Tuesday, May 18, 2010

10 Things I'd Like to Thank My Mother For

In a nod to the month of May in which we celebrate Mothers Day, here’s my own “Top 10 List” dedicated to my mother.

1. Handwritten thank you notes. From the time I could hold a crayon or a pencil, I was sat down at the kitchen table to write thank you notes for every gift I received. At the time I remember thinking what a colossal waste of a 10-year olds valuable time. Now that I’m in my 40’s and a trip to the mall (present), Hallmark store (card and wrapping paper), and post office (shipping) is only slightly more appealing than sticking a fork in my eye, I behold the wisdom of her ways. Three or four heartfelt, handwritten sentences in acknowledgment of such attention and effort is the LEAST anyone can do!

2. Chores. I did ‘em and I received a weekly allowance for them. I was not given money (as in "here's $20, go have fun); my parents weren’t an ATM (we didn’t even have them back then anyway). “You work, we pay, you don’t, we won’t” is how it went down, and I’m the better person for it.

3. Adult responsibilities at an early age. When I turned 16 my parents cosigned on a car loan; they could have bought me a car – they didn’t – they got me car payments instead. My mother took me to our local bank to open a checking account and get a credit card ($300 credit limit!!). I worked weekends to pay for the car, insurance, and gas. By the time I turned 20 I had work history and references to put on a resume, credit, a paid-off loan, 4 years solid record with a credit card, and I knew how to balance a checkbook and manage my money.

4. Stubbornness. My husband doesn’t really think a “thank you” is in order on this one, but I do. I come by my stubbornness honestly, and I’m referring to the “good stubborn”, not the bad (although I have both in spades). My mother is not one to let go, back down, or roll over and unless you want to be road kill on the highway of life, this is a good thing. It’s been said that when I sink my teeth into something, I’m like a “pit bull on a rump roast”, I will not let go – and sometimes I should. My mother’s recently figured that one out – sometimes you do need to just let go – so based on her timeline I can expect to attain that same level of wisdom in about 25 years.

5. Dogs are woman’s best friend. We always had dogs growing up and I still have fond memories of each and every one. My mother instilled in me the responsibility of pet ownership; it’s for life and obedience training is a must - obedient dogs are a joy to live with. Dogs give so much and ask for little in return, I can’t imagine my life without one.

6. The importance of family. Many years ago my father and I had a rift that kept us from speaking for a couple of months. I knew this was killing my mother, but she pretty much stayed out of the fray until one day, during the course of a regular phone conversation about something else, she stated that I needed to think about how long I wanted this to go on, and perhaps I should make the first move toward reconciliation (for my reaction to this suggestion see no. 4 above) because I only had one father, and he wouldn’t be here forever. Did I want to waste anymore time cutting him out of my life? My mother lost her mother at the age of 27, I can’t even fathom that today, such an early loss for her. I made the first move, we cleared the air between us, and we’ve never even strayed near such a scenario in the 20 years since.

7. Christmas cards. We’ve moved around a lot, and my parents make friends wherever they go, this resulted in a card distribution list that topped out at about 150 at one point in time and that point in time would be before computers and adhesive address labels. My mother hand wrote a note to each and every person, filling them in on the latest family news, where we were living, etc. Every envelope was hand addressed. It would take her weeks to complete the task, but so worth it; many of the recipients have since passed, but it meant so much to them that my mother stayed in touch throughout the years.

8. Mistakes are ok. I have a lot of practice on this one; love life, work, real estate – you name it – I made a mistake somewhere along the line. My mother never told me what to do, sometimes she’d question what I was doing, but she never exerted her authority. There was always the assumption, the expectation, that I’d get myself out of whatever I got myself into. Just that belief alone, knowing that someone else thinks you’ve got the stuff to get past whatever is bringing you down at the moment, sets you up for success. I did get myself out of everything I got myself into and I’m a smarter and stronger person because of every mistake I made. I regret nothing, I’m happy I made most of my missteps in my 20s because it’s allowed me to live a pretty contented life in my 30s and 40s.

9. Embracing the fact that she has “grand-dogs”. A few years ago, when single and living in New York, I rescued a shelter cat. The next Christmas I bought her a sweatshirt that read “Let me get this straight, my grandchild is a cat?” She got the joke, loved it, and proudly wore it. My mother never questioned my reasoning or decision to not have children. Now I have 3 dogs (and a different cat) and the graduation (obedience training), and birthday pictures that I send get shared with all her friends. When we adopted a new dog, a “birth announcement” of sorts went to her distribution list. My mother never made me feel guilty for not giving her grandchildren, and for that I can’t thank her enough.

10. The “mother-daughter weekend”. I can’t remember exactly when, or how, it started but it’s been going on for almost 20 years. There have been race weekends in Montreal and Milwaukee (we were like two star struck teenagers), historical trips to Charleston (where I ate my body weight in hush puppies) and D.C. (during the hottest summer on record) and an Audi Driving Challenge (you couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces for 2 days) among other trips. A couple had to be cancelled (her motorcycle accident, my broken knee), but we’ve always picked back up the next year. We talk, laugh, and sometimes cry. I wouldn’t trade them for anything and hope that they continue for another 20 years.