Today is my mom's birthday. I won't tell you how old she is, because I'd like to remain her favorite child. (Yes, I know there are three of us, but I'm pretty sure I'm her favorite.) What I'd like to do instead, is tell you how amazing my mom is -- she's got the patience of a saint, and for some reason, it's taken me quite a few years to figure that out (I can't tell you how many years, because I also refuse to tell you how old I am!)
I’ve been writing since I was 7 years old – my first “project” was cleverly titled “Jody’s Journal.” The weekly newsletter, typed very slowly on my mom’s super-cool typewriter (hey, it was the 80s!) included all the highlights of my family’s life. I sold copies of the Journal for 25-cents a piece and while I never could talk my older sister into forking over a quarter for her very own copy, my grandmothers were faithful subscribers, and probably even bought more than one copy. More than 30 years later, I realize I never thanked them for reading my literary masterpiece and for making me believe I was a brilliant writer. I never thanked my mom either, who never once complained about all the paper I wasted or all the correction fluid I used (I think I made mistakes on purpose because correcting them on the typewriter was so much fun!)
This morning as I cleaned up scraps of paper piled on top of my computer keyboard I thought of my mom’s patience, and that kept me from freaking out on my 14-year-old daughter, who made the mess I somehow got stuck cleaning up. As I thought of my mom and of my childhood, I calmly cleaned up the papers, found the keyboard, and when the computer finally came to life, I smiled when I saw what my daughter had been printing and cutting out: she was printing inspirational quotes. Some of them were really great, and exactly what I would tell her if she asked for my advice. So how could I be mad?
As a mother of four creative kids, I spend a lot of time cleaning up the messes brought on by a burst of creativity. I find myself thinking about my own childhood, and my own mother, as I clean. How did she not lose her mind cleaning up our messes? My little brother used to raid the kitchen cupboards for things to use on his farm: mini marshmallows became hay bales, cans of soup/peaches/vegetables were grain bins (once the labels were peeled off). Mom never yelled. When the marshmallow hay bales dried up, she quietly cleaned them up and threw them away. One by one, she took back the grain bins, and upon discovering what was inside the can, made us something delicious to eat.
My four-year-old is currently obsessed with taking notes – she never goes anywhere without a pen and paper and leaves papers scattered throughout the house. I get annoyed, and sometimes I yell at her. And then I realize, it is just paper. My mom never yelled at me for my paper messes. Her patience with my habit of using up all the paper and typewriter ink was nothing short of amazing. In fact, I think her patience and encouragement likely shaped my career: I’ve been able to make a living as a writer of some sort my entire adult life.
I should probably tell my mom thank you and happy birthday. I would write her a thank you letter, or a birthday card, but all the paper in my house has disappeared….