In honor of my 40th birthday I decided to write 40 stories about my life. If you've been reading my blog you may have noticed that story #40 was missing. I've always known what it should be about - but it was never right...and now 5 months before 44 arrives, I realize it must be posted, even if it's not quite perfect.
I have always been lucky enough to have a big family. I'm not talking about brothers and sisters or aunts and uncles. I'm talking about the people in your life who open up their hearts, their arms and their homes and accept you as their own. People who share not only their love, but their wisdom and talents. That is what makes a family - open hearts. I am a believer in the concept of "it takes a village to raise a child." As a parent, I would be remiss to think that my girls' father and I were the only ones responsible for parenting my children. Many wonderful people have helped them, and still help them in becoming the best possible version of themselves.
I was lucky on this front as well. I have had many "parents." Joanie and Garr, Fred and Pattie, Elaine, Brenda and Jim, Deanna....and so many others. I could write a post about each one of them and the ways they have touched and changed my life, but the only reason I was lucky enough to be a part of their families was because I was lucky enough to be born to my Mom.
You may know her...I'm fairly certain she is friends with a significant portion of the global population. It seems that no matter where she travels she either runs into people she knows or makes new friends that last a lifetime. She is very loyal to her friends and once you've entered that ever growing circle you are guaranteed to receive calls and cards. I'm fairly certain my Mom is what keeps the Hallmark company in business. The postal impairment gene that my sister and I have does not come from her...it is some recessive gene that has only reared it's ugly head with the two of us.
There just doesn't seem to be an adequate way to talk about my mother and if I attempted some sort of biographical sketch I would most certainly get something wrong. So instead, I offer a few stories that will show you why my "family village" turned out so well...it's because of the chief.
Story 1 - Philadelphia
When I was around 7 or 8 years of age we took a trip back east. We visited Washington D.C. and went on to Pennsylvania to visit my Mom's sister. Being a teacher, my Mom didn't want to miss any educational opportunities, so we had to visit all of the tourist sites. It was summer - hot, muggy and crowded. The height of tourist season. As we were fighting through crowds on our way to see the Liberty Bell I spied a man in a wheelchair. This man, disfigured and shaking, was trying to sell pencils to anyone that would look his way. I was a little afraid, but my Mom grabbed my hand and pulled me over to where the man was sitting. She bent over and whispered something in his ear - slipped a $20 bill into his mug, made sure he had some food, then picked up my hand and we went on our way. I looked back at the man in his chair. He had a smile from ear to ear...his whole countenance changed. She never said anything about the incident, and I never asked - but I knew that $20 was a sacrifice for her and was in awe of the no-nonsense way she helped a stranger in need.
Story 2 - We All Work Together
As a teacher, my Mom was never paid what she was worth. She always had extra jobs: tutoring, selling encyclopedias, and writing curriculum, to name a few. Somehow she always managed to make it possible for us to take music lessons, play sports, and travel to visit family and friends. My brother and sister had an opportunity to go to Japan as exchange students, but it came with a steep price tag. My Mom came up with the idea for a summer school for pre/post kindergarteners. We all worked together. My parents taught reading and math, while Marc, Lisa, and I taught art, science, and supervised time in the back yard. The whole family worked together to earn the money for Marc and Lisa to go to Japan. Each year we offered the program with a different family goal in mind. No one complained, or asked for their share of the money - we were taught to see the bigger picture.
Story 3 - Just Get Her to Laugh
My Mom attempted to be a strict disciplinarian, but it didn't go well. We were pretty good kids, so there wasn't a lot of need for discipline, but there was one way to distract her where there was a need...get her to laugh. Marc and I went through a phase of playing practical jokes on the family, mainly on Lisa. Sometimes we went just a little too far, such as creating a lifesize dummy that in the dark looked like me and throwing it over the two flights of stairs onto Lisa while I screamed. Marc and I found this hysterical, but we were the only ones. The next day, Mom told us to go into the family room and sit down on the couch. While we were waiting for her, Marc said, "When she starts talking, start to laugh. Just keep laughing...no matter what. If we can get her to laugh we're in the clear." So, in came my Mom. She looked very serious. She began to talk about how there's a difference from being funny and scaring people. Marc and I began to giggle. My Mom, surprised, told us to listen. We kept giggling. Pretty soon she was giggling, too. We all had a tremendous laughing session and knew we were in the clear when she said, "Oh, you two!"
We all love to hear her laugh. Everyone knows she always has a smile on her face, but to get her into an uncontrollable fit of laughter is the best. Because of this she has 3 children with slightly off-kilter senses of humor.
Story 4 - There's Always Room
When my parents were first divorced we had to move into a small apartment. Our home and all of the furniture had been leased for a year, so our living situation wasn't the best. My siblings and I shared a room, and my Mom had a tiny room of her own. In it was a small single bed...it may have been a cot. Every night I would tiptoe down the hall and climb into her bed. As small as it was, there was always room for me. She was stressed and exhausted - but we always felt loved and cared for.
A few more tidbits....
My Mom has more energy than anyone I have ever known...ever.
She has a beautiful singing voice that has touched thousands of hearts.
If you want something done right, give it to my Mom. (I'm thinking of putting her in charge of my life.)
She has never known a grade other than an A.
She is always on the lookout for people in need of extra love and service.
She is courageous and will do whatever she can to fight for the well-being of the people she loves.
She always took time out of her schedule to go to students' ball games, rectials, and homes.
She loves the gospel of Jesus Christ and finds joy it sharing it with others.
She loves grammar. (I only mention this because it is baffling to me to enjoy grammar.)
I think her grandchildren could talk her in to pretty much anything. She is completely smitten with all of them....including her 4 great-grandkids.
And after 75 years it is clear to see that the world is a much better place because she is a part of it.
I love you, Mom! All hail to the Chief!!