In honor of Women’s History Month, I wanted to remember my Mother on what would have been her 73rd birthday. Ours was a complicated relationship; while we always shared a love for one another, sometimes we had a difficult time understanding the other. She came of age in the late 1950’s prior to the countercultural revolution and the women’s movement. In many ways, she would have been much happier as a stay at home mother rather than a working woman, but circumstances and a changing world compelled her to find work as a waitress and secretary.
Mom went through a particularly difficult time in her early 30’s and became an alcoholic. She almost lost everything but found the inner strength to become sober when she was 38. She remained so for over 30 years until her death. This experience gave her tremendous compassion for others who faced personal challenges.
When I was a child, Mom learned to sew by making clothes for my Barbie dolls. Can you imagine working on such tiny pieces of material? She graduated to making clothes for me and my sister Raquelle, as seen here in the picture of us in matching outfits. She loved to create and this was the beginning of a lifelong passion for working with her hands. She made cloth and porcelain dolls, jewelry and towards her final years became an accomplished glass artist. I always admired her patience and ability to work with blindingly small and difficult materials until she got the just the right effect she was looking for.
Mom was an extrovert and loved to be around people. She made friends with everyone she met, but she took it further than just kindness. Besides her love for her children and grandchildren, she believed in giving back to her community and was always active on the board of her favorite animal, children and art groups.
We were so different. I was the reader, introvert and couldn’t wait to go to college. I loved being a mother, but working gave me the intellectual stimulation and self-esteem that I needed. I took my clothes to the dry cleaner to be repaired or used that magic tape to hem pants. The outside differences were so obvious, I sometimes forgot to see the similarities between us.
At Mom’s memorial service I spoke about the things she taught me by her example:
- Always tip well – waitresses and waiters do not get paid very much. They count on their tips for a living wage.
- People come in all shapes, sizes, colors, religions etc. – do not judge them for what is on the outside, find out who they are inside.
- Be kind to animals – they are defenseless and depend on humans to protect them.
- Life is funny, people are funny – find the humor every day and laugh a lot.
- Volunteer – volunteer your time and your gifts even if you don’t have cash. Giving makes you a better person. It will do far more for you than it will do for the cause you are working on.
- Everybody makes mistakes – apologize and make amends, but move on and don’t let it prevent you from being a better person now and in the future.
- Everyone gets frightened and scared – but don’t let that stop you from doing what you want to do.
- Don’t judge people – you don’t know what that person has been through and their whole story. You don’t know what you would have done in the same situation.
- On fashion – Color is good! Use a flash of it to express your personality in your socks, jewelry or scarf.
- Whatever your limitations or challenges, work around it, have fun and contribute to the world in some way!
After the service, one of my mother’s friends came up to me and said, “Any mother would have been so proud to have had those things said about her.” Isn’t that the truth? I hope my children can say similar things about me when I die. I miss my mother every day and I so wish we had one more day to talk and try to figure one another out. I wish I had one more day to tell her how much I love and admire her.