This is intended to be my mother’s story, but aren’t we all the product of our own mother’s stories?
My grandmother was a so-so parent… good with her children and grandchildren when they were young but lacking overall in the maternal instincts department. She wasn’t a bad mother by all accounts; she just wasn’t the superlative mother my siblings and I were fortunate to have (still). On my late uncle’s birthday he was always ‘king for a day.’ My mom and Aunt Judy were never ‘queens for a day’ on their birthdays.
Not that my siblings and I were feted like royalty on our birthdays, although we did get out of dishes. It’s just my mom was and is scrupulously fair, treating all her offspring alike.
She’s also generous to a fault, a trait inherited from her father. My mom turned her childhood pastime of collecting picture postcards into a lifelong adult avocation; for 25 years she sponsored a mail postcard sale with all proceeds going to world hunger relief.
One thing my grandmother excelled at was taking her three children (sans my grandfather who never took vacations), her sister, her nephew, and her father on cross-country trips. My grandma loved to drive, a trait neither my mother nor I inherited. Ironically, the only driving that ever did her in was hilly pre-Interstate West Virginia (birthplace of my second son).
Though a voracious reader herself, my grandmother always prodded my mother to ‘put down her’ book and go outside to play. My mom has never been an outside person.
From a very early age, as I’ve recounted before, my late Aunt Judy would make breakfast for my mom and their brother. Grandma
Rock preferred to sleep in. To this day, I tease my mom about her lumpy oatmeal; but I’m also grateful to have a mother who got my three siblings and me up every morning for school and made us breakfast.
My mom used to say all she ever wanted to be was a mother, although her original career plan was to be a lawyer. She was accepted at law school but ended up teaching school while my father finished college.
She didn’t like teaching; she liked being a mother. Decades ago my pregnant mother thought she had indigestion from Christmas dinner, but it was just me… coming a little early.
This is one of our shared stories, a part of the family mythos. In a December eons later, I gave birth to my first son on one of the coldest days on record in Arizona. ‘It was so cold there was snow on the cactuses’ has become part of the thread of our life stories.
In addition to being my mother, she’s also my writing partner. She’s the author of more than 50 novels, and the co-author with me of more than 30 of those.
In addition to being my parent and partner, she’s something else.
My mother is and always has been my best friend. She never hovered but was there when needed. She never belittled and always encouraged and always had my back. She’s continually been there for me and my siblings and now our families, always knowing the right thing to say and do. For more than a dozen years, she’s lived with my husband, sons and me. Sure we have our differences, but we never stay mad for long.
I’m fond of another family story, one where my five-year-old self stood at the top of the stairs and threw a tiny brass vase down at her. She gave it back to me when I was 18. I try to stay on her good side.
Twenty-nine years ago this month, my Grandma Rock died. I was a senior in college, struggling through a physics class to meet a science requirement (because I’d flunked a science class the previous spring). Another class was also giving me fits. I was taking way too many hours, working at the university newspaper and applying for jobs, making sure I’d graduate so I could get a job and get married.
I loved my grandma. She spoiled me rotten (but I knew it so that made it less odious, I think), letting me stay up til all hours of the night watching Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, and old Clark Gable movies. She used to fill paper cups with M&Ms, mini-marshmallows, and cashews for my ‘midnight snack.’ No mystery why when my son and his girlfriend were stranded in Denmark in a huge snowstorm a couple years ago, I buried my face in a bag of candy-coated comfort. She was a good grandma when we were young.
Because I loved my grandma and because I was afraid I was going to flunk yet another science class, my mom gave me a wonderful gift. She told me to stay home from the out-of-state funeral and study, absolving me of all guilt for not going.
That’s the kind of mom my mom is.
Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you.