Happy Birthday Mom!

MomBrideSmall

Today would have been my mom’s 80th Birthday. She was a beauty pageant winner (The grand prize in 1956 included spending the day with Elvis), an avid fan of music and the color pink, and as warm and loving of a person as you could ever know. She had a way of connecting with people, even those she was meeting for the first time, that almost always led to a heartfelt hug.

My mother worked at the power company for almost fifty years. People, most of whom were poor, had a disability or were elderly, would pay their utility bill in person so they could visit with her. She had a heart for those whom society had cast aside as useless. Service dogs knew in which desk drawer she kept their treats.

The lobby would sometimes overflow with customers because people would forgo the next available clerk in order to meet with my mother. She was so loved that the utility company adopted a new policy requiring customers to see the next available clerk. Upon her retirement, my mother’s coworkers made her a poster of a cob-web draped skeleton standing in the lobby, When the next available clerk summons him, the skeleton replies, “No thank you. I’m waiting for Mrs. Quinn.”

So much of who I am comes from my mother. She taught me many lessons:

  • Work hard and enjoy your work. From the year I was born until her retirement (36 years), she never missed a day of work. Not one. Even during her last year of work at age 69, she served almost twice as many customers a month as the average clerk. She loved what she did.
  • More important than your job title or any achievement is how you treat people. Shortly before retirement, my mother’s boss shared with her the contents of her work file. Over six hundred messages erupted from the file, written by people who had taken the time to let the power company know how my mother had helped them and how she had treated them with kindness and respect regardless of their social or financial status.
  • When you realize that your best intentions are creating drama, own up to your silliness and have a good laugh. One Christmas my mother purchased decorative paper towels, which she dropped in a sink full of water. She was determined that we use these paper towels throughout the holidays and decided to put them in the microwave to dry them quickly. But she cooked them too long. The paper towels caught on fire. We rushed the roll outside, drowned it in a bucket of water and laughed uncontrollably.
  • Every smidgeon of life is precious. When I was a child I would admire the blooming weeds and wild succulents. When I found one I particularly liked, she would help me dig it up, pot it, and care for it on the back porch. Insects, flowers, birds, amphibians, blooming weeds…pause to appreciate each and life flows with awe.
  • Actual age is much less important than how old you act and feel.  Several years ago my mom told me how much she loved Pink’s new song. I was amazed she even knew who Pink was. My mother always carried herself with a sense of youth and vital energy. At a carnival, my dad, who had failed to win my mom any prizes through his skill, had the brilliant idea to take her to the “guess your weight or age” booth. (I highly discourage this practice for any spouse who values his/her relationship…and life.) My mother, age 55 at time, approached the booth, and the attendant guessed that her age was 38. He offered her any prize, but she replied, “No thank you. Just hearing that I look 38 was prize enough.” Dad dodged a bullet.
  • Little things done with love make a big difference. Every day in my lunch, she placed a napkin with a little note on it, which was also “signed” by our dog Skippy with a pen-drawn paw print. Those love notes read at lunchtime saved me on many a rough day.
  • The best therapy in the world is getting your hands dirty. My mother’s therapy was working in the  yard and her gardens. Tending to the earth seemed to be her way of tending to her soul.
  • A good story is worth its weight in gold. My mother’s way of dealing with a difficult experience  was to turn it into a funny story. One time she was leaving the beauty parlor and instead of putting the car in reverse, she drove forward into a dead tree that fell over on top of her car. She got out of the car and was embarrassed but relieved to see walking in her direction a truck driver, who had stopped and could help her get the tree off her car. He walked up to the car, assessed the situation, and said, “Lady, if I hadn’t see it with my own two eyes I would have never believed anyone could have been so stupid.” He then turned around and walked away, leaving my mother with a dead tree on her car…but with a good story to tell.
  • Give away all of your love here and now, and when someone you love dies, focus on life. Deeply appreciate and love with a full, open heart those in our lives. Even though the pain is great upon their parting, it’s the only way to live without regret. When our dog Skippy died, she sobbed for a day. Then we planted a tree in the front yard to remember him with new life. Standing next to “Skippy’s Tree” we remembered funny stories about him and laughed through our tears.
  • A hand-written note means more than the words it contains. With cell phones and emails dominating communication, my mother still mailed me a letter at least once a week to encourage me and share one thing going on in her life. She would usually enclose a joke, cartoon or sweet story she had read. Mostly it was just to let me know that someone in the world was thinking of me and loved me. I think I miss those letters more than anything else.

Thank you Mom for all you taught me, for the sweet notes, for your loving spirit, for oodles of laughs, and for all the love you gave me throughout my life…and even now. I miss you and love you. Happy Birthday!

This entry was posted in Reflections and Questions and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Happy Birthday Mom!

  1. David Livingston Styers says:

    Beautiful tribute. And thanks for giving me something to look forward for on Monday nights in May!

  2. Mark says:

    Letters…. Agreed. The more hand-written, the better. My mom did the same after I graduated from college and went onward into life’s adventures.

    Peace and Cheers

    • scott says:

      Absolutely Mark! That is why I am so grateful for the wonderful letter you sent me recently. It may be a few weeks, but keep your eyes on the mailbox for something headed your way. Your friendship is a wonderful gift in my life.

  3. Cheryl Driscoll says:

    Elvis! OMG. I remember my Mom and her girl friend going to a movie and coming home, gushing about this young actor. He was a hunk! I realized years later that they were talking about Elvis. My Mom – with a crush on Elvis. I saw as many Elvis movies as I could and – yes – had a crush on him too. I cried when he went from that full of life young man to the man he became. And yes, cried the day that he died. So very sad. I loved the way he worshiped his Mom. As I did mine and you do yours. My Mom died in 1997 and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her terribly. My sister and 2 brothers and I bought a memorial brick in a series of small walls by the ocean, where my Mom walked almost every day. I will drive by it and blow her a kiss on the days I cannot walk up to the brick and finger kiss all 4 corners for us all. She taught me that life doesn’t always deliver flowers and that you have to see past the wishes not fulfilled to the ones that were. Happy Birthday to your Mom and mine (September 6th).

    • scott says:

      Mom said Elvis was the perfect gentleman…”yes ma’am”…polite and kind. My mom had pictures of her three men on her key chain: my dad, me, and Elvis. Cheryl, I loved the sweet of the memorial brick where your mom walked every day. I think touching base with her in that way on a daily basis is just lovely…as is her wisdom to see past the wishes not fulfilled to those that are. Amen! Love, Scott

  4. Sylvie says:

    She sounds like she was quite a gem!! Thanks for sharing, brightened my day and helped me re-appreciate my mum!
    xo Sylvie

    • scott says:

      She was a gem…and still is. I’m glad you took the time to re-appreciate your mum Sylvie. Hope all is well up north!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *