I tend to write about or mention my Dad quite a lot. My Dad did some really amazing things in his life and he was a pretty brilliant example of the kind of person I hope to be on a daily basis. But this weekend I was thinking a lot about my Mom. See in our house growing up Dad was the acknowledged Thinker Of Big Thoughts and Mom was the Doer Of What Needs Doing. Now that doesn’t mean that Mom didn’t, doesn’t, think big thoughts or that Dad didn’t do all manner of things that needed doing. But they had their specialties and respected each other’s dominant talents. Mom’s thinking abilities were, are, just as good and deep as Dad’s but she tended to focus them in different ways and areas…and thank all the gods she did. Otherwise I’m not sure we’d have grown up with as much safety and security as we did. See Mom was the person who insisted we live within our financial means. Mom was the person who insisted that if the roof needed fixing then we’d just have to fix it ourselves. Mom was the person who refused to buy new living room furniture because paying for music lessons and dance lessons and ski trips and theatre tickets was more important. I’m pretty sure I was out of college before my Mom bought a piece of new living room furniture and she is still using some of the bedroom furniture that she’s had since she was in high school. My Mom was in high school in the early 1950’s.
Now this isn’t because Mom is super crazy thrifty, though she sort of is…but it’s always for a purpose of paying for what she thinks is important. So when it came time to buy a house it meant she and Dad bought a house they could afford without being broke all the time. So we didn’t live in a fancy new house in the fancy expensive neighborhood. We lived in a fixer upper (and trust me when I say it needed some fixing when we moved in to it) in a decent middle class neighborhood where people drove Fords and Chevys and eventually Toyotas and Hondas. It meant we didn’t eat out except for VERY special occasions. It meant we did our own car repairs to the best of Dad’s abilities (I was QUITE good at assisting with fluid changes and brake pad installs on a 70’s era Chevelle). It meant holiday weekends were camping in the local mountains and vacations were spent camping in the Sequoia National Park. It meant that Mom and Dad did without a LOT of things they would have liked to have so that my brother and I could grow up having a lot of really amazing experiences.
To be honest Dad would have had a hard time making those kinds of decisions consistently on his own, but for Mom it was just what you did, you prioritized what was truly important. New carpet or sofas or clothes or a fancy car was just not important when stacked up against having enough money to pay your bills and still be able to take your kids to the theatre and rent them a trumpet and a flute. No one appreciated Mom’s ability to keep Dad in check more than Dad.
I didn’t really realize what an amazing gift all of that was until I was much older. I didn’t realize how little I had to worry about as a kid simply because Mom was willing to be the Doer Of What Needs Doing. You never doubted that you could depend on Mom to show up when she said she would and would do exactly what she said she would. I have thanked her for that because I realize now it’s not so easy to be that person in a family. It often makes you a bit unpopular. But Mom could take it. Eventually you get old enough to put the pieces together and realize exactly who it was that made sure there was always enough of what was needed and a shocking amount of what was wanted.
Now, the other thing about Mom…she was, is, the Bringer Of Courage, Play and Imagination. So if you were trying to figure out the meaning of life you’d go to Dad and have some long deep chat about…oh you know…stuff. But if you were trying to figure out what to do with the life you had…in the microcosm or the macrocosm you went to Mom. So…bored on a rainy day go see what Mom can suggest…usually reading or coloring or playing with the Lite Bright (she would join you in ALL of those). Not sure if you should marry the person you are engaged to, go see Mom (she’ll give it to you straight and love you no matter what you do). Not sure if you can really do that thing you really want to do…well to be honest both Mom and Dad were pretty great about encouragement. But Mom is the absolute best about helping you keep shit in perspective. She’s always saying things like, “Well yeah maybe it’ll be a bust but won’t it be fun trying?”
I’ve always felt pretty damned blessed to have the parents I’ve had. They gave me a fine solid foundation, they let me screw up which I did plenty of and in some pretty serious ways, they loved me but didn’t incapacitate me by fixing everything for me and between the two of them I’ve learned to keep my feet on the ground and my heart filled with hope and humor. So guess as much as I hope to be like my Dad I also hope to be like my Mom.