Happy Birthday Mom.

14 Oct

Yesterday, my mom turned 70. It was a great birthday party because my only brother and his family came up to celebrate with us. I love spending time with my brother and sister-in-law, and the kids love to play with their cousins. They were so giggly and silly, it was like they were cousin-drunk.

My mother at 2 years old with my late grandmother, Mary.

In an earlier post, I may have mentioned my mother’s awesome-ness (though there may have been something in there about a rare bout of less-than-awesome-ness) but I don’t think I ever really…expounded.

My mother isn’t the kind of mom that sewed and baked – in fact, she baked (cheesecake) once a year, on Christmas Eve and, to this day, I don’t think she has ever so much as sewed on a button. When I came home on breaks from college, I’d find a pile of clothes that needed a button or a hem fixed waiting for me. She isn’t June Cleaver or Martha Stewart.

She’s better.

She taught us independence and courage. She encouraged us to be creative and curious. She showed us how to stand tall no matter what the circumstances.

My parents divorced when I was 5. I didn’t learn until I was in my 20’s that the divorce had been contentious, that my father had been unreliable (I only knew he was always late when he was picking us up to spend every other weekend with he and his new wife) or that she had struggled greatly to make ends meet because my mother never said a single negative thing about my father to my brother or I. Ever. Keeping my brother and I blissfully ignorant was more important than making herself the “good” parent.

When my brother and I were young, I vividly recall her letting us take apart a phone so we could see how it worked. She also let us use our imaginations to create whatever flowed out of them. I remember, like it was yesterday, making a switchboard out of styrofoam and about a million pencils. I still carry that curiosity and creativity with me because she took the time to nurture it – no matter how messy it got. FYI – chocolate milk and Rice Krispies DO NOT make Cocoa Puffs. No matter how much chocolate syrup you use. My brother and I have done that research for you, courtesy of our mom.

When I was 22 and she was 52, I moved into a 5th floor walk-up apartment in New York City. In August. On a 90 degree day. For hours, she helped me carry boxes and furniture and clothing up to that sweltering shoe box. She stopped when we were done. Years later, she was describing how miserable she had been and I asked why she hadn’t just stopped. She laughed. “No way!” I translate that to mean if your family needs you to sweat your ass off, that’s what you do.

Years later, she is the best grandmother my kids could have. She genuinely enjoys them – on their terms – not just when they’re shiny clean and behaving like cherubs (read: rarely) but all the time.

She loves my dogs. Even the one that ate her favorite handbag to get to the Tic Tacs.

There have been times, especially when I was younger, that I resented not having the Hallmark memories – not having the June Cleaver mother. As I’ve gotten older, I realize what an idiot I was. Our greatest job as parents, if we’re willing to admit it (and if we’re up to it) is to teach our children not to need us – to empower them and nurture their strength and creativity and then set them free in the world. My mom could teach some parents a thing or two about that. I hope that someday, my kids call on me because they want to  – not because they don’t know any other way. My mom will always be my mom, but our close friendship is a choice – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happy Birthday Mom. I love you.

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4 Responses to “Happy Birthday Mom.”

  1. judy schmid October 14, 2011 at 8:26 am #

    Beth, that was beautiful…enjoy every minute you have with her…

    • Beth - Realist Mom October 14, 2011 at 11:15 am #

      Thank you Judy. I do.

  2. Leah October 14, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    I love those pictures. Thanks for sharing!

    • Beth - Realist Mom October 15, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

      Thanks Leah!

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