The other day was mom’s birthday. For those of you keeping track at home, that would make my mom’s birthday the day after my birthday. While it is probably a stretch (and probably a bit conceited) to truly say that I was the greatest birthday present my mom ever received, I am guessing that not being pregnant anymore just as the weather in Chicago was turning hot in the late Spring of 1977 was at least a really good present.
I have never directly asked my mom what she felt about essentially sharing a birthday with me. I know that I think it is something neat and I always enjoyed it. It always seemed like a way to make the celebration last longer. Sure it wasn’t my celebration anymore, but it was still a celebration of someone that I loved and that made it just as great. (Maybe I just liked having cake 2 days in a row. Mmmmmmm cake.)
When I asked my mom what she wanted for her birthday last week, she said that she wanted “hugs and kisses”. For better or worse, my brothers and I and our families decided to go “off list” for our present. Besides, hugs and kisses are more of an everyday kind of thing and not really a present. Although maybe I can turn this post into a kind of electronic hug and kiss, with some memories of my mom.
1) My mom is a great teacher – This encompasses lots of different areas. First of all, my mom’s chosen profession is as a teacher. And she is really good at it. The funny part about it is that I didn’t realize how good she was until a few years ago. Part of the delay I think lies in the fact that my mom taught for awhile, then stayed home to take care of the 3 boys for awhile and then didn’t start teaching until after I was well past the grades that she taught. She started back teaching at the same school that I went to. She started filling in for someone on maternity leave and then took over a 4th grade class when that same teacher was later promoted to principal. By that time, I was already well into 7th or 8th grade, which seemed worlds away from 4th grade. They never would have let me be in her class, so I never would have gotten to experience her teaching style anyway, but I didn’t even have the benefit of hearing from classmates or friends about her. I just assumed she was good and that was that.
But a couple of years ago when I was back at my parents house, I noticed a newspaper article on the refrigerator about my mom. It was detailing a really cool and interesting program that my mom had recently started in her class. It really cemented in my mind and made me realize how great of a teacher she was/is and how little I know about it. So I sat down and asked her about it and learned a lot more about all of the really great things that she is doing for her students. And I am so glad that I did.
2) Mom my made me into a ladies man.
Okay, you can stop laughing now. Everyone knows that I’m no ladies man (especially if you read my previous post). But because of my mom I am a much more thoughtful and caring person. I can’t count how many times people have said that I must have had a great mom after I have done something nice. From the first time I gave flowers to a girl I was dating (only because my mom reminded me and informed me that a thoughtful birthday present would be a good idea) right up to my mom’s birthday just yesterday, I am so appreciative of how my mother molded me and raised me.
3) Mom gets greedy
If you have spend a good amount of time around me or my brothers, you have probably heard this story told by one of us at some point. By now, our wives can also recite this story pretty much verbatim. One of our favorite dinners that mom would make was spaghetti. To make the sauce, she would brown up some ground beef, mix it into the sauce and then we would spoon it onto the noodles. One fateful night, we all noticed that something was wrong and immediately revolted. The meat in the sauce looked different and definitely tasted different. Mom looked a little sheepish and then fessed up that she had replaced the ground beef with ground turkey. However, this was not the most surprising confession of the night. What shook my brothers and my dad to the core was that she had been cutting the ground beef with ground turkey for a long time. Each time she had been using more turkey and less beef. Only this time, she made the mistake of going to all turkey. In retrospect, I should have know she would have tried to sneak some healthy into us. I was on to one of her other little spaghetti sauce secrets for years… despite the fact that she and I were the only ones who liked them, she would add mushrooms to the sauce and no one was the wiser. Darn you mom for trying to make us eat better! (Don’t worry, we still love you!)
4) My mom is tougher than your mom
This is not really an argument that comes up very often when discussing mothers. Ususally, this sort of thing is left for father versus father debates. But, I will say that my mom is one tough cookie, even though you may not expect it. First of all, raising 3 boys already ups the ante in this category, especially when all three of us are relatively close in age (separated by 3+ years.) To be able to wrangle 3 rambunctious boys probably gets you pretty close to sainthood. I just remember how often we would be running around and step on her toes and feet (when she already had some painful feet) and yet besides an initial yelp of pain, there was nary a complaint or a loud reprimand. Mostly, my mom just took it in stride and kept on going. I am not sure how she is able to walk today with all of the beatings they took at our hands (or feet, if you will.) I also remember the “Mom and Me” Campout for Cub Scouts where mom took all 3 of us out camping in August with some other members of the Cub Scout pack. All I remember is it being extremely hot out and we were in our own canvas sweat lodge (I think this is why they went to nylon tents!) and waking up at about 3 in the morning unable to sleep because it was so hot. But Mom appeared cool as a cucumber and made sure that we all had a great time and didn’t have a single complaint. That, is tough.
5) Alone time
Speaking of camping, there is another memory that was made possible because of camping. Along with the “Mom and Me” camping there was also the “Dad and Me” camping. By the time we ended up being able to do it, I had already graduated from Cub Scouts, so I wasn’t eligible to go. Instead I stayed home with mom by myself for the weekend. Being 1 of 3 kids, there wasn’t usually a lot of alone time with either parent, so it was kind of nice to have some solo mom time. Nothing life-altering or profound happened, but we did share some nice moments. I specifically remember going to eat dinner at Bakers Square (mmm…. pie. Why do all of my best memories revolve around food? Don’t answer that!) and then coming home to watch the 1989 Final Four together, where the Flyin’ Illini were tragically cut down by the cursed Michigan Wolverines. We consoled each other and overall had a great weekend together.
So thanks to my mom for all the wonderful things that you do and here to a lifetime full of more memories such as these. Happy birthday!