- Compassion and Enthusiasm. My mom is the only mother I’ve ever known who cried while listening to Nirvana’s “All Apologies” and the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Under the Bridge”, and who wrote Hulk Hogan “get well” letters when he was injured and considering retirement back in 1990. She truly felt for damn near everyone, and when something struck her interest, she completely immersed herself in it.
- Appreciation for music. I grew up surrounded by stacks of records and 45s. My mom listened to everything from Bobby Darin and Frankie Valli to Eminem. Listening to music was not a passive activity in my home. I had no concept of “background music”. When you put a record on, you sat there and listened to it..every single note, every pop and crackle. I could have never known as a kid, but listening to music with my mother has influenced everything in my life from my academic career (I aced the History of Jazz and Rock and Roll effortlessly, as a result) to my personal relationships (my mother was active in the local music scene when she was younger, going out to see her cousins’s bands. Her first husband played pedal steel guitar, if I remember correctly. She always told me to “stay away” from musicians. Obviously, I haven’t listened ).
- Appreciation for my heritage
I’m primarily Polish, Scottish, and Cherokee on my mother’s side of the family, and these roots come through strong. From my mom, I learned not just to revere the histories and traditions of my ancestors, but to seek them out in the first place.
- Education has very little to do with school. My mom was a high school drop out, who left school in the 10th grade. She was also (and continues to be) one of the smartest people I’ve ever known. She sought out information in her free time, and never let her mind remain idle. While she pushed me to be successful in school, I realized that ultimately, it would be the ways in which I sought out and applied my knowledge that would determine my success–not the grades I received, or what my teachers thought of me. I spent 18 years of my life in school. It taught me how to be a good student, but there are certainly other ways to acquire knowledge and develop skills. And I don’t ever take my own knowledge for granted. There will always be someone who knows more than I do…and the lessons I learn from a kindergarten kid, or someone with an 8th-grade education are just as valuable (and likely moreso) than anything I could learn in a classroom.
- An affinity for cold coffee. My mom always drank coffee…hot coffee, iced coffee, it didn’t matter. She drank it first thing in the morning, and I’d often wake to the “clink clink” sound of the spoon hitting the side of her mug. Instead of milk, she’d dunk her oreos in coffee…and at night, she’d have a cup of coffee to unwind before she went to bed. When I was very young, I’d ask for sips of her coffee, so she’d save just a tiny bit and let it get cold in the cup so I could drink it. Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but I’ve always preferred my coffee that way. You’ll never see me nuke a cup of coffee as a result.
and a few random memories:
- the smell of sun-warmed baby oil
- twisting caramel wrappers
- dancing the mashed potato
- left-handed script
- St. Anne
- Elvis, Elvis, Elvis
Happy Mother’s Day to all those with a warm, nurturing spirit. May every day be a celebration of what you bring to the lives of others.