Today’s my Mom’s birthday. It’s caused me to pause and reflect both on what it means to be a mom, and what me and my brothers put my poor mom through over the years.
We moved to the mountains when I was five years old. I remember Mom telling a friend one of the main reasons they decided to make the move was so the “noise,” (aka us kids) would not bother the neighbors.
She gave up a lot as far as support system and convenience to give us the opportunity to yell and holler and be kids. Then there was the issue of my brother roaring up and down our road in his Formula One style go-cart singing opera at the tops of his lungs. The noise-making didn’t stop there. We had all manner of motorized contraptions, from Vespas to dirt bikes.
There was always a gaggle of kids at our house, and I’m sure the din was deafening. Mom’s cooking was legendary, and she always had a plate of cookies or a pan of fudge ready. One of my brothers once sold the piece of cherry nut cake she’d sent in his lunch box for a whopping fifty cents, which in the mid-sixties was a fortune to a kid.
The frogs came and laid their eggs in a nearby stock pond each summer, and we’d catch the tadpoles and “raise” them in my brother’s wagon, which we’d turned into a makeshift pond on the patio. Before long, she’d have little frogs hopping around her house. In the winter, Dad sprayed the patio with water and turned it into a skating rink. We’d take the dinette chairs from the kitchen and use them for balance, pushing them around our little skating rink while learning to stand.
I am an animal-lover and would catch the little field mice who got trapped in the grain barrel, and bring them inside, where they’d virtually always escape. We’d hear the little critters scurrying through the walls in the evenings. I’m sure that put a little silver in her hair.
We were always dragging poor Mom into some fiasco, like the time we decided to go skating at Seven Springs, and convinced her she needed to teach us to skate backwards. New Mexico has rocks in the ice, unlike her native Maine, and hitting one going backwards on skates at twenty-miles per hours tends to have consequences.
She was never a horse person, but always had a carrot or a sugar cube for my horse when she stuck her head through the dining room door at the end of a ride.
One day, as a teenager, I was sassing her in the kitchen while she was trying to chop carrots. She got to upset and distracted by the argument she chopped the end of her finger off instead, and not knowing what else to do, I picked up the end of her finger, loaded her in the car and drove like a maniac all the way to the local veterinarian’s office. She never complained.
Or the time I ran a stop sign right in front of a cop, and when he pulled me over, I burst into tears and declared that “Dad is going to kill me.” Mom and the cop both assured me that Dad would never have to know as long as I promised never again to run a stop sign.
She’s the neatest, cleanest, and most particular person I’ve ever met when it comes to her house, so all the projects we dragged into her den must have set her teeth on edge. We cut up parachutes, cleaned saddles and assembled motorcycles in that room. She never complained.
When we were little, money was tight, and Dad often worked two or three jobs to put groceries on the table. Mom could stretch a turkey leg to three meals, and you’d feel like you were eating like a king. I know there were times she did without so we wouldn’t have to. It wasn’t until I was a mom myself that I realized how broke we were in those early years.
She always made our favorite cake on our birthday, and we got to lick the bowl. Then we’d get to pick what to have for supper and who to invite. There was always a stack of presents, and they were always exactly what we wanted.
She went back to school when I hit Junior High, and got her degree in teaching. There is a whole generation of Cedar Crest kids who had her in the second grade still writing to her from far-off places, visiting her in Montana, and bragging that “Mrs. Netz” was the best teacher they ever had. It was always more than teaching to her, and we often had extra kids at the dinner table she’d dragged home because they were hungry, or their dad was in jail, or some other calamity had befallen them.
When me and my brothers had our own kids, she slid right into the role of “Grammie,” and the next generation of our family got to fall in love with her. She always reminded me of a mother hen with chicks, with all the grandkids clamoring around her for attention, and her clucking at them, and feeding them goodies. She’s always made her own bread, and somehow always managed to time it so that the bread was just coming out of the oven when the kids showed up. She had miniature loaf pans so the kids could have their own little loaves. We’d all sit around the table breathing in the yeasty warmth and licking the butter off our fingers while exclaiming that “Grammie bread is the best.”
In her forties, my brother set her up with a cast off computer and she taught herself to type, then wrote and published a cook book. She never ceases to amaze me.
If I live to be a hundred, I’ll never come close to the person my Mom is. She is more than a Mom. She’s a mentor, an icon, and I’m proud to call her my best friend. She’s my moral compass and my confidant. We definitely won the Mom lottery when God gave us this assignment.
I could go on for days with stories, but what I really wanted to do was just tell her how much I love her, appreciate and treasure her.
Happy Birthday Mom!