On Mother’s Day, I am enjoying the life I have with my children and wishing they were both still little. For those of us whose mother’s have passed on, we say Happy Mother’s Day to them in spirit and love. Even though they might not be here to be pampered and toasted and celebrated in person today, we celebrate what they gave us that lives within us everyday. I know I do.
When I think of things my mother gave me in life I can think of so many things — from basic advice about being a woman to crafting, sewing and cooking, to sharing herself conditionally and supporting me. But she also taught me so many other things that she might not have thought of as the list of “to do’s” of being a mom.
Have a Open Mind. When I was a kid in the 60′s, there was still some racial bias going on in our community. My mother was a professional opera singer and when she held parties for her Opera cast-mates, the guests were a diverse crowd that included African Americans and gay men and women. I remember the neighbors looking out the windows in disapproval when mom’s “music friends” were over. One neighbor was bold enough to come to the door and challenge my mother, but with pleasant sarcasm she replied, “oh don’t worry at all – they won’t be staring at you or making faces or anything – just enjoy your Sunday!” and then winked at me as closed the door and went back to serving her punch. It was a little bit of a surprise that she had such a welcoming attitude towards all people since she grew up in the south which wasn’t known for that open attitude, but my brothers and I learned from an early age just from watching her to accept everyone in our lives.
Treat Yourself Nice. Mom loved to live each day like she was a guest. No paper plates for her, but fancy, cutesy Pier One or Pottery Barn variety for her after-dinner treat or snack crackers. She used her best silverware, and got out the placemats for every meal. Every towel was one you could use – there weren’t any just for looks. She put jello in what she called “foo-foo” dessert cups and burned candles everyday. And she was never, ever without a luxurious bodywash. Even when life is hard or days are long she said we had to remember to treat ourselves nice.
Break The Rules When It Means Something. If there was one thing about my mom, it was that she was a rule maker. As a single parent, it was kind of necessary to keep the chaos at a minimum with working, 3 kids and their activities, music rehearsals and performances – she was a busy woman. We had chores and responsibilities and we knew what it meant if we didn’t do our part. But the one thing that Mom mastered was strategically breaking the rules. Anything-You-Want-Night dinners, the “just at the right time” splurge on a pair of jeans, letting us stay up an extra half hour, or the change for the ice-cream man BEFORE dinner. It didn’t happen often but she knew EXACTLY the right time to peel off the rules, change the routine or forget the ‘have-to” parts of life when it really made a difference.
Say Yes to Stray Pets. I don’t remember a time that my mother said no to a stray dog or cat we brought home. She always let us get away with it and it was a kid’s dream. We always had multiple pets and they weren’t fluffy and fido – we had a dog named Beethoven. She knew how to be a good sport and allowed us the gift of pets. A lot.
Sit on the Bench. Mom told us when we were grown that one way she made sure we didn’t stray towards bad influences was to keep us busy. We were in girls scouts, little league, softball, music lessons, school band and orchestra, clubs – if we didn’t have busy schedules for her to work around, something was amiss in her book. She spent countless hours sitting on the bench (or in an auditorium) watching sports, plays, and musical performances. When I told her she didn’t have to come to every single thing I did she replied, “you mean not give you someone to look for?”
Make Life a High C. After years of being around a parent whose love was classical and opera music, my brothers and I know the arias, recognize the symphonies and can distinguish Mozart from Rachmaninoff. It was her influence that gave us the ability to know ALL kinds of music. She sang La Traviata but she played Aretha Franklin on the stereo when she cleaned the house. She played Debussy’s Clair de Lune on the piano, but she had an 8-track tape of Barbara Streisand in the car. She wove it all into our day and we never knew it any other way. But she also had a way of using it to give us a challenge, and push us to a goal. A high C was often her tough note to hit that “used everything she’s got” she’d say. She’d liken a goal we needed to work on to what she had to do to always hit the high C. So if you expressed nervousness or didn’t have faith in yourself, or were just being lazy, she’d remind you that it was your high C.
We also had some tough times in our household and like any parent, Mom wasn’t perfect, but what I grew to really appreciate about her as I was grown and had my own kids was that she never strayed from making us feel safe, loved, and important. No matter what she was going through or how hard it was to put 2 cents together at the end of the week, we never knew it.
What a gift.
Happy Mother’s Day Mom.