Happy Birthday, Mom!
My mother was born in 1914 so she would have been 100 years old this July (or June). For almost all her life, she celebrated her birthday on July 15 but late in life, when she was going through some papers, she found that she was actually born on June 14. Close enough. She lived only 78 years.
She didn’t win any awards for being a great mother. She was critical, at times unaffectionate, and often seemingly disinterested in the lives of her two daughters. She was demanding when it came to appearances: hairstyles, clothing, and, later, your chosen profession and how you chose to live your life came under her severe scrutiny. My unmarried sister, who was Advertising Manager of Screw Magazine (a weekly “porn”
tabloid) was looked at with disdain. My mother used to lie to her friends when they asked her what her older daughter did.
On the other hand, since I was married with two children and in the respectable profession of teacher (high school math teacher!) I was on her good list. It really didn’t matter about our characters or intent; she judged by outward appearances almost exclusively.
I learned many things from her but not how to have a loving relationship. I didn’t learn how to listen considerately to others or how to be compassionate. I learned to write Thank You notes for gifts; to speak my mind and to stand up for my rights; to care for my body by exercise, massage and beauty treatments. She modeled how to set an enticing table and how to prepare a good meal, how to serve well and be a good hostess.
From her, I get my youthful look (good genes!) and skin. My love of babies and enjoyment of reading. An appreciation of antiques and well-crafted clothing. She had many long-term friends; I now understand how important they are, especially when one reaches a certain age. She loved to play cards and mah jong. I play poker and Backgammon. She had a husband who was kindhearted, generous and thoughtful, qualities that I find in my own husband.
So, happy birthday to a unique woman; she worked out of the house from the 1950’s until she retired; she was, according to many of her friends, the “life of the party”, and she had two daughters who were successful in their careers and lived good lives. She wasn’t the best mother I ever met; but she was the one I had and I sometimes miss having her in my life just to tell her what’s new in mine.