Today would have been my mother’s 57th birthday. This isn’t something I usually advertise, bring up, celebrate, or so forth. But this year, I’d like to honor my mother for the mother she was able to be and the positive remnants she left upon me.
1. First and foremost: The love of all cultures. In 2nd grade, I remember mom pulling me out of school to attend GlobalFest at Arkansas Tech University. While we were watching the Hawaiian dancers, a reporter approached my mother. She willingly told him that the education I was receiving that day, by learning and interacting with those from various countries, would be absolutely more beneficial then anything I would learn in my class. (It should be noted that my mom was a public school teacher) Accompanying the story was pretty awesome picture: The background was filled up by a huge blow up globe, my hair was half pulled up with a scrunchie, leaving massive curly teased bangs and neon pink shoelaces. My mom, oh she was very professionally dressed and looked beautiful.
2. My political leanings and interest. The most vivid memory I have was when my mother pulled me kicking and screaming around War Memorial Stadium (it was the celebration for the troops coming home from Operation Desert Storm) to meet the, then Arkansas Governor, for a picture. I kept telling her he was just some creepy old guy. Well, I guess I was somewhat right. My mother took it upon herself to have this picture plastered in our home, in her classroom, and of coure in the local newspaper (wasn’t one enough?) to cement our families’ reputation as yellow dog democrats. This led to my rebellion in high school: I became a Republican. Needless to say my membership in either party did not last. But my political interest is still present and I’m happy it is. Now my friends know who to blame…
3. My religious freedom. When I was about 10 years old after being christened in the Presbyterian Church, attending a borderline cult-ish, evangelical, non-denominational church, and yearly Midnight Mass attendance my mom let me run free. Now, I’ll admit I would have preferred more religious structure at such a young age. However, this ingrained the idea that the religion and spirituality I am is by choice, not by force. My mental image is when I was 12: I would wear a cross, a Star of David, and carry Karen Armstrong’s History of God (that really dived into all three Abrahamic Faiths) everywhere I went. Then comes the perplexing moment when I joined, meaning “dunking” baptism, in the Church of Christ. Oh but that story is for a different time. I have to give full credit to my mother for my exploration of most of the churches in my hometown and any religion book I could get my hands on. I think she would be happy to know that I have almost covered all my “Christian bases” now that I’m a confirmed member of the Episcopal Church. (I still have snake holding to cross off on my list)
4. Belief in higher education. Though my mother was not alive during most of my undergraduate and graduate education, she was there in spirit and motivation. I remember having that moment, that many experience if they have lost a loved one, during my senior year of college. I excitedly picked up the phone to tell my mother I would be graduating with an awesome GPA…but then I remembered. Yes, I was sad but I was also very thankful for her influence upon me to seek out knowledge and to challenge myself.
The list can continue with her full support of me taking ballet, gymnastics, baton, cheerleading, playing clarinet, taking horseback riding lessons, to loving music and live concerts. She was my first introduction to Journey, Led Zepplin (I had a massive crush on Robert Plant when I was 8), Eric Clapton, Don Henley (post-Eagles). In 3rd grade, she drove my friend, Shantay, and me to see New Kids on the Block in Tulsa and then also accompanied me to see my “first love” play (Bush). She wanted me to experience life. And I did and am.
For many years, I would only focus on the failings of my mother. Yes, as I have said before, she had her own problems and issues that affected me and my grandmother (who I often refer to as my mom, those words are for another day). But that’s not the whole story. She had intense compassion for others, I just wish she could have found compassion and unconditional love for herself.