So, this is my mom, circa 1981. Not only does she have amazing hair and taste in furniture, but it also looks like she's texting someone -- which tells me that she may be a time traveler. And check out that adorable blonde girl in her lap! I mean, let's be honest, have you ever seen a cuter kid? I'm going to bet not.
While I cannot exactly remember this stage in my life, I'm going to guess this is about the time of my life that I decided my mom was the most awesome lady in all the land. She baked things, played with me, read with me, and mostly just hung out with me. She was even my Campfire Scout leader (like a co-ed version of boy/girl scouts). My mom was awesome.
As the years went on, I never thought my mom was any less awesome. She continued to do a lot of those things she did when I was a tot. My mom is probably still the best baker I know. Just the other night, Mike and I were discussing my plan to tap her brain for her baking secrets. I'm planning on holding her hostage at my house and forcing her to teach me the secrets to baking delicious bread (Mom, you didn't see this part of the paragraph, act surprised when it happens, ok?). I have tried a lot of different methods of baking bread, but I cannot mimic the amazing quality that my mom gets. And while I'm sure her years of experience help, she has made amazing bread since I was small - like 30 years ago. She still occasionally reminds me of a time when I was 4 or 5 years old when I ate the insides out of a hot loaf of bread, leaving only the crusts. Yup. That was me. I did that. No shame here. Maybe a little shame, but it was delicious, so I stand by my decision. Under certain circumstances, I would do it again.
Who am I kidding. All circumstances. Bread is delicious. Also, cinnamon rolls... but that's probably an entirely separate blog post.
Anyway, I digress. I'm not going to lie to say that my childhood was all sunshine, rainbows, and fresh bread. There were a couple of rough patches. We had our share of frustration and tears; I can actually remember seeing my mom cry from frustration a few times. But, my mom did everything she could to make sure that we didn't feel too brought down. She made the best of what we had, and sometimes made miracles out of nothing at all. She made sure we were never cold, or hungry, or unloved (actually, there were plenty of times I was cold, but I lived in North Dakota, so it was more a function of geography than my mom's downfall).
(feel the cold)
More than anything, I can say with absolute certainty that I was very loved as a child. I have never once had to question that fact.
My mom also showed me the value of hard work and perseverance. She worked a lot of terrible jobs that most people would turn their noses up at to make sure that my brother and I had the things we needed. She worked long, terrible hours, scrounging for child care wherever she could find it. There were lots of times that she had to work when she would have rather been home with us, or gone to school functions. And while I was disappointed, I knew she wanted to be there & I knew she tried to get there as often as she could.
I work as hard as I do today because that is what my mom taught me to do. No matter how terrible your job might be, work hard and be successful. I've even won awards for my hard work at my terrible job...
My mom showed me how important family is - no matter what your family looks like. While divorce was not particularly uncommon when I was young, few of my friends had single-parent families. So, my family was different. To supplement this, we spent a lot of time with our grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. My grandmother, for the record, also made delicious bread. Until we moved away when I was a teen, we drove about an hour to see my grandparents at least once a month. And while I didn't spend nearly enough time with them as I got older, I at least have the sense to feel guilty about it.
As an adult, I'm most proud that I've been able to repay my mom for some of the sacrifice she made for us while I was a child. I've traveled to China with her - which resulted in her finding a job and moving to China.
We went to Disney World together:
I introduced her to Elvis:
She saw NYC with me, we have been to Phantom of the Opera, Cirque du Soliel, and even George Strait.
I think she liked George Strait the best -- even though our seats were terrible. I'm not kidding. Our seats were horrible. I know that George Strait was there. My ticket said so. I heard him singing. However, I did not really see much of him. In spite of that, my mom was thrilled. SO. HAPPY. I don't know if I've ever seen her that happy - even at Disney World.
As I get older, I want to make sure my mom has a good life. I want her to be happy. She worked SO hard when I was younger, I want to be able to repay some of her efforts. I know it's not not about the financial aspect of it; buying things and taking her places won't make her happy in the long term. However, I like to think of some of these things as a replacement for some of the many things that she gave up to make sure we had what we needed.
I wish she was closer so we could spend more time together. But, she's not. So for the time being, I'm going to have to satisfy myself with learning her secrets to a good loaf of bread. Or caramel rolls. Yum.