Happy Birthday Mom!
This little blog has been around for what feels like a long time now (it will be a year old in May!), and we haven’t done a proper homage to the mother of these five devoted sisters. I think her birthday is as good a time as any for us to talk about how wonderful and important she’s been in our lives.
Janna: It’s kind of like preaching to the choir, isn’t it. You know my mama. You know her creativity and love of beauty heard in her music and seen in her gardens, house projects, and love of dance. A friend of mine and I were talking about our desert island discs the other day–what 8 recorded pieces of music we’d like to have with us if stranded on a desert island–and I decided that one would be one of the piano pieces that we grew up hearing Mom playing, though one of her grand pipe organ pieces might be in high running now.
You know her organization and eye for detail. She is one of the main movers and shakers in so many projects at work, church, family and social gatherings, coordinates a summer carillon concert series every summer, and loves her clean house and free of clutter. You know her patience. I know now that my natural inclination towards forgetfulness and what I like to call creative chaos probably drove her a little (a lot?) crazy when I was younger, but she did not show that frustration as I grew. Her example has helped me learn to cope with those disorganized tendencies of mine.
You know her love, and tender and giving heart. Besides loving Dad and raising us, I could name many people that she has given time and energy to, especially people who others might have given up on much sooner. The main reason that I was able to get healthy in my 30s is because she refused to give up on looking for answers for my pain long after I had.
You know how much more she is–social, sarcastic, thoughtful and interested in truth, persistent, and more. Raising 5 kids could not have been easy but how glad I am that I was one of that five. Happy birthday, Mom! I love you.
Rachel: I have been thinking a lot about what I treasure most about Mom, and the strongest memories I have of her when I was growing up. I remember watching her hands a lot, especially when she played the piano. I remember thinking how lucky I was to be able to have so much music in the house growing up. I loved it when Mom practiced the piano and I still think of her when I hear Chopin (particularly Ballade #4, my favorite!). I think of her whenever I have the urge to conduct an imaginary orchestra with dramatic flourishes. I think of her when I bake cookies, and I hear her instructions to take the cookies out when they are still a little underdone, so they finish cooking the last minute or so on the cookie sheet. She taught me how to knead bread and how to play the piano. She enjoyed her job and took us to her rehearsals and concerts. We grew up running around empty theaters and watching her on stage. She showed all of us that with a supportive partner, you can balance the demands of home and career (even with 5 children!).
I admire that Mom is a go-getter kind of person. She helped so much when I decided to become a nurse, and needed to transfer from Houghton to EMU. I didn’t realize how instrumental she was in that process until my pinning ceremony. The chair of the nursing department, Arlene, was responsible for giving us our nursing pins. As she put mine on me, she told me that when she looked at me, she thought of my mother, and how my mother advocated for me and opened all the doors that made my transfer work. So thank you for that, Mom! Mom also taught us to work hard, and be humble. I remember feeling pretty good about myself when I starred in The Miracle Worker in high school (as Helen Keller). The show opened on a Friday night and the first show gave me a great performance high. Saturday morning, we all still had to do our household chores. I remember scrubbing the downstairs toilet and thinking, oh, how the mighty have fallen! Friday night, theater star, Saturday morning, toilet scrubber. 🙂 Thanks for that lesson, Mom, it’s an important one in life.
Happy Birthday, Mom! May this next year be rich and full and relaxing for you.
Martha: I share a birthday with Mom, which I always thought meant that I was the best birthday present she ever received. Now I know how hard she had to work for it! I’ve lived away from home for nearly 10 years now, but it still feel feels wrong to me to not celebrate it with her.
There are some things that always remind me of Mom, and they mostly center around flowers, food, and music. Hanging baskets filled with fuchsia and tall purple-blue delphinium flowers. Braided egg bread and sticky cinnamon buns and recipe boxes stuffed with handwritten index cards and clippings from ‘Taste of Home’. What I associate most with Mom is a passion for her pursuits. Her talent for music led her to church music starting at the age of 12, and on to a career that spans piano, harpsichord, pipe organ, and carillon.
To me, Mom encapsulates the phrase “do what you love and you’ll never work a day of your life”. I’m sure she’s still worked many a day of her life and I know it wasn’t always easy, but I always thought that work-life balance was achievable because she exemplified it for us.
One of the first things I learned when I became a mother is how much my mother loves me, and I know how fortunate I am to come from that kind of love. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of the blissful childhood I had (seriously, our childhood could put most 50s sitcoms to shame) and so many of the decisions I make as a parent go back to the decisions my parents made ahead of me.
Jewel: Trying to fully encapsulate my feelings about Mom is impossible, of course. I don’t know if I’m a mama’s girl (is that a thing?), but Mom has always been my confidante and supporter in all things. I remember you other sisters joking that I couldn’t keep any secrets from Mom, and while everyone keeps some secrets, I was horrible at not confiding in her when anything happened (like I watched a movie I thought she and Dad wouldn’t approve of, or had a negative interaction with a teacher). Telling her all the things that rolled around in my brain made me feel safe. I always knew she could help or give me advice about anything that was leaving me insecure or anxious about my day, or would affirm me when I was making the right decisions. The way I see the world has been completely shaped by how she taught me to handle my small problems as I was growing up. She (and Dad) made me realize that each person I interact with has unique gifts and unique struggles, just like I do; if I want to be treated with love and affirmation, I have to start by treating everyone around me like that. Mom always seemed to have time for the people around her who needed to talk and share their struggles and she tried to help them the best she could.
Musically, Mom was my first teacher (in piano) and my first accompanist for voice. She took me to every voice lesson with wonderful Mrs. Giles and listened, then played for me. She coached me at home and helped me have the confidence to audition for the music program at Houghton. In many ways, I think we have similar approaches to music in that she has found an amazing way to have a full and happy family life (with FIVE kids) as well as be involved in a myriad of musical activities in Alfred. Her commitment to family and music is an inspiration to me as I figure out how I’ll be balancing those two things in the future. She was and continues to be a great example for me to emulate. Thanks Mom!
Esther: Mama mama mama. When I think back to childhood with my Mama, I think of planting seeds in the garden, splurging on shopping trips (to Daddy’s chagrin), watching old shows together, and always having delicious food to eat. I’ve always liked that I look like her because she has aged well! I share her big brown eyes, cupid’s bow lips, and rounded nose. I get my long toes and my curly hair from my dad, but essentially my entire face is my Mama’s!
I have also always appreciated how affectionate and emotional our mother is. She would give us eleven kisses each night before sleep and give us lovely cards and gifts before Valentine’s Day. She cries in movies regularly, a trait I definitely inherited! She also has a nice, giggly, occasionally out-of-control laugh, especially when she is tired. These things and more I love about my Mama. Happy birthday, Mom!