My mom wouldn’t hold it against me if I didn’t write about her today, but she has been such a supporter of the blog that it felt wrong not to. I told her when we started back in November that I wouldn’t be offended if she didn’t read it, because blogs and politics aren’t exactly her hobbies, but she has been a regular commenter and reader, and I gave her a thank-you hug the last time I saw her.
My mom grew up on a farm in rural Indiana as the youngest of four girls. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, and met my father not long after she started her teaching career in the mid 1960s. A lot of her family members doubted my mom would ever have kids, because she and my dad waited for more than a decade after they married to start our family. She retired from teaching in order to focus on her kids: first came my older brother, then me, then my younger sister. We did our best to try her patience, but she didn’t feel the urge to lose us in the woods surrounding our house (or she never acted on the urge, anyway).
My mom has all kinds of skills I wish I had made her teach me. She’s famed throughout our family for her awesome carrot cake and cheesecake. Whenever one of us misplaced anything, no matter how small, she always managed to find it. She made incredible homemade Halloween costumes for all three of us. Over the years I was a Smurf, Care Bear, Minnie Mouse, Betsy Ross and a wizard, among other things; my sister was a princess and Cruella DeVille.
Not only is she very handy with a needle and thread, but my mom is a great artist, maybe because she and one of her sisters would spend hours as kids drawing horses. (They loved Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Trigger.) One year in elementary school I was supposed to make a float celebrating Indiana history. I had no idea how to begin doing that, but my mom helped me create something out of a scooter board, a bendable plastic clown and a cardboard box. (She’s like the MacGyver of school projects.) One of my favorite Easter decorations is one she made herself. It’s a painted wooden circle on which she glued individually painted wooden Easter eggs, and I’ve made her promise I will inherit it (hopefully several decades from now).
These days my mom shows off her voice in her church choir, but when we were growing up she would sing to get us to sleep and to wake us up. (I liked the lullabies best because I’ve never been a morning person.) Perhaps one of the reasons I so love the lilies of the valley that are blooming right now is the song she used to sing about them: “White coral bells upon a slender stalk, lilies of the valley deck my garden walk. Oh, how I wish that I might hear them ring. That will happen only when the fairies sing.” I don’t have lilies of the valley at my apartment, and my mom has gone to great lengths in the past to make sure I can enjoy their delicate scent during their brief season.
Digging up plants is no great hardship for her, however, because her favorite thing to do is mess around in her garden. I can name maybe a couple of dozen flowers, but she knows the names of every little flower, plant, weed, tree, shrub and bush that grows in a 20-mile radius. I admit that apart from color, it’s hard for me to tell one day lily from another, but she can point out exactly which ones I gave her and for what occasion. We had a fun time a couple of years ago going on a Quilt Gardens Tour, which combined two of her favorite things.
All of her interests come second to her family, however. She was often on her own with us because my dad worked unusual hours as a charter pilot, but she didn’t let that slow her down. She volunteered as a room mother, Girl Scout leader and 4-H leader, and shuttled us to sporting events, friends’ houses, workshops, band practices and more. And she didn’t complain about it, even though it wasn’t her favorite thing to do. She and my dad helped me and my sister move back and forth from college doom rooms each semester, and in my case, helped me move into, out of, and set up three different apartments in three different cities. One of her biggest pet peeves is when I don’t ask for her help, because she is always ready and more than willing to do whatever she can for me.
Like most kids, I took my mom for granted growing up, but as I’ve reached adulthood I’ve tried to tell her how much I appreciate her and how grateful I am for everything she’s done for me. She’s had to deal with a lot of stress and grief the last few years. My brother died in 2004, and my father has had many health problems. I can only hope that I have inherited the strength and grace with which she has faced adversity. I can’t be with her today to tell her in person, but we’ll talk on the phone later so I can say:
I love you, Mom. Thanks for everything.