For Mother’s Day, it seemed fitting to pay tribute to our first and most influential talent crushes, our moms. We love you Stephanie and Joan!
My mom was ahead of her time. If Pinterest and Instagram had been around in the 70s and 80s, she would have had a million followers. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but she would carefully put away a little bit of money each month to make sure she could throw us perfect birthday parties, with a delicious homemade cake, pretty decorations, tasty snacks and fun games.
She also sewed us clothes that were amazing. My favorite thing that she ever made for me was a terry cloth romper with parrots printed all over it. It was RAD! If I could replicate that outfit, I would rock it in a heartbeat. There was also a rainbow collared t-shirt that I wore with my Mork & Mindy rainbow suspenders and a sweet Laura Ingalls Wilder dress, that I would use to play Little House on the Prairie. Both of my daughters wore that dress for costumes and school plays. Her profile would have been amazing.
I often come across articles about growing up in the 70s with stories of parents who barely paid attention to their kids. My mom wasn’t like that at all. She knew where my sister and I were and who we were with. She got to know our friends and their parents. She drove us all around town to activities and stood up to any teacher/coach/bully who didn’t treat us with the respect she deemed we deserved.
Later, when my sister and I were older, my mom went back to work full time and instead of sewing us clothes, she worked her ass off to buy us the occasional pair of Guess jeans and dresses at the Gunne Sax outlet in San Francisco for proms and graduations. We would drive into the city in her awesome hot pink Geo Metro. I am really dating myself here, but those were good times! She and my dad worked and commuted hours upon hours from the central valley of California to the Bay Area to be able to send us both to college, with no student loans. I can’t express my gratitude enough for that lasting and meaningful gift.
When my kids were born, my parents moved from the Bay Area to Santa Barbara to be closer and my mom sewed quilts and curtains for the baby’s room. My husband would arrive at their house, unannounced with cups of Starbucks and a baby in the early morning hours to let me sleep in and my parents let him in without complaint.
My mom set the bar high. She taught me to throw myself into the mothering experience, to lavish love and attention and to express love fully. I could go on and on singing her praises. I love you, Mom!
When I was 22 years old I was unmarried, pregnant and a junior college drop out. And I lived in a basement. When I told my mom I was pregnant, she clapped her hands and hugged me and cried tears of joy. This reaction made zero sense to me. My mom was staunchly pro-choice, an atheist and famously short tempered with every human being she ever met. She thought 98% of the world’s population was just taking up valuable space. She hated every single one of the many neighbors we had over the years. And yet she was genuinely thrilled at the news that her daughter was bringing a new human into the world. What? Why?
I was not a highly competent 22 year old. Remember, I lived in a basement. But my mom never once made me feel as if I couldn’t handle my choice to become a parent. To this day I don’t understand why my mom didn’t move in next door to me and make me let her help me raise the baby. I knew NOTHING about babies. But she never made me feel as if I couldn’t handle being a mom.
The truth was, my mom thought I was smart. She thought I was funny and intelligent and that there was nothing I couldn’t do. And she told me that a lot. She said things like, “What a good idea!” and “I never would have thought of that, you’re so smart.” And I knew she meant it because my mom had zero ability to flatter people. If she thought you were doing something idiotic, she would tell you. In detail.
It was not easy being my mother’s daughter. But being my mother’s daughter was the luckiest thing that ever happened to me. She taught me that what I thought was more important than what I looked like. She was a terrible teacher so instead of teaching me to sew, she gave me all the tools and a book and said, “When you get stuck come and ask me and I’ll help you.” She taught me the value of solitude. She taught me basic math skills by teaching me to play 21. She taught me to prefer Gene Kelly over Fred Astaire and Frank Sinatra over Bing Crosby because Astaire and Crosby were (in her mind) cold and too often perfect for her liking. She once quit a lucrative job because she realized she was miserable when she failed to laugh at a Bugs Bunny cartoon we were watching.
She read voraciously. She loved movies. She thought Bob Hope was the funniest person who ever lived and every time Ray Charles sang “Georgia on My Mind” she would cry and then pretended as if her allergies were acting up. Her mother’s name was Georgia and she died when my mom was 21. My mom missed her mom every day after that and it wasn’t until the day after my mom died that I understood.
And, now that my older son is the same age I was when I had him, I try to treat him with the same respect that my mom treated me. When he tells me he’s going to do something that maybe I think is a stupid idea, I keep it to myself. I listen to my son, I encourage him to think through his ideas and I tell him he is smart and competent and I remind him not to fool himself into thinking that life is easy. I try to keep the unsolicited advice to a minimum and mostly I remember my mom’s reaction when I told her I was pregnant. Her joy was a sign that deep down, my mom believed in me. And so I try to greet my children in that same spirit.
I am my mother’s daughter and that has made all the difference.