Thursday, February 9, 2012

Things I Learned from My Mother

Think outside the box.  I learned this from Mom.  She never told me that, but I watched her do it.  When she discovered that my brother was so social that he couldn't stand to be alone, she used it to her advantage. The worst punishment she could administer was the silent treatment.  He would clean his room, mop the kitchen floor, or anything else to get back in her good graces.

My personality is the opposite of my brother's, and I tend to be an introvert.  I don't need much conversation, and can spend hours alone as long as there is music or noise around me.  The older I get, the less noise I need.  Mom worried for a long time, I think, that I would end up in some log cabin in the back woods by myself or something.  Mom was very modest -- okay, she was a prude. She would blush at the mention of the word belly button.  Thinking outside the box, however, she bought me a halter top in about 1972.  Apparently, she thought I needed to spice up my life a little and have people notice me.  It worked.

Sometimes go with the fad and it will go away.  The summer before I went into Junior High School Mom knew that the kids in Junior High wore makeup.  She didn't like makeup at that age, but was wise enough not to force rebellion.  So she went with it.  She bought me makeup.  She showed me how to use it.  I played with that makeup all summer.  By the time school started in the fall, I was over and done with it.  Problem solved.  (I used this on my own kids, too, and it worked like a charm.)

Don't be a wuss.  Mom never backed down to anyone if she thought she was right.  Considering this woman lived between 1921 and 1991, that's pretty impressive.  She went toe to toe and eye to eye with the best of them, including Joe Conforte's body guard who wasn't going to let her park in her regular parking place at my Dad's office.  She won that argument, by the way.

Know when to speak up and when to wait.  Mom and Dad always told us that if a teacher said white is black, white is black. They would stand by our teachers even if they were wrong, until the last day of the school year.  Mom waited patiently all year, and then she would write a note to the teacher explaining any injustice that we had suffered during the school year.

Major injustices, however, were dealt with swiftly.  My fifth grade teacher should have been teaching in a prison.  To say she was strict would be the understatement of the century.  If she caught a child yawning in her classroom, the whole class stayed after school 45 minutes.  Mom tolerated this for several months without a word.  Then one spring day there was a radio announcement to pick up your children from school instead of letting them walk home.  Wind was upwards of 90 miles per hour, and there were downed power lines all over town.  I was supposed to walk home, but Mom came to pick me up.  She waited the full 45 minutes after school was out.  When I reached the car, she said, "Wait here." She got out of the car and marched to the office.  Suddenly, 30 other parents fell in line behind her.  I don't know what she said, but the teacher was fired at the end of the year, and word on the street was that Mom did it.

Take your time, make small stitches, and make the back look as good as the front.  She taught me this when I learned to do embroidery work, as well as when I learned to hem dresses and pants.  I was doing some embroidery work today, and I'm happy to say that I kept checking the back to make sure it was neat.  This applies to all aspects of life.  Nobody ever looks at the back of an embroidered dish towel to see what it looks like -- except the person who did the work.  I'm not going to lift the hem of my friend's pants to see if it is neat.  It's a matter of pride in workmanship.  When I became a legal secretary, back in the days of the typewriter, I took great pride in the caption page of all my documents.  It took time to do this:

John Doe,                )      Case No.:  12345
     Plaintiff,             )
  vs.                       )      Motion for Summary Judgment
Mary Smith,             )
     Defendant.         )
Mary Smith,             )
     Cross-Plaintiff,     )
  vs.                       )
John Doe,                )
     Cross-Defendant. )

(By the way, it took time in this format!)  I took pride in that caption and having every ) in the right place and all the spacing perfect.  The judge isn't going to care if there is one extra space before an ), but I cared.  I'm sad that technology has changed that whole process because we lost so much of our sense of ownership in the work product.  Mom taught me work ethic and pride in the final product.

Be a strong and loyal wife.  Mom never said a bad thing about my Dad, even when he was wrong.  She was loyal to him forever. This is not to say that they didn't have arguments, because they did, but they were a team.  Whatever they decided at the end of that argument was law, even if she lost the argument.  She would stand behind the decision.  She was strong in other ways.  Dad was a salesman, a World War II and Korean War veteran, and prone to occasional depression.  She took whatever measures necessary to get him out of the doldrums, even if it meant dragging him up in the mountains for several weeks of camping and R&R.  The last few years before Dad passed away, he was quite ill. Mom had not worked for many years, but she worked as his secretary to keep an eye on him so if he fell ill, she was at his side.  When he could no longer work, she found a job -- which isn't easy to do when you haven't worked in 20 some odd years.

Don't be afraid to learn.  When Mom went back to work, the computer was just becoming an office staple.  She learned computer programs before I did, and convinced her boss to send her to Texas for a week of computer classes.  Mom was learning new things until the day she died.

Mom taught me many more things.  I've written more about Dad in my blog than I have about Mom because Dad was such an eccentric guy that there always seems to be a story to tell. Mom's lessons have not escaped me, though, and I want my posterity to know about this great woman and her great pioneer spirit.

1 comment:

  1. My sister, Colleen, left this post on Facebook, and I wanted to save it here:

    "I had forgotten about her going nose to nose with Conforte's body guard. LoL When the singing group I was in as a kid needed money to put on a concert, donations were scarce. Mom thought nothing about calling up Joe Conforte--whom she had never met-- and asking him for an anonymous donation. He gave big year after year. And mom would put in the back of the program something like 'Our Gratitude to an Anonymous Donor.'"