Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today would be Mom's 78th birthday! My parents married at a young age on January 14th, 1950. Children followed rather quickly and Mom had to hold down the fort for the bulk of those years because Dad worked 2 jobs at a minimum, during most of their child raising years.

And no wonder! Amazing Mom had a total of 10 babies and 8 of them within 10 years! Mom had a gleam in her eye that was mesmerizing when she was happy or lovingly teasing someone but especially when she was sharing a happy moment with one of her children. I recall at the funeral home when Mom passed away, a friend of my parent's told me I had my mother's eyes. I loved that! She was an awesome, self-taught, seamstress making who knows how many shirts and dresses, and sometimes winter coats for her family. Not only that, for years she made countless recital costumes for aspiring dancers like me that took months to complete. I still see her late into the night, hunched over her machine, as a light shined down on her work and the only sound was the hum of the wheel whirring as she stitched.

The flip side of Mom, in my observation, is that she carried an underyling sadness though she would never tell you so. I'm only beginning to recognize things I didn't understand. Coming from the generation of secrets, Mom didn't talk much of her childhood. Often one or two of her children sit down together and we discuss family things and marvel at how, for years, Mom was "mum" on most things that had to do with her childhood. And many times we never noticed because she was so busy with a house full of activity but becoming an adult slowly brought about a rite of passage to ask questions. Sometimes Mom just wouldn't go there. She was evasive. Then her story began to unfold, though I'm certain we only ever learned snippets; smidgeons of what her life was really like.

Over the last few years, dealing with my son Cliff, I've lamented in my mind that Mom didn't teach me some of the things I needed to know as an adult. We weren't skilled in the ways of running a home, keeping order and setting boundaries. Only recently my frustration with this issue has turned to sadness and compassion for Mom. You see, as you may have already guessed, Mom was raised by a terribly dysfunctional father who was a lifelong alcoholic. It sounds like he was an abusive one, at that. Mom had very few memories to share of Christmas with her family or any other happy moments. Constantly being farmed out and left in boarding schools didn't give her many treasures in her heart.

We didn't know that. For years Mom, like so many of us family members who don't get it, kept her life story under wraps. These things simply didn't get discussed. Not just by Mom either. It seems that whole generation approached life with a "pull yourself up and button your lip" attitude. My Dad would say it wasn't necessary to dwell on difficult things as it could lead to feeling sorry for yourself. Sometimes that is true and totally applicable. My parents were great about living in the present. But sometimes, when people are unable to function to their God-given ability that answer is an unacceptable lie. If you never address it, "it" never goes away. In moments of trials while raising us, Mom would often be a raging, crazy lady! At least that's what it seemed. Now I see that she didn't know how to handle all these children and was frustrated by what must have seemed overwhelming tasks and challenges. No one taught her and the only life she had was in the light of an insane lifestlye her parents lived.

Oh, but, Mom was a wonderful mother in so many ways! Our biggest cheerleader, always beaming with so much pride when there was some special moment in one of her little chicks lives. She loved my Dad with an unconditional love that exhibited itself over and over and NEVER talked poorly of her husband. My father was her hero; her knight in shining armor who moved her out of a lifestyle where her mother and sister suffered. Yet, the silent offender lurked within Mom's life and robbed her, I'm sure, of certain accomplishments, pleasures and fullfillments she was entitled to. I can't quite pull out all my thoughts yet, but I know I will continue down this path.

For today, I want to celebrate her life as she best knew how to be. She left a loving husband and a legacy of children who were devoted to her.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you so :)