I am a choosey mother...that is, a mom who got to choose my babies. After 5 years of marriage, somehow a spineless sperm never managed to find any of the eggs I was hiding and it wasn't for lack of hunting. I hid them quite well behind some strange looking fibroids. But we really, really wanted to be parents and weren't willing to give up so easily. Hey, it was the 50s; Ladies Home Journal said that was what we were supposed to do. We both like kids. We looked into Chinese babies but the paper work was daunting and my doctor suggested we stick closer to home and we did. Finally I was a mom. And so blessed and still being blessed.
I look at today and realize how much I miss my own mother and think about what she gave me...the advice and a lot of love, a whole lot of love. I had a truly wonderful childhood...she saw to that through thick and thin...she and my grandmother who came to live with us when my dad was drafted into WWII. I never went hungry, always had clean clothes (hand-washed...no machine), was treated with kindness and probably spoiled. Mother was forced to enter the work force to support us and day care was nearly impossible. She and I rode two buses to get to day care and she then rode another back to the office at Internal Revenue and then repeated it all in reverse to get us back home. We were both miserable with the day care situation...enter Grandmother Bonnie from Oklahoma who had been widowed at 32 with 4 children and supported them all by working in a general store in a little town in southeastern Oklahoma. She left her home and friends of many years and came to Austin to be there to give me breakfast and send me off in the morning and when I returned, banging the screen door after school.
With a great love or music I wanted desperately to learn to play the piano. My friends were learning but we had no money or room for a piano in our little two bedroom house. My resourceful mom made an arrangement with the old lady next door who had a piano for me to practice on hers. I was thrilled, rode my bike to Mrs. Sheely's house for lessons a couple of miles away and came home to practice. I have never been sorry that I can read music and play a little still. Thank you, Mom.
From the two of them I learned that women are strong, courageous risk-takers who can support a family and be independent. I learned the importance of kindness and compassion, to care for family, friends and neighbors. Though not from the deep South, I learned the value of good manners, a love of fabric with an appreciation for fine clothing even if created by ourselves. I learned to stand up straight and keep my chin up. I learned to find the humor in the midst of chaos and disappointment. I learned the difference in loving someone and not necessarily accepting their behavior. I learned never to wear white before Easter or after Labor Day...especially white shoes, white blouses and sweaters were the exception. I learned how to be a good friend. I learned to brush my hair every day and how to make breaded veal cutlets with white gravy. And fudge, of course. I learned never to suck loudly on a straw and that it was naughty to stick my tongue out at someone. I learned how to set a proper table with silverware in the proper order. I was supported in my passion for reading and in creating art (until I got to college when I was channelled into pre-law/pre-med liberal arts as "You will never make a living as an artist."). I was told to study Latin in high school and found it to be my favorite and most memorable class. My grandmother told me to never marry until I was 30 and to go out and see the world. I was told that only gypsies and Mexicans pierce their ears. Paradoxically, I learned to question everything.
I didn't follow all those admonishments. If Mother could only see the piercings in my granddaughter's ears and it took me 15 years to get past that admonition and get two piercings in both ears.
I married at 21 and did get to see the world after my children were grown.
Most importantly out of all of this I learned to love and be loved unconditionally and hopefully my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren have learned or will learn to do the same. But I can't help but wonder what my children and grandchildren will take with them as good advice or some little silly nonsense about how to live their own lives. What have I passed on from the generations before me? Only they can answer that.