4th Grade International Cooking Days at school (most creative room mom ever!), watching me roll – and roll – down the hill at Lorado Taft, Crimes of the Heart in college when I cried on stage and could hear her sniffling in the audience almost as loud as me, the birth of my daughter, annual American Girl Place visits when Arianna was little . . . These only comprise a taste of special experiences I have shared with my mother – the one person in my life who is always there when I need a shoulder to cry on, an ear for listening, or a hand of support. I know of no one as selfless as she. My mother helps others before she helps herself, she makes life fun for those near her, and she is someone I want to be like when I grow up.
My mother puts the happiness of those she is close to before the happiness of herself. Throughout my life and my brother’s life, my mother has spent maybe one eighth of the time on herself. The rest is devoted to her family. She is either driving back and forth to my home to pick up my daughter when I have a schedule conflict or on the phone to offer an ear to Dave or taking my grandmother out shopping. When we were little, all of her decisions revolved around our well-being: she chose a job as a waitress so that she could be home with us during the day; she chose to maintain our home after our father died so that our lives would remain nearly the same; she chose to work more hours to fortify the lifestyle she thought we needed to be happy. Her caring doesn’t stop with my brother or me. She was the one who opened up our home to her mother and father when her mother became ill with cancer. (Of course, I was excited that grandma and grandpa were living with us; I didn’t understand the extra stress it placed on my mother’s life.) She was the one who looked after my grandfather who moved a few blocks away after my grandmother passed away. When her sister was dieing of breast cancer, she was the one who took her to and from her doctor appointments. In other words, she was – and is – the one who is there whenever family or friend is in need.
While striving to help others in any way that she can, my mother still manages to make life fun. Our home was always filled with fun toys, loving pets, happy music, and sweet smells. We were the only house on the block to hold a Fun Fair for the neighborhood complete with games and prizes, arts and crafts, and movies. Summers were filled with swimming in the backyard and Mom bringing out lunch on a tray with LHDRUs (ask me what that stands for later!). Christmas was a magical time, transforming our home from a suburban dwelling to Santa’s dreamhouse. Little elves abounded everywhere as everything from the welcome mat to the mantle centerpiece to the pictures on the wall evolved to Christmas décor. To this day, my daughter still finds Christmas Eve at “Gum’s” house as her favorite night of the year. Whenever my brother and I were sick, she would bring us food in bed, move a T.V into our room, and buy us magazines. I take pride in knowing I have a great role model for creating a happy home for my daughter.
For these reasons and more, I want to be like Natalie Theresa when I grow up. As I smooth the cream on my face at night, I can only hope that my skin displays as few wrinkles as hers. As I exercise daily, I can only wish that her washboard abs stay with me. As I force myself to think positive thoughts in tough situations, I can only aspire to be as optimistic as her. Natalie is a woman to admire. She transitioned to a completely new and successful real estate career at age fifty. She bought a new home and took on a new lifestyle at age sixty. She maintains numerous friendships that are thirty years old or older including high school buddies. She is privy to the latest fashions and could easily pass for someone fifteen to twenty years younger. She maintained the reputation among my and my brother’s friends as “the coolest mom around;” or, as some high school friends still remembered at my 20-year reunion – she’s a “hot mom.”
The last time I wrote a letter commemorating how significant my mother is in my life was for her fiftieth birthday. Well did we know then where we would be today. Teaching was only a distant dream, my daughter was barely three, and I had yet to endure the pain of divorce. She helped make that teaching dream turn into a reality by her constant support and care. Right now I can only imagine where I will be ten years from now. But I do know this – whatever current dreams I have, they will be more likely to happen with her constant love and positive encouragement to guide me along the way.