are they learning enough? Are they learning about different cultures and to be interested in other people who are different than them? Are they respectful and kind about differences and eager to gain knowledge about the world around them? Are they maintaining curiosity about this amazing and beautiful planet we inhabit? Momming is exhausting. I recently watched a video wherein these parents of 7 kids ended a video full of a chaotic recap of their daily routine with these words,
“Did they feel loved today? Because that’s all kids care about.”
As I recall my mom’s interview, I asked her about fond memories from her childhood, and what is awesome to hear from her is that she really does remember the little things as being special. She recalls family reunions where kids had to dig change out of a pile of sawdust. They did egg and balloon tosses and had races. She also had (and still has, I believe) a fascination with dry ice, which they would use at these reunions to keep the Popsicles cold. Brilliant! (Probably my Pap-Pap’s idea because he was a genius.)
My mom had two brothers; one older and one younger. They are no longer with us in this life, and that is sad because they were pretty amazing and talented men and I hate that my kids never knew them. My Uncle Bob, her older brother, was blinded at birth as a preemie (before it was known by medicine that too much oxygen could be damaging to preemies), and was a musical savant. He could play things by ear and just had a knack for anything musical. Mom recalled that at one particular family reunion, a young Bob was swinging pretty high on an old metal swing set and thought he could spit out his chewing gum on one swing forward, and then on the next swing forward tried to jump off the swing and catch it in his mouth. As you can imagine, the laws of physics prevented that, and he got the wind knocked out of him. Her younger brother, David, was the joker of the family. I obviously only knew him in his adult years, but I imagine he was an ornery kid. He also had musical talents and smarts. I remember as a kid that he took a trip to Florida with us once and he made it fun for us with his jokes and teasing; he had a fun soul.
Looking back, mom recalls some pretty cool and special events. She got to go to the Pittsburgh airport to watch The Beatles land! As a little girl, her aunt would take just her into the city to window shop and have a meal out “like ladies.” She remembers yummy pancakes her grandma made, cozy sleepovers in beds with way too many blankets, and family camping trips around the fire. One day, she found a doll hidden away and cried and cried because she thought that maybe her daddy had another little girl that he loved who lived somewhere else. “Oh, how I cried!” she said. Turns out, her father had bought that doll and put it away for the next time she was sick to cheer her up. Certain diseases were more common back then than today thanks to vaccinations. (Takeaway: VACCINATE your kids, people. That’s me talking now. It’s one of my soapboxes. I’ll step down now.)
Mom is most proud of her 40-year marriage to my dad, and my brother and I and the successes we have had in life. As her daughter, I hope she realizes that our successes are a direct result of her and dad’s stellar parenting. She is the proud grandma of four grandkids (2 boys; 2 girls), and they are the apple of her eye. She says that she hopes they know how much she loves them, and that they have fun making memories with and learning from her. (I can assure you, they absolutely are. Mom gives 100% to her grandkids, too. Those kids are straight-up #blessed.) She has a volunteer’s heart; always willing to help and give the shirt off her back. Family is her priority and making sure everyone feels and knows they are loved (sound familiar?).
Regrets in her life? Not really many. She wishes she had cared less about her weight through the years and says if she knew then what she knows now, she wouldn’t have obsessed about it so much. That’s a good takeaway for women my age, I think. In a time where images and perfection are everywhere, don’t sweat it so much. Her final advice in this interview is poignant, and it’s something I strive to be more conscious about:
“I would like to tell all mothers (fathers, too) to pay attention to your children. Put your electronics down, look your children in their eyes and talk to them. Use complete sentences, carry on a conversation, ask them about their day, read to them, be interested in who their friends are, know where they are going and with whom. They are only young once and you don’t get a do-over!”
Mom, you are at the center of everything that is wonderful about our family.