In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m sharing an excerpt from some writing I’ve been doing, this in particular about my mom:
I don’t know what a “typical” mom is or does. I mean, I’ve seen movies and TV shows, I’ve read books, I know the character archetypes of the doting housewife in the apron, and the overachiever PTA soccer mom, and all the rest. But I don’t know how closely anyone ever matches those.
My mom didn’t match up very closely with those characters. I mean, sure, when us kids were young she stayed home and she cooked some, and kept us clean enough, and raised us attentively, and did all that. Cooking wasn’t really her passion, but she did it enough that I still learned a few fundamentals: scrambled eggs, pancakes, and even a pretty good approach to lasagna that I still use. She seemed to enjoy baking a lot more, which was a lucky stroke, because we had a pear tree in our backyard that produced bushels and bushels of ripe, gorgeous Bartlett pears every fall. So every fall we spent hours peeling and coring pears and making batch after batch of what could sound like a “Forrest Gump”-esque list of pear products: pear bread, pear preserves, pear pie, pear butter, pear everything.
She sewed for a while and made matching Christmas dresses for my sister and me a few times, along with a Halloween costume or two. My mom was one of my Girl Scout troop leaders for a while, taking me and my fellow scouts on hikes, camping trips, and field trips — including the infamous trip to the animal shelter that resulted in our adopting Sunny, the family’s first cat.
But when I think about that cat story, it’s really how my mom interacted with my dad that makes it funny and memorable. How he was resistant, how she persuaded him in the end to adopt Sunny. How gradually my dad came to love Sunny, because my mom’s instincts were right.
In fact, it was always clear to me, growing up, that my parents had good instincts about a lot of things, including how they made their relationship a priority, even above their relationship to us kids. Somehow that always sounds like a bad thing, but I didn’t take it that way at all. It didn’t make me feel less loved or in any way neglected or whatever; quite the contrary: I felt secure that my parents loved me and my sister and brother enough to take occasional overnight trips away together, without us, so that they could come back refreshed and recharged and happier to see us.
I remember my sister deciding to bake them a cake for their return one time – perhaps it was their anniversary – and I announced that I was going to bake a small round cake in my Easy Bake Oven to add to it. We assembled it and frosted them together, which looked silly, like this:
But it made me proud to have contributed something of my own to it. (My sister was already becoming a good mother, too, long before she actually became one.)
The beginning of a whole new era of my mom’s influence started when I was around 7 or 8 and my mother went back to work. For a while she held part-time administrative or secretarial jobs, but she rather quickly advanced into greater responsibility, and within a short time, she was president & CEO of a chamber of commerce with a sizable membership base that served five communities.
If Malcolm Gladwell’s reckoning is right and it takes 10,000 hours to develop mastery, I clocked many of the requisite hours towards being a junior badass in business administration and networking while helping my mom with all kinds of event planning and organizing around the chamber’s office after school, in the evenings, and on weekends. I helped put together mailers for membership drives, I stuffed envelopes, and I was even the young kid working the registration table at the Business After Hours mixer checking in the attendees, taking their money, giving change, and handing out nametags, all with a professional smile on my face. And when the registration table duties were fulfilled, I was allowed to mingle with the adults, Shirley Temple in hand, chatting politely about dry cleaning services, the muffler repair business, logistics and operations, and the rise of computers and technology. (Little did I know.) I gained such a sense of comfort and belonging in those environments from my mother’s clever delegations to her bright little worker bee.
There’s a whole lot more, but I’m still working on it. All of that to say, I love my mom, I appreciate who she is and who she never tried to be, and the person she is impresses the shit out of me with what she’s capable of. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.