So as I near the end of my Lenten journey I have saved the very best people for my last two blogs. I have either no words or far too many to talk about my mom so I will try to land somewhere in the middle and only hope that my musings can do her justice.
My mom met my dad when she was 18 years old and has loved him every day since then. Her fate and future were sealed – and my life here on earth a result thereof – when her cousin, Sugar, introduced her to my dad, a young guy who lived in the same neighborhood. He was her world, she was his and my sisters and my great kid and my niece and nephew are theirs.
She lost her own mother when she was pregnant with me, a tragedy I know she still feels so deeply. She lost her father a few short years later and, having had my dad until I was well into my fifties and being still blessed to have her, I cannot imagine the strength and hope it took her to go on.
When my dad worked two and sometimes three jobs when we were kids, my mom was the person who kept it all together. She pinched pennies and made do when there was nothing to make do out of because she was raised during the Great Depression when people knew what sacrifice meant. (On a side note, it would not be a bad thing if we went back to the mindset of “saving for a rainy day” instead of the mantra too many of us seem to embrace these days which seems to be centered around the word “now”.)
She made us great birthday parties and cut our bangs when they got too long by using scotch tape and scissors to save money. (And if you’ve ever seen any pictures of me with my bangs 1/4 inch long, you’ll know she did me no favors by doing that!) She instilled in us a love of books by taking us to the library all the time and my favorite past time to this day is still to spend a Saturday afternoon reading a good mystery. Anyone and everyone was always welcomed at our house and somehow, no matter how many people came or how little money there was, she managed to feed and entertain everyone who was there.
She made sure we had a Catholic education and when my younger sister started kindergarten, she became a teacher at that school. In those days, we lived in a very Catholic neighborhood and – unlike today when so many Catholic schools have closed because of dwindling attendance – our school was overflowing with children. She’ll correct me if I’m wrong on this but I seem to recall that one year her first grade class was made up of 68 children! Having her teach in our school was both a blessing and a curse. The blessing was that when we were home at 3:00 pm or during Easter vacation or all summer, she was there with us. The curse? When you got in trouble in school (which I seldom did), the teacher would threaten to send you to your mother instead of to the principal’s office. Going to see my mother during school hours was never something I wanted to do.
On Sundays she and my dad got us all up early and made sure we all went to Mass together. If we had behaved at Mass, she’d stop at the pretzel cart at the corner and buy us soft and hot pretzels, a real treat. We always had matching dresses and hats on Easter Sunday, freshly starched school uniforms with our white saddle shoes polished to a shine, food on the table, and love all around.
My mom is the person everyone turns to for advice, a corny joke, a memory, a laugh, a hug, a pep talk, a favor. She gives and gives and gives and asks for so little in return. She is generous beyond all measure and has rescued me – all of us, really – so many times in every way possible. Everything I do, including writing this blog for the last 7 years, is to make her proud of me, to show her I have learned the lessons – both spoken and unspoken – she has taught me, to live my life the way she has, to yearn to have someone love me one day the way she has and always will love my dad.
She is my hero, my guardian angel, my inspiration. She is my mom and I love her.