Monday, May 5, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mom

This is a long one -- for my family, mostly! But I just needed to post it...!

If my mom was still alive, yesterday would be her 90th birthday. I find it interesting that of all the photos I have of her, the ones that are scanned (so far) are those when she was very young, for the most part, before I landed.
When she died, I was a kid. An old kid. Twenty-five. Old enough to be through with college (the first time). But not one living to promise or potential. Like so many, I was floundering, working as a bookkeeper at a health department. Those who know my math acumen will find this ironic! That I survived for several years until I found my calling is truly due to my acting skills!

I was underpaid, unattached, happy enough with my extracurricular theatre activities, but truly content? No.

Mom on the street corner of her house. It still looks much the same today.

I like to think she can see me now. Not the little baby she held or the little girl with no artistic talent but could write. When she realized I was going to try to draw like my cousin Patty (a gifted natural artist) -- despite a profound lack of natural ability -- she bought me drawing books and paper (all the time reminding me that my real artistic gift was with words – now my primary career is as a writer/editor).

We did crafts together for as long as I can remember. I learned to knit when I was five. Making holiday decorations came shortly after.

She loved all holidays. And had a wicked sense of humor. How many new mothers would put their child in their first Halloween costume at age two months? Especially such a "glamourous" one!

She was very into Christmas. That apple didn't fall far from the tree...

Mom got into my school projects as much as I did! She loved to cook and so do I. And I fear my over-collecting habits were honed at an early age. Mom was the master of rotating decor items -- we had shelves in the basement for the out of season things, or those just "taking a rest." I have shelves -- and plastic bins. She would have loved plastic bins.

Before she was married, mom taught school, worked for the airlines, then managed a dress shop. That was in the 40s and early 50s, and lots of women didn't really work outside the home then. Her family was fairly well to do.

My dad's background was very humble. I always have credited her for looking outside the glitz and to the person when she and my dad met. It was something she passed on to me.

I get my volunteer streak from her -- I would go with her as a child when she worked for her Junior League thrift shop. "When you are fortunate to have, you must give back," she said. Often. And she loved to have a party. Right on!

My family and good friends know this story -- when I was about 10, I was turning into a bit of a status brat. We lived in a neighborhood that had a pretty white-bread, professsional/executive batch of people, and at an early age, the kids became pretty jaded to just about everything. It was the Adidas culture of the day. Parties were always ta-da! We didn't know there were people who weren't like us. (You should see that school now. Add 21st century peer pressure to the mix...)

So, in sixth grade, we moved. It was just across town -- and the neighborhood was very nice, and pretty homogenous. But the schools were anything but. There was a huge income variance, great racial diversity, fractured families. And it didn't matter. Because I found friends who were from all backgrounds. And they were fun kids. Some were raised just like me. Some anything but. It didn't make any difference.

When the parents of my best pal in the neighborhood at the time wanted them to send me to a different, more homogenous high school in the city, my parents refused. Good for them.

I credit those actions with making me the person I am today. A decision she and my dad made together. A good one.

Mom loved to laugh and nothing was more fun than seeing her with her sisters at the lake. She loved the lake -- this picture was in 1949, the summer before she and my dad got married.

We spent all summer up there as kids. One day she managed to get all of us teen cousins polishing copper up there. And we liked it! She knew how to make things fun.

She wasn't perfect. She could be overprotective, and in some ways, that may have arrested my development. And she could have her snooty, snippy moments.

But she was a good mom.

Who knows what would have happened had she lived longer? Would she know me now, or be in that world so many people of that age are -- not really here anymore? She would love Rick and the boys, and she'd be proud of my work. If she was able, we'd still be making things together -- and laughing all the way.

So, Happy Birthday, Mom. I miss you.


Linda Jo said...

Jeanie, What a sweet remembrance of your mom! I so enjoyed reading it. I lost my mom almost 5 years ago and my dad 3 years ago. Today would've been their wedding anniversary!

Beth Leintz said...

What a beautiful tribute to your mother- and lovely pictures!

Joanne Huffman said...

this is a lovely tribute to your mother. I bet she's looking down at you and smiling.



Beth said...

That was a wonderful tribute to such a wonderful Mother. I know you miss her but I know she is proud of you too! You look just like her too!
Today is my daughter's 21st birthday. Can't believe my baby is 21.

Anonymous said...

it seems you remember her in all the small details of her life which i loved reading. it makes me think about how it is the accumulation of all those times where we choose our path for the moment that leaves our imprint on the people we love. i feel sure your mom would be happy with all you remember of her in this post.

Anonymous said...

i laughed and laughed having just read the comment you left on my blog about Belinda Blue :) i SO needed to do that. thank you funny girl!

Greg said...

I am a New York Times bestselling author working on a new book about mother-daughter relationships and thought you might want to contribute. Please visit my page for details about submitting stories for Mom's Little Angel.

Gregory E. Lang
Author of “Daddy’s Little Girl,” “Why a Daughter Needs a Dad,” “Why a Daughter Needs a Mom” and more.

Janet said...

I loved reading about your mom. She sounds like an amazing person. If my mom was still alive she would be 93....she died in '78 and I still miss her. I'm sure your mom is watching and loving everything about you and your life.

jet1960 said...

A mother/daughter relationship can be a very special thing. Sounds like you had that with your Mom. Loved reading your remembrances even though they were written for your family. Thanks for sharing them.

Shelley said...

What a lovely post. You look like your mother a lot. She was beautiful! (like you!) Happy Birthday to her. I'm sure you get a lot of talents from your mother. May her memory live on in your heart forever.

Judy Winter said...


This is one of the most powerful and real blog entries you have ever written. Simple beautiful. What a lovely Mother's Day tribute.
She is proud.



Rosa said...

What a wonderful tribute to your mom. I loved reading it and looking at all the photos. Thank you for sharing.

Unknown said...

What a wonderful tribute to your mom, she would be so proud of you and she should be proud of the fact that she set you on such a good path in life, she will be watching from on high and sharing all of your moments xxx Thanks for sharing x

Popular Posts