This is a long overdue post ... about forty seven years in production, as a matter of fact. But it is high time, and right on time (at the same time) for me to tell my Mommy of all the good and wonderful things that she has contributed to my life. This ten list touches on the things that mean the most to me, and are some of my most cherished memories of growing up, and the life lessons that have helped to make me who I am.
1) A sick day off of school meant bundled up in bed, watching television all day. This is how I became well educated in seventies game shows, and cheesy detective dramas. I fell in love with Steve Garrett... and yes, Dan-o too. This is how I came to know the Ingalls family of Walnut Grove. Lunch would be served, in bed, on a tray; chicken soup or a grilled cheese sandwich and a glass of cola over ice... with a straw (which is probably the worst thing you can have when you're sick, because soda is just plain poison in our bodies). When my kids are sick, I give them GREEN TEA WITH HONEY AND LEMON! But to this very day, when I'm not feeling well, I crave a cola... over ice... with a straw. It's comforting.
2) Those places and things and moments that fill in the spaces of life and become part of one's cellular autobiography. They are the most simplistic, and yet the most important things. They are called "Life Experiences". Mine include:
- Annual family vacations to South Carolina: Beaches, restaurants, (clubs and lounges), water parks, carnivals, mini-golf, pools and patios.
- Pennsylvania Amish Country, in the Autumn: Fresh apples and cider, hay fields, pumpkin patches, and orchards abound!
- Fishing and crabbing: Inlets, bays, rivers, marshes and creeks... from the boat, from the shore, from abandoned rusty railroad trestles deep in the woods. Snakes, and supersized prehistoric deer flies with fangs!
- A taste for fine foods: Brie cheese melting over rye toast, a soft shell Chesapeake blue crab sandwich with spicy mustard, lobster with garlic butter, a gyro with lamb (nope.), Steamed asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce, and Port Wine Cheese (Praise the Lord!).
3) Aaaah, those stereotypical Norman Rockwell Americana Holidays. Okay, so they weren't always so perfect. But that doesn't mean that she didn't work her butt off to make it happen. She channeled her inner Bree Van De Kamp (or Martha Stewart, for those who are "Desperate Housewives" challenged). Family traditions were carefully preserved, and sometimes new ones were invented. The decor, both inside and out, would be just so. The food, always appropriate and lovingly homemade. Music would compliment the occasion, if applicable. Be prepared for spontaneous sing-a-longs.
4) Time Served. Face time. Quality time. Sitting at the dining room table with a box of Trivial Pursuit cards. Board or no board, just testing our knowledge, sharpening our skills, learning new things. Or making up our own word games while tanning on the deck. Or racing the clock (and each other) to make a list of US states or capitals, or mammals or flowers. Could YOU correctly list the entire docket of US Presidents, in order, when you were sixteen?
5) Tying right in with #4 is the constant quest for knowledge. Granted, I never did well in school, but that had more to do with anxiety and depression and self esteem than it did my intellect. I am a self educated woman, and quite knowledgeable in a variety of topics, and it all began with my mother teaching me that learning can be fun and the things you don't know are fascinating to find out. Besides that, but an abundant knowledge of trivia, correct spelling and the power to wield the English language can surround you in an air of intelligence that can carry you farther than you know.
6) We wanted for nothing. As the budget queen of the suburbs, she managed to supply our household with everything a middle class family would have to have to be called middle class. Twice a year, without fail... new clothes and sandals for the Spring/Summer... new clothes and shoes for Fall/Winter. We always had a pool in the backyard and televisions in our bedrooms. We got a microwave when they became available. We switched from eight track to cassette player (I even had a Walkman). We got a VCR (I think "The Shining" was our first rental). And the cherry on top? My Atari 2600! But wait... we weren't always so middle class. We were once pretty close to the bottom rung of the ladder, but honestly, I didn't know it. You see, just because you don't have a lot of money doesn't mean that you have to live a poor mentality, and class is a state of character, not a socio-economic status.
7) I Got Rhythm, I Got Music. That's an old song, Folks, not just the toot of my own horn. But truly, not only can I name that tune, but I can carry it without a bucket. I actually carry the genes of some very musically inclined ancestors, but genes can often slip under the radar if not activated, or acted upon. Luckily my childhood has a soundtrack of its own. The radio accompanied our dinner hour. And our car rides. And our afternoons poolside. Mom knew the words to every song ever written, and she sang along to them every time. Every damned time.
Me: "Hey Mom, who sings this song?"
Mom: "Madonna. "
Me: "Yes, let's keep it that way, shall we?"
Flash forward to present
Daughter: "Hey Mom, who sings this song?"
Me: "One Direction."
Daughter: "Let's keep it that way, shall we?"
8) Did I mention Ancestry a minute back? If you know me at all, even a little, then you know of my quest to trace the branches of my tree, not merely to the roots, but to the very seeds! You should also know that it was my paternal grandmother who put me on that path. But my mother's intricate knowledge of our recent ancestors, the towns where they grew up, her OCD memory of who married who, the jobs they held, the homes they had, and the dates of every incident... has given me a sense of knowing every great great grand-person and their cousin as if I had grown up with them myself. Nothing beats hearing the family stories, over and over. Aaaah... genealogy. It gives me the warm fuzzies every time.
9) Imagination and Ingenuity. Remember when I touched on the poor chapter of our lives? And those carefully orchestrated holidays? And I haven't even mentioned our meticulously decorated home. Well, you'd better believe there was an awful lot of craftiness going on behind the scenes. It was Mom that taught me that if you want something frivolous or decorative at an affordable price, sometimes you'll just have to make it yourself. Like Christmas and Easter decorations, Halloween costumes, bedspreads, curtains, tablecloths, place mats and centerpieces. Wedding veils, baby blankets, and various embroidered items. Need a meal in a pinch, but you don't even have a penny to pinch? Make one up with using ingredients you have on hand, or with a few things that are practically a dime a dozen. An active imagination can get you through.
10) Lastly, but may be most importantly, I know that you can never underestimate a woman. Not the kind of woman I was shown to be. Talk about bringing home the bacon and being the one who fries it up in the pan. This is how to be feminine, but not a girly girl. Mom's example was always be fashionably dressed. Accessorize with subtle jewelry. Perfume and skin cream applied. Hair styled. Face, fully painted. Nails trimmed, filed, shaped, buffed, and painted all from the sofa, while catching up on the latest drama on daytime television. A woman is a hostess, and a homemaker, and the glue that holds the house together and keeps the circus train running, efficiently and on schedule. Now, there will be days when a woman shows up with her hair pulled back, no makeup, and sporting those old jeans; because now it's time for the homemaker to literally make the home. You know, your basic plumbing and carpentry. Rerouting wires while installing a light fixture, or replacing plumbing fixtures while fixing a leak. A woman can paint the house, refinish an old piece of furniture, or build a deck onto the back porch. Her nails may be pristine on the outside, but look closely for the layer of dirt underneath, because she's been tending the garden, mowing the lawn, raking the leaves, cleaning the gutters, and sealing the cracks in the driveway. She can even work a "real" job and still handle all that business. So... who run this mutha? Girls.