She was the most even keeled person I ever knew. Nothing phased her. She loved having a big family. She loved having lots of activity swirling around her, yet she was quiet and spoke only when something was important enough to say. She rarely raised her voice and if I ever heard her swear, it must have been for a truly serious reason!
One of the things I remember her challenging me with, was to try to do something nice for someone and NOT point it out to them. Do it because you want to, not because you will be congratulated. I tried, but never mastered that one. She taught me other things like how to write thank you notes and to make sure that my library books were never OVER DUE. And how to vacuum the living room!
She was a gifted pianist and studied classical music/piano at Northwestern University. She enjoyed the Opera and also played Scott Joplin rags on her beloved 1925 Steinway. She loved to read and had a membership to the Literary Book Club so a new hardback book showed up at our house every month. She had stationary made for me when I was ten years old and I developed a love of writing letters. What kid doesn't love to see their name at the top of the page?
She signed my siblings and me up for swimming lessons every summer. And then one year, it was tennis lessons. This was the same year that tennis became Open, 1968. Professionals and amateurs could finally compete together at Wimbledon, The French, The US and The Australian Opens for prize money. The tennis boom followed in the 1970's. My Mom had a simple reason for wanting my sister and me to learn to play tennis. She knew it was a Sport of a Lifetime and one of the few games that women could make a living at. She hoped we would be able to play with anyone in the world, anywhere in the world. As professionals, we achieved that goal. She never "pushed us" or got angry if we lost a match. She had the same smile on her face if we were winning or losing. I loved having her watch my tennis matches!
She believed in family first. My family was a little "nutty" but we loved each other and had each other's backs growing up. We loved to laugh and would giggle away the day, playing outside in the summer and not coming home until it was dark outside. We were lucky to have her be a stay at home mom. She made us lunches and taught us how to bake cookies and fry an awesome egg! We folded laundry and made our beds. We were taught that we had responsibilities.
Some of the above examples may seem ordinary in nature, but it comes down to the little things in life that make it worthwhile. She listened to our stories over and over, yet acted as if it was the first time she heard them when each of the five of us shared them with her. She was kind and supportive and always knew just the right way to hand out constructive criticism.
I loved to spend as much time as I could with her and was devastated when she died at the young age of 51, the year I graduated from college. I miss her every day and think about her as I raise my teenage son. What would she say to do when confronted with the overuse of technology? What words of wisdom would she give me in navigating parenthood today? I think it would be simple. She would say: "pick up your clothes off the floor and help outside with the weeding".
Life doesn't have to be complicated when you have someone who loves you for who you are and shows you that life is filled with day to day tasks, which can be fun if you do them together as a family. I am so lucky to have had such a down to earth, sweet and kind mother. I just hope I can be half of that kind of person for my son and family.
Love you MOM,