It should come as no surprise that I love being a mom. I had a very good role model, after all. All growing up, I knew that my mother loved me more than anybody on Earth. And really, I’ve always been pretty sure there was no one that would love my mother as much as I did. Don’t get me wrong; Everybody loves my Mom. It’s hard not to. My mother, probably following in the footsteps of her own mother, is a hard worker and a big giver. Over the years, though I was my mother’s only child, many people have found their way into and out of her care. My mother has taken in various relatives, such as my cousins from time to time. It seems my mother is happiest when she’s helping others. She’s an all around good person. But that’s not what makes her a good mother, necessarily.
My mom does amazing things, naturally. One of the things I loved best about my mother is that she is generous. At one time, my mother owned the Snover Party Store. (And for those of you who do not hail from Michigan, a “party” store is like a convenient store of sorts, as opposed to an adult themed store…) Each year, my mother would buy several pumpkins to put into her store. She had no intention of selling these pumpkins, rather she would give them to the local children and encourage them to carve them. Then, she would have a pumpkin carving contest in her store. Though the winner would go home with a great goodie bag, no child would go home empty handed. On the day before Halloween, (known as Devil’s night in Michigan, which is a night synonymous for teenage pranks) she would leave a number of pumpkins out in front of her store, in hopes that the nearby teens looking for trouble might target those pumpkins rather than those of the surrounding residents. And oddly, the Snover Party Store rarely found pumpkin guts smeared across it’s front. As you might imagine, each holiday has a similar story. We collected boxes and adopted families around the community for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Most residents enjoyed a few treats on the house when their birthdays rolled around each year. Every kid that left out our door was given a pretzel rod. (This was a tradition my grandma had started.) The community grew to respect her. This though, was not what made my mother a great mom.
One day, the Snover Party Store burned right to the ground. My mother was left devastated. In the back of her store was the apartment that she took residence in. We thought we were blessed only in that no one was injured in the fire, but we knew it was going to be difficult to rebuild her home and livelihood. Much to our surprise, one by one, many of her loyal customers came forward to offer a service in the rebuild. Beautiful concrete flooring, drywalling, marble counter tops, roofing was all donated. When all was said and done, her measly insurance plan had covered only the materials, and somehow the community had set her up in a store much nicer than she had imagined. All of those years of dedication and devotion to her community had come back to comfort her during that disaster in her life. And in those days, my mother who was so good at giving, had to concede to the burden of accepting help when it was offered, which can be a tough lesson to learn. And though my mother humbly accepted and appreciated all of the wonderful blessing her community sent back in her direction, this was also not what made my mother a wonderful mom.
When the store was rebuilt, my mother and I were sitting at the register one night, trying to decide what to do with her vast but beautifully painted white drywalls. Of course, her loyal beer distributors had supplied her with some fantastic beer mirrors, but they only took up so much space. The store still felt huge and a little empty. At that point, as I sometimes do, I had a whim. I suggested that we paint the palms of our customers, one by one, and have them stamp our walls with their hand prints. And then, we could have them sign their palms, to show that their helping hands had made this rebuild possible, and their generosities would not be forgotten. I suggested that we collect a dollar each time someone placed a paint print on the wall, and we collect that money and save for any other unforeseen issue. My mother did not completely agree with this idea. I mean, after all, who would consider letting their teenage daughter paint hand prints all over the brand new walls of a professional establishment in a weak attempt to collect money? Instead, she found a cute fire hydrant bank to collect the money in, and we donated it to the local volunteer fire department who had so generously donated many hours to putting out the fire that raged where home once had been. Her brightly colored walls became an attraction to people passing through our small town. People would go to the walls and look back at the tiny foot prints and hand prints that their children had left throughout the years. I still take my boys there to show them their tiny footprints each time we pass through.
All my life, my mother allowed me to tell her even my most outlandish ideas. She would never degrade them, never judge them, and if at all possible, she would encourage them and help me make them real. And when I tried something new and did not succeed, she allowed me to make and learn from my own mistakes, and she was quick to forgive and move on. My mother inspired me, and allowed for me to be inspired. That is what makes her a good mom.
Now as luck would have it, another person has taken a similar shine to my mother. My oldest son, Jake, since the time he was born, has adored his Grandma Linda. Though Ben works diligently to be sure he has grandma’s attention at all times when she is in the room, no one has ever adored my mother in the same way I do until Jake. I asked him one day why he was so fond of his grandma, and he said so simply, “because she loves me. She loves me just like I am.” And I knew immediately what he meant. My mom is really very good at showing people that they are loved. And it’s hard not to love that!
Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you very much, and I love how you’ve inspired me to be a mother.