Tonstant weaders will believe that I have a rather rose coloured view of my mother; those who actually know my mother will know that my pen is a feeble reed in limning all of her sterling personal characteristics. So to prevent this little screed from becoming a full on panegyric, I’ll take the first three words that come to my mind when I think about her, which are kind, intelligent and industrious, and attempt to fill in the gaps a little.
The grimmer aspects of childrearing aside (for my mother was not kind when she wanted me to clean my room) my mother is kind. To the extent that she knows of the feelings of others, she doesn’t tread on them. I had her example in front of me during my growing up and it’s great – also a burden, because the world is full of assholes and sometimes I’d like to go join that party, but my mother’s lingering influence prevents me from going full bore asshole for more than short periods. My dad is also kind, but he specializes in unemphatic demonstrations of practicality, punctuated by full on goofiness. My mother’s kindness consists of superb discernment in conversation and a finely tuned ability to see and experience the best in other people; hospitableness; a really amazing ability to take people as they are without immediately rushing to judgement; and most of all taking her own needs seriously while making the people around her comfortable.
That she’s intelligent can be, I suppose, demonstrated by the degrees on the wall, but we’ve all met educated fools. My mother’s intelligence is woven fine; it encompasses the practical and kinesthetic skills of what used to be called the womanly arts as well as the ability to be curious and ever learning about archaeology and cosmology and sociology; the ability to grow things and be in nature with joy; to envision and execute a multiplicity of ongoing writing and craft projects; to keep the more eyeglazing aspects of family history firmly in hand; and most important, to understand the limits of her intelligence with humour and candour.
Oh, the industriousness. I don’t envy her kindness or her intelligence. Both of those things are part of her makeup at least in my view. But people CHOOSE to be industrious, and that my mother has done. There’s been a lot of bs in the internet press about ‘having it all’; how hard it is for a woman to have a career, husband, children, house, garden and restful sleep at night. The reason I think it’s bs is because I’VE SEEN IT DONE. I know how it’s done. If you have a supportive husband and reasonably cooperative children, it’s possible. You just can’t do anything else and not have things go SPUNG. Oftentimes I think that the whiners are saying “I want all that stuff but I still want exotic vacations and drinks with the girls and 45 minutes of working out every day.” My mother did not, and does not, give a tinker’s cuss about any of that stuff. Her priorities were as plain as a three by five card. It was “Husband, kids, career, home, family, friends” in some order, but not necessarily that order. And in order to do that, she cooked a lot of meals, and burned a lot of midnight oil studying, and got woken up a lot by puking or nightmare-frightened children, and scrubbed a lot of tubs, and filled in a lot of incident reports, and sewed and knitted a lot of clothing, and pulled a lot of weeds, and took the pager (disproportionately a lot, thanks you sexist asshats) as administrator on call for the hospital, and wrote a lot of letters, and put long hours in at the office, and worked (discreetly and without fanfare) on keeping the magic in her marriage. (All of this makes it sound like my pOp didn’t do anything; believe me, he was in there working his butt off, but much of what he did was less visible to me as a child.)
So there you have it. My mOm, in brief. Happy Birthday, mOm!