Most days of the year, but mostly during the holidays, I find myself thinking of my mother. My selfless, hysterical (not the screaming, raving kind but the absolutely funny kind) and beautiful mother.
My mom was born into poverty and lost her father at age two. Raised by a single mom and with three older siblings (the oldest who quit school to work and help the family). Uncle John was that sibling. She adored him.
My mom had very low self-esteem and, herself dropped out of high school in her junior year. She’d always worked in factories – that was the only work she could find. She married my father at age 18 and subsequently lost seven, yes, seven babies – some miscarriages and some stillborn. All she wanted in life was a child of her own. My father was a mailman and worked two, sometimes three jobs, to pay for the medications my mother required during the difficult years of losing so many babies.
After the heartache and health complications from losing so many children, my parents set out to adopt. On December 30th, 1966, they adopted me. (I’ll save that story for a future post – it’s a great one!)
Despite the fact that my parents were blue-collar, there was nothing I had need for. I didn’t even realize that we were lower middle class until I was out on my own. I had designer jeans (yeah, I was rocking those Jordache in the 70’s!) and sneakers. We went on family vacations at least once a year and if you ever stepped foot into our house, you were going to eat. My mother cooked for the masses even though there were only three in our little family. She insisted on feeding everyone who came through the door. Her cooking was AMAZING and everyone looked forward to holidays at our house for that reason.
Mom stood just 4’11” tall, but she was a spitfire! Until I was in my 20’s, I had no idea that her natural hair color was brown. She was always a redhead. And, she was FUNNY! I remember her standing on a chair at Uncle John’s house giving a speech to “Mr and Mrs America and all the ships at sea” and, with robot arms, chasing my dad around to give him a kiss.
Unfortunately, we often laughed at her expense, as well. One night, after getting her hair done (this was the 70’s so imagine hair shellacked and piled high in bright red), she was opening a can of tomato sauce which must have had air pockets built up. It literally exploded all over her face and her newly “coiffed” hair. She was livid, but my dad and I still laugh about that today.
Another time, at my cousin’s wedding, she spent hours with a new camera taking photos of everyone and everything. She was so proud of herself, until I commented that she was taking an awful lot of photos on one roll of film (this was before digital cameras). My dad opened the camera to find out that mom never put film in it! Well, mom was never a drinker but she drank three Fuzzy Navels that night!
She was our I Love Lucy.
She was terrified to drive on highways and considered her life’s work complete when she found out that I drove into New York City with a bunch of friends from college.
In 1999, at age 63, my beloved mother passed away from ovarian cancer. When diagnosed, at age 60, they gave her six to nine months to live. Always the one to follow her own rules, she lived two and a half years beyond diagnosis. Looking back, I realized that my mother both gave advice while she was with us and imparted life lessons long after she was gone.
Here are some of the lessons that she continues to teach me:
1) Color is only skin. People should be judged on WHO they are and HOW they make you feel, not what they look like on the outside. We all bleed red.
2) Making others laugh is a gift.
3) You will never love anyone with the amount and kind of love you have for your children (birthed or adopted).
4) Money will buy you things, but will never buy you love.
5) Use your good china. Not just on holidays. Everyday should be celebrated.
6) Cabbage rolls are one of the required food groups for a healthy and happy life.
7) It doesn’t matter if you can’t pronounce aluminum foil or Switzerland (she couldn’t), if you could convey your love to someone else, then you are fluent in the only language that matters.
8) Grandchildren can do no wrong, ever, for any reason, even if they have been suspended from day care for biting..they must have been provoked.
9) None of us will ever be perfect and we all do and say things we wish we never had, but love covers a multitude of sins (even when your child sprays a gallon size bottle of baby powder all over the house for spite or if a mother forgets to use dryer sheets and your teenage daughter spends a day at school with a knee-high stuck to her back).
10) Your mother is the first best friend you will have and will never, ever leave your heart even after they’ve left the physical world.
I love you, mommy..always…
Until next time..
Susan Jane Lazar the First (that was for you, too, mommy!)