Happy birthday Mom!
My mom, “Mimi” to us, is celebrating her 70th birthday today. As a surprise for her birthday, my brother and I took her to Las Vegas in March to see The Canadian Tenors perform live, complete with back room introductions, photos with each of the Tenors, and including the special gift of Happy Birthday sung to her in her ear by each of her “boys.”
And even though her birthday celebration continues on into July when my brother’s family and my family will convene in McCall for 10 days of cabin/beach fun with Mimi, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how to honor her on the day of her birthday…. and decided upon this open letter about my mom, to share a little bit of who my mom is with those that may not know her well. My mom has always written beautiful cards and letters to me – notes of support, of recognition, of learning – I hope I can capture some of the same sentiment and give back to her as much as she’s given to me, here in my letter. Bottom line – if you don’t have the spare time/interest to read on: Every day, I feel incredibly lucky to have, by far, the best mom in the world. She’s not only led by example, her whole life, but she’s taught me the life lessons that guide me every day and that I pray will be passed on to Sophie and Cam.
My mom is the person I admire most in this world. She is incredibly strong, independent, and positive. I guess that being born three months’ premature, weighing in at 2 pounds, 3 ounces and being one of the only preemies at the time that survived without being blinded or killed by malfunctioning incubators sets the stage for an against-all-odds attitude. The youngest of three children growing up on a dairy farm in Pocatello, mom was closest to her paternal Aunt Margaret and her father, Ben, after whom my brother is named. From these two, she got her foundation, her life philosophies, her framework for which she’s led her life.
She met my dad, Craig, in college at ISU and fell madly in love with my handsome, athletic, and well-turned-out dad, loving everything about him. Less than nine months after their wedding day, they became the proud parents of me (story goes that mom dropped her birth control pill down the drain on her wedding night). I was an only child. Until my brother was born three years later.
Despite not having a close relationship with her own mother, my mom instinctively had the parenting skills I covet, namely, guilt-free unconditional love, overlooking my learning mistakes, and constant reinforcement that I had all the tools to make the best decisions for myself. She raised me on basic principles: Treat others the way I wanted to be treated, be honest with others and myself, don’t hold on too tight (control), keep your bucket full and fill others’ buckets, labels don’t define a person, beauty is on the inside, don’t do anything you wouldn’t want to read about yourself in a newspaper headline. The basics. No guilt. No shame. Just support, understanding, and love.
And when my father strayed from the marriage? Despite her desperate love of him, and against her very strong desire to keep our family whole, she knew she had to lead by example, and asked for a divorce. She couldn’t stand by, and model for her children, that his behavior was ok. So from her bootstraps, she pulled through, demonstrating to us that you mustn’t compromise your principles.
Parenting me wasn’t easy. Not only was she hamstrung as a single, working parent (living her worst nightmare), but I was a handful. I walked a very wide path in high school, and made many bad decisions. When I faced pretty serious issues in high school with drinking and drugs? No guilt. No shame. No giving up on me. She steadfastly supported me. Giving me questions to ask myself: What was your thought process before you drank? How do you feel about your decision now? What would you do differently if you could? And she always, always told me I had the tools inside to make good decisions, and that she had the faith that I’d eventually make the right decisions. When my close girlfriend found out she was pregnant and couldn’t tell her parents, I brought her home to my mom. I knew my mom would know the right thing could do. And because my mom made it abundantly clear that she loved me absolutely unconditionally, I could always talk to my mom. And I knew my friend could talk to my mom too. And she did. And my mom helped give my friend the words she needed to talk to her own parents.
When I was in college, mom met and fell in love with Blair who became her second husband and who showed her what true love was really all about. Seventeen years her senior, he loved her madly and finally, she was loved by a man who knew how to show and give love. In a cruel twist of fate, Blair passed away after their 10th anniversary. As with her usual grace and dignity, mom held our united families together at Blair’s bedside and so beautifully helped him pass to the other side, while at the same time, showing each of us how the dying process is something to behold.
Leading by example, my mom gave me good core values, trustworthy advice and life philosophies that I draw on regularly. She demanded manners of my brother and I, and let us know when we’d missed the mark with nothing more than a fingernail tap on our heads that made my eyes water.
She has helped me stay strong even when it’s hard. When I needed a really good cry, she held me and listened. She let me feel what I needed to. We would stay there a while and then redirect our thoughts back into the light. It was always exactly what I needed.
Is she human? Yes, she makes mistakes. But she also taught me the gift of being able to laugh at yourself. It not only lightens a serious situation, but it takes the pressure off of everyone. It’s one of my favorite qualities about her, and one of my favorite traits she passed on to me.
She’s not only the best mom in the world, but on top of that she had meaningful careers in speech therapy and fund development work, recognized for her talents in both. She’s also an incredibly talented artisan having painted the majority of the wood furniture in our home and giving life to so many beautiful painted, knitted or sewn objects of love.
One of the things that impresses me most about my mom? She grew up on a big ranch outside of “town” in Pocatello, Idaho. Talk about lack of exposure… and yet when I up and moved to Boston, she fully supported my wishes to explore a bigger city. But what impressed me is how open and warm she was meeting my friends of all backgrounds, cultures, faiths and race. Always, always open minded. She welcomed in my Jewish husband with open arms and embraced our decision to raise our children Jewish, giving up Christmas and Easter for Hanukkah and Passover and helping us to make the holidays bright, no matter our choice of religion.
She supports us every day. After she retired, she’s long said that the most important thing she can do is to support my brother and I with our families, so that our families can be strong. She’s been more than that to me, she’s been my right arm. To our luck, she found her cute little “mouse house” downsized home right around the corner from us. She joins us for dinner as often as she can and takes part in our family dinner discussions each night. I grew up very close to my extended relatives, and having my mom’s daily presence in my children’s lives is especially valuable and important to me.
The kids would load their wagon with their stuffed animals and toys and head over to Mimi’s for a sleepover, giving Mark and I an evening to ourselves. As a grandmother, she gives our children the same love, light and laughter that she gave to me. From fairy gardens to core values, her gifts are being passed on to another generation.
Mom, you will never know everything you have given me. You have been my role model, my best support and friend. I am so lucky to be your daughter and I thank you for being the best mom and grandmother. EVER. I love YOU! Cheers to you on your 70th birthday.
To my mom, who is just as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. Happy birthday Mom! I love you! You’re the wind beneath my wings!