My mom grew up in a small town in north Alabama. She is the oldest of three sisters, a group that remains thick as thieves to this day. There is no place on Earth that news travels faster than between my mom, her sisters, and my grandmother. I don’t even bother to fill in any of the others once I’ve told a member of the group. This is a skill they possessed before the age of group texts, too. They are professionals.
Mom is a teacher, who comes from a family of teachers. They are all teachers, both grandparents and all three sisters. Growing up around teachers is a blessing. They force you to develop critical thinking skills. My grandfather would ask me thought provoking questions like, “How do you suppose they remove the caffeine from the decaffeinated coffee?” And he always wanted to know what we paid for a gallon of gas when we drove up to see him.
Mom taught elementary school until I was born. Then she stayed home for a few years until my brother and I were both in school. You can do that in the teaching profession, miss a few school years and plug yourself back in at a different school, teaching a different grade. But while she cared for us at home, she tutored students the local university. That’s right, Mom could teach a 1st grader to read and a college freshman to do calculus. I know where I got my knack for numbers.
The year my younger brother went to Kindergarten, Mom also went to Kindergarten as a teacher at our school. She is still there. Now she teaches the children of her former students. She’s the Kindergarten teacher parents beg to teach their kids. Year after year, she takes an unruly group of five-year-olds and transforms them into eager learners. She shows them how to tie a shoe, helps them memorize their address and phone number, and she’s a master at pulling loose teeth. Last year during the COVID lockdown, I saw her showing students how to write paragraphs over Zoom. Entire paragraphs – in Kindergarten! There’s a saying, “Everything you need to know you learn in Kindergarten.” I think that is true for Mom’s students.
Mom has always been active in the community. I remember going with her to the Junior League headquarters when she was the secretary of the board. I would play with toys on the front sun porch while she typed away on a typewriter in the back office. She eventually served as President of the Junior League, teaching in the morning (Kindergarten was still a half day back then) and volunteering all afternoon. Although our family joked that she spent more time at Junior League than at home, I followed in her footsteps, joining the New York Junior League and later serving on the board in New Orleans. This training prepared me to be a good board member, public speaker, and leader.
I was a serious student of dance growing up, so Mom got involved in volunteering to raise money for the ballet. She served on the board for years, several times as President. I swear she kept the organization afloat one year with a fundraiser selling Boston butts for Memorial Day weekend. She arrived at the lake with a trunk full of hams to distribute to all of her neighbors. I remember stuffing envelopes in the dining room for fundraisers and membership drives. We would walk around the table collating, folding, and stuffing papers into thousands of envelopes.
In typical southern fashion, a phone call to Mom includes what I sarcastically refer to as the “Death and Dying Report”. She will tell you everything about who is getting married or divorced, who is having a baby, and who is sick or dying. I never needed a Facebook account because Mom will always fill me in, even about people I don’t know. But she’ll swear I DO know them …. “Oh you know, so-and-so’s wife’s sister’s bother-in-law.” Sorry Mom, I honestly don’t know who you are talking about, but I am thrilled they are having a baby.
Mom knows everyone in our hometown, and she probably taught half of the people under 40 their ABCs. One of my favorite things about Mom is that she buys graduation gifts, bridal shower gifts, baby gifts, for every single person she knows. Her laundry room cupboards are filled with wrapping paper and accoutrements because she always needs to wrap a gift. She is always hosting engagement parties and baby showers, too. If someone she knows has a life event to celebrate, she is there for it.
Mom has never met a stranger. She talks to the person in front of her in line at the grocery store. We could not be more different in that way. She’s an extreme extrovert, and I’m an extreme introvert.
One thing I picked up from Mom is that you should always attend funerals. Weddings and parties are the easy part, but only true friends show up for the funeral. People will remember that you went to the funeral. When I was invited to a friend’s bat mitzvah, Mom also made sure I went to the ceremony, while a lot of kids only went to the party. These are life lessons I hope to pass to my children.
Whenever I tell someone I am from Alabama, they comment that I don’t have an accent. Somewhere along the way, I subconsciously lost it. I thought a southern accent would make people assume I wasn’t intelligent. I can’t even get it back, unless I’m around Mom. She’s like a tuning fork for me. New friends are often amazed the first time they hear Mom speak. Wow, you really are from Alabama!
Mom is one of the hardest workers I know. She never stops going places and doing things. I don’t know where she finds the energy. She’ll be mowing the grass early on Saturday mornings when we visit her at the lake. She takes care of everyone – Dad, me and my brother, the rest of her family, her friends, their kids, her two dogs. I hope that this Mother’s Day, she’ll find some time to treat herself. She deserves it!
Happy Mother’s Day Mom!!!!!!!!!