Since I am Molly and Toby’s “mom”, my husband is going to take me out to lunch and to see The Avengers in celebration of Mother’s Day. But on this day I reflect on all of the real mothers out there raising actual children, not two incredibly cute cats. I think of all of my friends who have kids and all of the choices and decisions (most of them difficult) that they have had to make on behalf of their children. All of my friends are amazing moms– whether they’re the moms of tweeners, twins (or in one case a three year old and 8 month old twins), toddlers, and those they have adopted. They have juggled their schedules, changed their jobs, altered the course of their lives for their children. Many of my friends teach and have kids, which just boggles my brain. Even my four-legged, purring “child” has been a mother– she gave birth and nursed her litter before she was put up for adoption at the SPCA. Her foster mom and staff all reported what an excellent mother she was.
Then there are our moms. My mother-in-law raised both her children as a single mom and always tried to provide the best for them. As my mother-in-law, she has been supportive, kind, and loving to me. We have the relationship of good friends, and I have gone to visit her several times without my husband. I struck gold in the mother-in-law department.
I also hit the jackpot with my own mom. I once heard that the most important thing a parent can do is to listen, just listen, to their children without offering advice or making judgements. That is my mom. I remember when she would come home from work and I would just yak away about what I learned that day, what happened, and how I felt about it. She listened to it all. (I’m pretty sure there were times when she wished I would just be quiet.) As a kid I didn’t feel like I fit in with the rest of the crowd and always felt odd, so her just listening to me made me feel that there was somewhere I belonged. I remember we would hang out with another family, and that mom would just yell at her children all of the time. Everything warranted a yell from her, and every time we left, I thanked my mom for not being her.
My mom has taught me a lot. First of all, she taught me how to be self-sufficient person in the basics of life. Once I was able to reach the buttons on the washing machine, I was old enough to do my own laundry. When she worked the night shift, she taught me how to cook on the weekends so I could cook during the week. She showed me how to be a smart shopper, use coupons, and apply the little math skills I have in the grocery store. She went with me to open my first savings account and taught me how to drive a stick shift (“You never know where you’re going to end up, so it’s good to know how to drive a stick and drive someone else’s car if you have to!” This advice really came in handy for me, but that’s another story…).
She also taught me to be interested and adventurous. She and my dad travel together and apart. When she was working, she thought nothing of going on business trips by herself and sought out fun sights wherever she was. Once when she was on a trip to Buffalo, she talked a security guard into letting her into Rich Stadium where the Bills play. For a few minutes, she had the stadium to herself. She and I often took little road trips together, mostly to San Francisco for Giants games. One time one of our trips became the “trip from hell” as my 64 1/2 Mustang burned through a transmission line, and we lost all of our transmission fluid in South SF in the evening. This was not good. We were in a very seedy neighborhood before the days when people had to be surgically removed from their cell phones. She climbed over a wall of bums to reach to reach a pay phone to call AAA as I watched nervously from the car. After waiting 45 minutes, we watched our tow truck pass by us never to return. She made the climb again. Finally we got our tow-truck. A couple of days later when we returned home (after missing our first Giants game for being stuck in the ghetto, walking into our hotel room to find a plunger in the toilet with a sign that read, “Sorry Not Working”, realizing it was Kids’ Day at the Giants vs. Rockies game and being surrounded by cotton-candy infused kids who kept kicking the backs of our seats while screaming “BARRY! BARRY!”) one of my tires blew out on Pacheco Pass. My mom got out the jack and proceeded to change the tire as cars whizzed by us and honked. My job was to flip everybody off. Our motto for this trip was “we’re survivors, not victims!”. My mom didn’t get distraught, cry, or bemoan our fate. We laughed, drank Bartles and James Long Island Iced Teas from our cooler (it was the 90s– we quickly moved on to Zima). Instead of a disaster, it became a funny story and transformed us into cell phone owners.
My mom also supported every whim, no matter how strange, I had. For example, when I had a flour-sack baby in high school that I named Bronwyn, she nick-named her Winnie (like the character from The Wonder Years), found my old Cabbage Patch Kids kid carrier/car seat and used it to carry her around when she babysat her. When my mom picked me up from McDonald’s, there would be Winnie strapped in the car seat. I carried Winnie around in a Macy’s bag. She also drove me to and from my two volunteer jobs (but when I turned 16, she quickly signed me up for driving lessons and the exam). In 1995 she made a batch of chocolate chip cookies and we shared a plate. There was one cookie left, but no one wanted it. I felt bad for it and put a napkin around it to “tuck it in” on the plate. My mom found it a “real bed” in the shape of a checkbook box. We placed the cookie in it and folded up a Kleenex to use as a pillow. We named it Chip. Chip still lives in my childhood bedroom. He’s a bit more crumbly and rather dusty, but we still cannot bear to throw him away. Even though I was a weird kid, she made me feel normal.
My mom and I now live three hours apart (when I moved out of my home town, she said she knew I was never coming back– that says a lot about my home town), and today she is retired. It has been fun to watch her develop a new life. She has taken up genealogy and her thorough research has provided a priceless resource for both sides (and their both sides and their both sides and…) of the family. It has inspired my parents to take their first European trip to see where we came from, meet a newly found second cousin, and have new adventures. That trip inspired another one to different parts of Europe later this year. My mom also reads a lot more and has a one-day-a-week job at a local specialty foods place. In her spare time she and my dad bowl on leagues now. She never stops learning, being adventurous, or trying new things, but most importantly, she has never stopped being my mom.