A hard lesson about do-overs

Mom found our dramatics tiresome. Our spats, intolerable. We spent years either sent to our rooms or outside doing yard work.

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May 10, 2024 - 2:58 PM

The back story to this photo is that in 2003 we’re in Haiti — definitely not a resort country — despite all appearances depicted. It was uncharacteristic of mother to lounge, but, of course, she’s also researching the country.

If cell phones had been as prevalent as they are today in my mom’s time, she would have kept hers on mute. 

I can’t tell you how many times she answered the phone in an exasperated tone — making clear she viewed it as an interruption.

In time, I learned to not take it personally. Not that she would have indulged me.

Of all her strengths, her most enviable was to not take herself — or us four kids — too seriously. She found our dramatics tiresome. Our spats, intolerable. We spent years either sent to our rooms or outside doing yard work.

She also never nursed a grudge or personal slight — which to angst-filled teens was a valuable lesson. 

Every day she appeared to turn over a new leaf. 

Knowing her childhood included challenges, I suspect she intentionally developed such armor. 

She wasn’t cold. Just focused.

Though we never talked about such things, my guess is that my mother knew herself really well. She seemed to know why she was put on this Earth.

I never knew her to languish. She was never lost or without purpose, despite the fact that she never held an “official” job.

She had strong feelings about politics and social justice issues and they were always served with dinner.

She thought daytime TV, “a wasteland.” If she was going to sit down, it was with a book or to work on her computer.

She got great satisfaction volunteering at her church. To this day its front doors are a “Mickey purple,” she was so particular about their color. 

She was a dedicated volunteer in the Title I reading program at Jefferson Elementary, taking some of the children under her wing. She felt strongly about building one-on-one relationships with the kids, often taking them birthday presents or to events. 

When mom died in 2009, one of her “students,” Ashley Sinclair, then a young adult, attended her funeral, their relationship had such an effect.

Mom partnered with dad on compiling local history books from excerpts of The Register.

She delivered Meals on Wheels. She was socially active with a book and bridge group.

She was a great cook and enjoyed entertaining. 

And she loved fiercely. Especially my dad.

Growing up, I assumed mom enjoyed spending our summer vacations hiking in the mountains because that’s what we did. Every day, all day.

Then one day, when she was well into her 60s, mother uncharacteristically muttered something as we trudged up the trail, a flower book in one hand, a walking stick in the other. 

When I asked if something was wrong, she looked up, startled. 

“Oh honey,” she said. “I think I’d just rather be doing something else. I only took this up to please your father.”

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