My mother has FLOW in parenting.
I look back and my earliest memories of my childhood include snuggling up and having her read books to me before nap time, making playdough from scratch (it was so salty! Not that I ate it…not that I didn’t try), hand made lunchables, and a lot of solo mothering on her part because my Dad traveled so much – especially when we moved to Chicago when I was seven.
I found out later that when we were living in that apartment in Illinois with patio furniture as our first dining table and the green shag carpet that money was tight – apparently our house in Salt Lake hadn’t sold they were covering a mortgage and rent 1500 miles away. But what I mostly remember includes flashbacks of home-made pizzas (my mom made the dough from scratch) and entertaining the LDS missionaries, making loads of Grape Kool-Aid (apparently it best masked the taste of the awful midwest water), and a summer of time in the sun and the swimming pool.
And my mom did it all. Four daughters, away from her family, a husband whose travel schedule (working for a Fortune 50 company) had him retuning home on Friday evenings to pack up and leave again on Sunday afternoon. But I had no idea our lives were anything but perfect.
Before the #HillYes campaign had the market on rad feminist shirts, my homemaker of a mother had the most adorable baby-blue little-girl tee that read “A woman’s place is in the House…and the Senate.” And she was a proud SAHM.
I don’t remember being shuffled from extracurricular to extra-curricular activity until Junior High. Sure, there was the occasional dance class at the rec center, or a softball or soccer team we participated in on a Saturday once in a while, but my childhood was one of school, and milk and cookies when I got home (usually made from scratch or fresh out of the oven) with homework and practicing (more on that later).
She included us in the tasks of daily life – so I grew up learning how to cook and clean and mow a lawn. I was making myself omelets on Saturday mornings before I was eight; about the same time I started mowing our lawn. (Before I forget, regarding the cooking thing: my kids proudly tout my mother's brownies as the "Best brownies in the world" -- which I believe to be true. Her hommade brownies are incredible. And she's best at making things fro scratch -- we once broke the tip of a kitchen knife trying to cut brownies she tried to make from a box because she was using the time tested methods of how to 'check' baked goods -- and Betty Crockers "just add oil and water" did not cooperate).
Music was an important part of my childhood. While I was eternally trying to fill up my “Lenny Listener” Suzuki chart (and I was never really good on the violin at all); her passion for music meant I grew up listening to the classic and orchestral music that became something I wanted to make sure I shared with my children early in their youth as well. She taught violin to make extra money -- even driving to Price Utah early on Saturday mornings to add a little extra money to the family's bottom line. We all played the piano too -- which proved to be super helpful when I took up drums in my twenties (post college) and Cicely and I started a garage band when we were living together in St. George. She also has an incredible singing voice and she and my Dad both sang in Skyline's performing choirs. One of the sweet delights of my youth (and to this day, though it hardly ever happens) is hearing my parents sing together -- if you ever get a chance, they do a sweet rendition of "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" (aka Pine-Cones & Holly Berries.)
She had four girls to take care of—and part of that was pink curlers on Saturday nights, for Sunday best the next morning at church.
I think about our house on Gary Road in the cove, when I’d come home from volleyball practice to the rich scents of sugars boiling and sauces simmering. The humidity seeping upstairs, and I’d venture down the stairs to see the basement filled with the matriarchs of our family: peeling slicing and chopping…the whole family room had been turned into a cannery – peaches, tomatoes, grapejuice and the like. There was no purchasing of food storage: this was the preparation for the coming cool season. And their fearless leader: my mother.
I watched her care for her own mother – my grandma, and my Dad’s mom if she was her own. It would take numerous novellas to details the countless acts of service: from meal preparation, to being my grandma’s house-call “beautician” and personal chauffer.
As we got older, and sports became the focal point of our family time: she’d pack dinners to eat on Monday evenings when we had Rec tournaments for junior high. In high school, prep for swim team early mornings meant my mom was often up before 5: packing a lunch for me and Cassandra, plus a snack AND a breakfast to go since practice started before 6am.
Some mornings she’d surprise up with home made cinnamon rolls (was she up at 3 am those mornings or did she just never go to bed the night before?)
She (along with our Dad) would cheer us on in all our sports: track, basketball, volleyball, swim meets and water polo games.
She helped with campaign posters for student body elections and drove across the country with me when I was attending school in Indiana. She’d send me care packages at college – CD’s of the MoTab (which I absolutely loved, being at an evangelical Christian college where I longed to feel more connection to the religion of my youth), helped me relocate to Fresno as a flight attendant.
I spent my 21st birthday with my parents in Indiana: we at dinner at Texas Roadhouse, and all just chuckled when the foodserver assumed I’d be getting’ my drink on later that night.
It’s baffling to think about the money they spent on all four of us: beyond the normal costs associated with raising four daughters in Olympus Cove on the east-side of Salt Lake – there were club volleyball dues, travel to tournaments (which they never missed) and then Celeste and I both played volleyball out of state in college. They’d travel to see us play then too!
I took way to much for granted from my mother—my whole life.
Her aspirations for a career never seemed to come into play. It’s like she always wanted to be a mom and was gifted and brilliant at it. Her expertise actually was cause for some serious anxiety in my own life, because while I admit I work hard at motherhood – it does not come easy or naturally for me.
I remember feeling so relieved when she told me she imagined I’d be like the commercial of the lady on the conference call who hangs up, looks down and begins speaking ‘motherease’ to the baby next to her; and she’s actually killing it as a WAHM.
I’m thankful that she gave me permission to follow my heart and continue to work. Truth be told, I am much better at drafting press releases and statements for Crisis Communications than I am at say, giving birth or breast-feeding a first born. But somehow, with her help and support I have muddled through.
I have always admired her faith and testimony. I wish I had her spiritual gift of belief.
And although she’s way too critical of her own body (which, for the record has always been bangin’), I think she gave us permission to own our bodies and our sexuality. I’m grateful for conversations early on (much different from what I was hearing about at church); that helped me understand that sex was not something to be feared – but to look forward to. How awesome is that!?!?
I could go on and on. Her work in the Relief Society, what an awesome grandma she is and all the service she provides to me....
Possibly most important is that I can’t imagine what my life would be like without her, and I don’t want to ever find out. She has always been my best friend, my confidant, my sounding board, my cheerleader, my example and a huge pillar of strength in my life.
Happy Birthday Mom.
Thanks (and curse you) for making it motherhood look so easy.
I love you,
*obviously your favorite daughter,