How do you know how to care for a child when you are practically a baby yourself? I know that at twenty-one years of age, I didn't know myself or anything else well enough to care for a child. When I was twenty-one, I could barely make Oodles of Noodles and get myself across campus to class; but, I am sure glad that my mom knew how to care for me when she was twenty-one. This is a photo of my mother, Geraldine. If I were to tell you all of the things that make her special, I would talk for days. Instead I will highlight some of the stories, mundane as they may sound, that I remember about my mom.
One of my earliest memories of my mom was when she took me to visit my first grade classroom and teacher, Mrs. Lukeweski, at the end of the summer before school started. My mom knew that I was incredibly shy and would need an early introduction. She was right. Not only was I nervous about a new teacher, but I was too afraid to even ask for hot lunch during all of first grade. Consequently, she made me lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. That was back when most school children were able to eat peanut butter sandwiches without fear of killing off their fellow classmates with allergies.
My mom taught me to recognize the characteristics of the people around me so I can anticipate when they might need a little extra attention.
Throughout elementary school, my mom was my Brownie troop leader. She would plan crafts such as: make your own seat cushion out of old wallpaper books, newspaper, and yarn. She would also plan activities such as: making butter from scratch --- Remember "shake, shake, shake a butter shake!" I think the story that I remember the most, though, was when a neighbor and troop-mate, Patty, had a difficult time one day during our meeting. Patty left the group and my mom went after her down the hall of the Taylor Elementary school where our meeting was being held. I don't know what she said to Patty, but I remember that my mom raced her back to the group and all of a sudden Patty felt included again.
One weekend a month, my mom would bring us to visit the elderly and infirmed. She or one of her Jaycee Wives friends would bake a cake, and we would bring party hats and gifts with us for the visit. If an elderly resident celebrated a birthday that month, then they would be honored during the party. I remember singing songs with them, answering their questions as we visited, and playing cards.
My mom taught me to care about people in my community.
I was growing up during the 1970s and when I was young, there were times when my dad was unemployed or the economy was so bad that prices were sky-high. My mom was a magician with our family budget, and even if she had to "rob Peter to pay Paul", she always found a way to make it work. She taught me to clip coupons and how to read labels at the store to get the best price.
Sometimes there were bigger financial hurdles to tackle. When my front teeth were coming in with an under-bite, my mom took me to the orthodontist. The orthodontist told her that I needed braces and it would be a "minimal" cost. My dad was a carpenter with a broken ankle at the time. He was unable to work, so any "minimal" cost was more than we could afford. Instead of giving up, my mom took me to another dentist who recommended a miracle treatment that worked! While my dad was home for six months, I would visit him for five minutes every hour and bite down on a throat stick to manually move each tooth. Although I am the ONLY person I've found who has tried this procedure, it actually did work. Thanks to my mom and dad, it saved us thousands of dollars and probably saved me from lots of teasing.
My mom taught me to be thrifty and persevere in the face of a challenge.
A few years later, just after I received my driver's permit, my mom had a medical issue that required her to visit a doctor in Boston. It wasn't an emergency such that an ambulance was necessary; but, my mom did need a ride to the doctor's office. She asked me to drive her to the appointment, which meant that I had to drive on the VFW Parkway. If you know anything about the VFW Parkway in Massachusetts, you know that it is a race track. I was so nervous that I white knuckled it all the way to the doctor's office; but, we made it safely and she made it to her appointment on time.
My mom taught me that I can do anything even if I am afraid.
When I was in elementary school, my mom was a stay-at-home-mom. She was housebound, since we only had one car for much of my early childhood. She would walk to the bus stop to pick me up from kindergarten. I remember one day when I was in first grade, and she picked me up from the bus stop. She told me that my sister, who was two years younger than I, got gum stuck in her hair and had to have her hair cut very short in a pixie style. She told me not to laugh. Being the obedient child that I was, I did not laugh in my sister's face, but I did rush upstairs to burst out laughing in the bathroom where my sister would not hear me.
My mom taught me to be sensitive of other people's feelings.
When I was in high school, my dad and I got in an argument one morning. This one was quite a blowout that appeared to be something very petty, but really was a battle over a teenager's independence. It was so bad, that later that afternoon my mom called the school and pulled me out of class to make sure that I would come home. I'm not sure I ever heard of another mom pulling her daughter out of class for a phone call like that; but she never wanted to be separated from her children, physically or emotionally.
My mom taught me that family takes priority.
One of my favorite memories with my mom took place in front of our house in the middle of the street at our mailbox. As I mentioned, we were not an affluent family, but I chose and was accepted by a very expensive university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as my first choice. My mom and I were at the mailbox together the day that we received my financial aid package. We ripped it open; she quickly read it and said, "I think you can go!" I was "over the moon" beyond excited. Unfortunately for my mom, my good fortune meant that she would be physically separated from one of her children. A few months later, I was offered the opportunity to spend the summer at an engineering program at the school for free room and board plus a stipend. It was too good to pass up; so, I left even earlier than expected.
During my freshman year, my mom put a care package together for me and my roommate, Marva. I remember that she sent us coloring books and crayons just so we could enjoy the peaceful simplicity of a childlike activity. Our school life was very stressful, so we did make great use of that thoughtful gift.
Even before I left for college, my mom always worried that I would meet someone at school, marry them, and never come home. As it turned out, I did meet someone at school; and he lived an hour from home. When I graduated, we broke up, I moved to Delaware, and I started dating a wonderful guy from Delaware. Eventually, we married, we both moved back "home", and we are now raising our children two miles away from my mom.
My mom taught me that you need to let your chickens fly, and if you've taught them well enough, it will be as if they never left.
Now that I am an adult, I know my mom more as a person than as a mom. I know her strengths and her weaknesses. I know that my mom is not perfect. I forgive her for her parental mistakes, and I am grateful to her for many more of the blessings that she gave me. As a parent of two children, I know that she is an even better grandparent than she was a young mom. I am thankful that I am wise enough to appreciate all of the wonderful parts about her that I overlooked for so many years. From the perspective of my 'Reason Season Lifetime Project', my mom will be with me for a Lifetime.