"Everything I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother."
My mother played sort of the backup and supportive role in our family, across many different areas of our lives. My dad was a public figure, and he was distinguished in his field, and he was a character, and commanded a good deal of attention.
Many people don’t know that my mother was highly influential in our family; she was a strong influence on my father, and on her children.
My mom is 83 years old, and lives in a nice retirement community, about a mile and half from my sister and her husband and three kids, in the town of Evanston, IL, a suburb of Chicago.
Mom stays active, although physically she has slowed a bit. It is nice that my sis and her family are so close to her – and my mom sees them frequently and is over their house weekly for Sunday dinner. What is also nice is that my sis’s kids get over to where my mom lives to visit and have dinner with “Grammy.”
My sister’s oldest child, Win, a senior in high school, is sometimes appointed chauffer duties to transport my mom to various places, including church for mass.
My mom grew up in the small town of Maynard, MA. She was the youngest of three children.
My mom’s mother, a schoolteacher, was my mom’s dad’s second wife. My mom’s dad, who left school in 6th grade to help support his family – and who was a founder and president of a bank, and who served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives – was 26 years older than my grandmother.
Maynard borders the town of Concord - the town in which my dad grew up. One day my mom was with friends watching a high school football game in which my dad was playing for Concord High School. That was the first time my mom saw my dad.
Mom and Dad were married in 1957 and moved to Easton where my dad was a teacher and coach.
My brother, Creig, was born in 1958, then came me in 1963, and then my sister, Suzy, in 1965.
Mom has always had a curious mind; she is cultured, a Catholic and religiously devout, enjoys reading, her exercise classes, travel, and meeting and talking with people.
Among the qualities I admire in my mother is that as the matriarch of the family that was so deeply enmeshed in athletics – and even though I don’t think she enjoyed athletics much at all – she poured her emotion into backing our athletic pursuits.
She knew sports was important – even if it wasn’t much her thing. Although she did believe strongly in exercise, of the moderate variety, namely walking – which she did regularly herself.
Another funny thing, and I am totally serious here. My mother graduated from Maynard High School in 1946, a year after the end of World War II.
Back then, in the small town of Maynard, there was not much in the way of sports for girls – but I wonder, and I really do, if my mom might have been something in the way of an athlete. Her brother, George, was a standout athlete.
You see – and my dad and I would joke about this – how in an everyday task in the house, sometime it would fall upon one of us to throw something down the stairs or across the room, or whatever. So we would like to test my mother – and we would hurl something her way. And my mom, casually, and with noteworthy agility, would pluck the thrown object from the air.
I would comment on my mom’s skill on grabbing the object – and my dad would smile and lightly laugh, and comment that he noted the athleticism as well.
(A background note – my dad died in January of 1991; my mom has been widowed now for 21 years.)
My mom had and continues to have an independent spirit – and I have been advised and improved by this.
My brother won’t like that I recall this story – but I recall a major post-season high school basketball game he was coaching in Boston, and the team he was coaching was getting blown out – and suddenly who appears in his team’s huddle during a timeout but my mother – who, as I have noted above, is religiously devout.
What was my mom doing in the huddle? Well, she was calmly administering Holy Water to the players.
My brother was slightly horrified. But, as for me, considering the numbers posted on the scoreboard at the time, I was thinking it was a very smart move.
When I was a kid, my mother gave to me and my siblings one of the most valuable and nurturing and soul enriching gifts – she read to us. Among the texts I remember my mother reading and sharing were two poems, both classics, absolutely gorgeous in literary annals: Henry Wordworth Longfellow’s “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” and Edgar Allen Poe’s “Annabelle Lee.”
My mom would also regale her children with stories of heroic and great deeds from history.
She believed strongly in exulting about and holding up for admiration the noble accomplishments and feats of the past.
My mom was and is a stickler for etiquette – and had in her library at our home a book by Letitia Baldrige, the etiquette expert who served as Jacqueline Kennedy’s social secretary at the White House.
My mom would say to us, “When you have dinner at the White House, I do not want you to be self conscious.”
I have not had dinner at the White House – not yet. But when I do, I assure you that I will know how to act and comport myself. And I will not be self conscious.
While not a civic leader or heavily involved in any groups, my mom set a good example in giving in Easton. She gave at , including teaching Christian Doctrine. She volunteered in the school system, helping to teach reading. She helped out with a Brownies troop. She volunteered at human service agencies.
A talent with which my mom has been blessed – and which she has worked on a bit to develop – is that she has a beautiful voice (she has performed in several choirs). A skill of my mom’s as well is that she has extraordinarily elegant and refined penmanship – her cursive writing is something to behold (even if age has impinged on it somewhat, making the writing far more cramped than it had been).
My mom had a spirited and tough streak. She has mellowed a bit. I remember early on in my matriculation at Boston College – which I attended on an athletic scholarship – I came home and lamented to her lightly that among my dorm mates I came from more modest financial circumstances.
This may have been true – but if so the divide between me and them really wasn’t that wide. And I’m confident I came from more comfortable material circumstances than did many at BC at the time. You see, basically, I was just trolling for some sympathy.
I had gone to the wrong source for sympathy – for my mom, immediately and sternly, lectured me that it was up to me as to what would be my sociological status and bearing, and how I would be judged and looked upon.
My mom often educated and reminded her children that “even the poorest of poor can have breeding.” When enlightening us with this truth, she would cite as an example a family friend who grew up with next to nothing, money wise – yet who became established, deeply respected, and of stalwart character.
Yes, my mom taught me, and she taught all of us kids, and she taught my father, right.
And she remains right about so much.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!!
I love you!!