Saturday, May 13, 2006

Things My Mother Taught Me

I HAD meant to do this Mother's Day post before now! However I just finished reading my cousin's and her mother-in-law's so now it looks like I'm copying them! Oh well. Mother's Day is universal. It belongs to all of us, doesn't it? So without further ado about nothing I give you...


1. My mother taught me HUMOR. I remember Mom telling me funny things her father had said to her as a girl. I also remember her laughing so hard that tears were rolling down her face. She was my first audience and I knew that if I pitched jokes to her and she laughed, I was truly funny. She didn't laugh just to be polite. She laughed at Carol Burnett and the gang. She had me read Erma Bombeck and Dave Barry. Mom was the person who bought an old Smother's Brothers record and told my brother and me "Now THIS is funny boys!" And she was also funny herself often saying things like "We're off! Like a herd of turtles!", "You're going to have fun if it kills you!" and finally "You can't squeeze blood from a turnip!"
2. My mother taught me FRUGALITY. Our house was filled with second-hand things. She would come home from Saturday morning garage sales pulling things out of brown paper bags joyfully exclaiming "You'll NEVER guess what I got!" I would be mortified going to thrift stores with her. She said she preferred to think of herself as "frugal" rather than "cheap."
Now I love all of that! I catch myself carefully considering discarded bits of furniture that I walk by on the street. I hate buying brand new books. I use the phrase "It's new to me" all the time. And finally thrift stores are one of the things I miss most about home.
3. My mother taught me PERSISTANCE. Our house sat on what must have once been a garage dump. We kept finding weird things in the dirt. Anyway Mom managed to take the soil, mix in our food garbage, mulch it with our cut grass and had flower, herb and vegetable gardens! It didn't happen over night and took hours and hours of work. I remember the strawberry patch she put in because I loved strawberries so much. I also remember the trees that came up from the buried garbage- apricots and peaches. The yard was probably the best part of my childhood home. Her flower garden today is spectacular- she has it so that something is blooming no matter what season it is. Whenever I want to give up on something I remember my mother's persistance.
4. My mother taught me TOLERANCE. As a minister's wife, she had to put up with all kinds of people in the community. Some were annoying, some were criminals, some had no social skills, and some were self-righteous pompous judgemental Pharisees. Whenever I complained about spending time with people I didn't enjoy she would remind me that it takes all kinds to make up the world and that one should be cordial regardless of how you feel personally about them. That lesson has really helped me, especially in the workplace.
5. My mother taught me CULTURE. My hometown had very little of this growing up. However my mom was determined we would get as much as we could. We went to any community or school theater production. She sold tickets for the Community Concert Series in our town to get our family season tickets discounted. My brother and I learned to not only sit through trios, quartets and choirs but to actually appreciate them. My mom also encouraged us to learn piano and another instrument. She bought "Hooked On Classics" and I remember my brother and me dancing to it all the time. She took us to the Nelson Art Gallery and showed us her favorite piece (a giant Buddha- to this day I love Buddhist art). And it was her idea to take us to the first real concert of many in my life: the Beach Boys at the Hutchinson State Fair!
6. My mother taught me STRENGTH IN ADVERSITY. There was a time when church members wanted to take our church in a more pentacostal direction. My dad didn't agree and my mom stood with him, even though this meant many left our church and it never really recovered. Even though there was little money, my mom supported my dad and our family. When I look back at my childhood now, I am amazed how much they did with so little. To this day I am leery to borrow money, take out a loan or spend more than I can afford. I remember my mom and how she made our childhood rich and happy.
7. My mother taught me LOVE OF FAMILY. Our vacations were used to renew family ties. I saw my mother try to connect with her relatives too lazy to pick up a phone or write a card. She tracked down aunts, uncles and cousins that had lost touch with the extended family after the death of their linking relative. She encouraged me to make elaborate family trees and passed on the amazing story of our family to my brother and me. It was from Mom that I got my filal piety.
8. My mother taught me to DREAM BIG. My mom left her home on the farm in rural Idaho to study psychology in Kansas (a place she'd never been before) at Ottawa University. Her family had no money and was deeply in debt so she worked three jobs concurrently, got scholarships and studied hard. She was the first person in her family to attain a university degree. For a woman at this time in that part of the country, this was very unusual. Today when I wonder if my own dreams are impossible I think of my mom and her leap of faith.
9. My mother taught me to TAKE A STAND. Our sixth grade got moved to a new classroom. The problem was that they had three classes all in one big long room! Mom was one of the first ones who complained. When my school fired my teacher without due process, she didn't let it go but went to school board meetings and asked uncomfortable questions. When she saw family members making choices she didn't agree with, she was clear and direct with them. I admire her for honestly speaking her mind and not being afraid of conflict, no matter where it may occur. It was this that eventually gave me the courage to come out to my family. Even though I knew it wasn't welcome news, I knew that being honest with them was the ethical choice.
10. My mother taught me to MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE. My mom was active in opposing the federal government's decision to install a nuclear waste dump in our county. The water table in that part of the country is very high and the government had no guarantees that our water wouldn't be contaminated. My mom was also active in the movement against "liquor by the drink" and gambling in our county. She was one of the founders of the organic food coop in our town. These people banded together to buy all natural food wholesale directly from the warehouse in Arkansas because the local grocery stores couldn't or wouldn't offer it.
My brother has definately taken this lesson to heart. He is currently involved in economic and immigration reform.

Of all the teachers in my world, my mom was the best! Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there!


Jolie said...

What a great post! I could totally see your mom in all that you wrote about. I love how funny she is. Humor and wit in our family ranks very high. There is nothing better than laughing until your stomach hurts.

I'm also very happy that our family believes in being frugal. I love that I get to put things back into circulation when I buy them second hand. Not to mention, I'm always looking for a great deal. Half of the fun is the hunt.

I remember you sent me a very old button that you found in your backyard. I didn't realize that you always found such treasures.

We are so lucky to grow up in a family with such high morals and strong independance. We were taught how to take care of ourselves mentally, physically and spiritually. That truly is the best gift a mother can give a child.

My mom would always tell us that her 'job' was to make sure that we were self-sufficent and responsible adults. If she didn't give us that, then she would have failed as a parent. We all know that she didn't fail.

Anonymous said...

oh my god danny boy~~ i have the same article written almost 3 years ago as a tribute to my deceased mom. i just find it so cheesy and so dramatic to post in my blog. having read this blog it makes me think hard...damn! its my blog and i will write what i want to my hearts content. and my mother deserves the best adulation. besides i am my mothers son.

Kethryvis said...

I remember that about your mom too... I always thought she was one neat lady.

I found your brother's blog and then I stumbled on yours.... and I rememember Beloit, and doing easter egg hunts in the back yard and all the fun that comes with growing up in the midwest... and then I moved away and ended up in California! And I thought *I* got far away... looks like you went even further!

Not sure if you remember me, but I was friends with David back when we were in kindergarden, first, second and third grades... I went by Chrissy back then, with the long blonde hair and glasses... I'm Christine now with the long red hair with black streaks and contacts :) How the heck are you doing?! I dropped a line in David's blog, but it doesn't look like he updates as often as you do so I figured I'd say hi to you too :) Drop me a line if you'd like, I'd love to hear from both of you!