Thursday, February 14, 2013

For my mom

Its my mom's birthday today.  She's. . .older than she was last year.  This is one of my very favorite pictures, because it is of two of my very favorite people, in a very ordinary moment that helps me feel connected to them and the lives that they chose.  This is my mom, and her mom.  What mom hasn't had this moment--trying to wrangle clothes on to her busy toddler--a thousand times?  I have this moment daily in my life right now.

I always thought of my mom and my grandma as being very different because. . .well, mostly because one was my mom and one was my grandma, I guess.  And in many ways they are very different, but as I've gotten older I've started to recognize, and appreciate, the ways in which they are similar.

They both chose lives immersed in children, and always made their own children a priority while somehow managing to serve their extended families and their communities wonderfully at the same time.  Its impossible to recount all the ways that that has blessed my life.

For most of my married life and my time as a mother, I have lived quite a distance from my mom, but she always made it a time and financial priority to visit me and my children as often as possible.  We were her winter vacation every year--she chose to spend that time with us.

But its no secret where she learned that.  I had many opportunities to get to know most of my aunts and uncles and many of my cousins because I was very close to my grandma, and she often let (*encouraged*) me to tag along as she visited her adult children and grandchildren--even when that meant hauling a couple of 7-year-olds 3,000 miles or so in the back of her little Toyota station wagon.  Even as an 80-something, my grandma still regularly checked in on her kids and grandkids who lived close, and visited the ones who lived farther as often as she could.

My grandma was 68 by the time I came into the world, so all of my memories of her are in her 70s and 80s.  In those decades, when most people are moving pretty slow, she was overhauling the local food pantry, seeking assistance from local merchants in obtaining decent property to house it, writing grants to secure funding, recruiting members of her women's club and senior center to work handing out food, and rounding up grandkids to help unload trucks and stock shelves.  In her 80s, she volunteered to be the daily care provider for her great-grandson, while his young mother went to work.  She not only watched him, but delighted in doing it.  Most 80-year-olds wouldn't have much interest in, let alone energy for, watching a toddler every day. He was undoubtedly one of the greatest joys of her final years.

My mom is a lot like her mom in that sense--she always busily engaged in serving her family and her community, and it is consistently amazing to me how cheerfully and humbly she does it.  When we were kids, she had 5 of us at home, taught elementary school all day (with related tasks often taking up many hours during her evenings and nights), often was responding to ambulance calls in the middle of the night (for which she wasn't paid), and welcomed many foster kids into our home over the years.  Somehow, in the middle of all that, she managed to make it to most of the football, volleyball, and softball games, academic bowls, band concerts, and plays.  She usually managed to keep her self in pretty good shape in the midst of all that, too: often getting up at 5:30 in the morning to go jogging, always out the door for work looking lovely and put together.  Now that I have four young kids at home and don't even have to go to work, I am more convinced than ever that she is a super hero.

With all the wonderful things there are about these two women, the thing that always sticks out to me about both my mom and my grandma is that they did all these things, constantly surrounded by children, and I cannot think of a single instance where I felt like they were tired of me or didn't want me around.  My mom has often told me that I was an easy kid, which was good because I was impossible to discipline.  I didn't take criticism or direction well as a child, and I still often don't.  I was blessed with four strong-willed, outspoken children, and raising them has made me appreciate more than I ever thought possible the tremendous patience and gentleness that my mother always showed to me.  I lose my patience too frequenty with my kids, but often in those moments I take a deep breath, and think of my mom and grandma.  I remind myself that when I did need correction, I was willing to listen not because of any great obedience or humility on my part, but because I always felt very loved, always comforted by the kindness still present even in their firm correction.  The security of that certainty of their affection made it easier to listen, to trust them.  Remembering that makes me a better mother.

I probably earned most of my faults myself.  But I owe a great many of my best traits and habits to the woman who raised me, and to the woman who raised her.

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