I don’t remember the first thing Mom taught me. Maybe that’s the best thing I can say about her: every moment with her is a constant learning experience in which I am enriched beyond my wildest hopes. This isn’t meant to beatify her (although tolerating me as a child and through my transition to adulthood without killing me is likely to count as her first miracle), but to take a moment out to reflect on all moms and mom-type folk who helped get us where we are today.
My mom was a teacher, both in the professional sense and in the practical sense. She’s still teaching junior high kids about World War II and about the American Revolution and about when to say “who” and when to say “whom.” She’s still teaching me, as every time I have a moment with the Midget and I’m not quite sure how to handle it, I tend to ask the old “Did I ever do…” question. She of course laughs because not only did I probably do it, but because she probably asked her mom how to handle it.
Mom taught me the little things like how to tie my shoes and how to keep my room clean. (She still marvels at the fact that when we once cleaned my room, we threw out six trash bags of stuff and only one toy. Apparently the Midget comes by here squirrel-like tendencies to horde pinecones, rocks and sticks honestly.) She taught me the big things like the nerds of today are the Ferrarri owners of tomorrow and that the bigger kids pick on you because they’re jealous.
She taught me patience and forgiveness through example. I’m sure she wanted to leave me outside to be raised by raccoons after I accidentally dumped India ink on her antique dining room chair. However, she took it in the basement and cleaned it with a toothbrush, letting me know she was displeased but eventually forgiving me.
She taught me age is a state of mind, not a state of being. She would constantly tease me about being an old man with a cranky attitude and conservative notions at the age of 13. She, on the other hand, drove a Corvette, a Firebird and a Cadillac Escalade. She wore wild tights, coached track and drank Cosmos at fun restaurants. She also outworked teachers half her age, something that the older she got, the more she relished. I eventually learned to loosen up to the point where now I’m teasing the farm kids I teach that they’re too old and cranky for their own good at the age of 20.
She taught me that sexism was not a cool personality trait to display. Women are just as good as you are, she said, when I found myself feeling my oats during my pubic transformation to “manhood.” I learned that “woman’s work” is whatever a woman wants it to be and that cleaning and ironing is a chore that anyone can do. To this day, I’m the “laundry bitch” (as the Missus notes) and I iron everything in the house, including our pillowcases.
In our house, Mom did the ironing and I loved being there when she did. We’d sit in the kitchen and talk for hours about life, choices, the news and anything else that popped up. It was during these moments, I learned the most, simply by sharing what I was thinking and hearing what she had to say. I also learned the value of a good Rowenta iron and of using distilled water, to hell with what the directions said.
Each year for Mother’s Day, we’d all get together at a nice restaurant and celebrate our moms. For years, it was Dad’s mom, Mom’s mom, her husband, Mom, Dad and me. The last one that had all of us together was the year I got engaged when my folks took everyone (the mothers and grandmothers from both sides, along with the folks, me and the Missus) out for a meal. Moms connected with moms and stories flowed freely as we talked away the night. It was a great time and full of memories. That year, both Mom’s mom and Dad’s mom died. Shortly after, the Missus lost her grandmother and the in-laws moved away.
I always remember that event because it was something helped me see how much our family valued motherhood.
It also helped me remember all the things we’d each learned in life thanks to our moms.