I wonder what my mom wanted to be when she grew up. I wonder if a girl who was born in 1926, is the youngest of 14 kids, and grows up in a very small farming community in the middle of Nebraska has the luxury of dreaming about adult options. Given the 14 kids, her mother obviously did nothing much beyond be pregnant and rear children. I doubt she had much time to counsel Mom on all of the options available to women, especially since the options were few: mostly marry and have your own kids. Maybe to a teachers’ college if your family can scrape together a few bucks…..
I never talked to my mother about her dreams. As I grow older, it makes me sad that I didn’t ask her more questions. It wasn’t until after she died that we learned that my mother didn’t finish high school. We were very surprised to learn that she left school at 16 because Mom was very smart. Her grammar was always perfect, she was a great speller, she had a firm grasp of math, and perhaps most important, she knew how to navigate life. With a mom almost totally unavailable to her, the accomplishment is commendable.
As it turned out, no matter what her dreams were, what she did accomplish was being an excellent mother of four relatively sane children, a wife for 46 years to a man with whom she held hands even to the end of her life, a hard-working and smart-as-a-whip business partner with my dad, and someone who never backed down from her convictions. Much to our chagrin, sometimes. When our friends’ parents were telling their kids that the nuns could do no wrong so put up with it, our mom was taking them on if she felt they were wrong. That’s a good example to set for your kids about the imperfections of authority figures.
Because there is such a difference in the ages of my siblings and me, we really had unique parenting experiences. So, generalizations are dangerous. But I can tell you that I never had discussions with my mother about expectations of adulthood. I never remember her asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I didn’t feel abandoned; instead, I mostly felt like she trusted my decisions. Well, maybe trust isn’t the correct word. Maybe it was that she accepted my decisions. And believe me, I made some doozies. I wonder what sorts of conversations Mom and Dad had when it came to some of the choices I made as an adult.
Last Sunday was my great-nephew Asher’s birthday, and it brought back a memory. At my dad’s funeral in 2010, I remember that while most of his grandkids sat in the front of the church, four of the grandkids (or their spouses) stood in the back of the church bouncing their fussy infant kids: Maggie (Austin), Kacy (Lexi), Court (Mylee), and Christopher (Asher). It always makes me sad that Mom never knew a single one of her great grandkids, because had she been strong and well, she would have LOVED them.
At the end of the day, after I began my nostalgic musings yesterday, I concluded that while my mother might not have had the options that were available to her kids, she never looked back. That’s why she was so loved by her husband, her kids, and her grandkids. She was really good at her job.