Sometimes I write birthday blogs. I wrote one when my oldest daughter turned 15, another last September when I turned 50, and a year ago I wrote a blog for my husband’s birthday just because he likes it when I write blogs about him. Today, my mom turns 70, and if anyone deserves a birthday blog, it would be this amazing woman – Marjorie McKinnon.
Today I’d like to share a few stories and lessons I learned from my mom…
Story #1: My mom gave birth to me when she was just 19 years old, and then proceeded to have another three children in less than three years: Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! It sounds even more painful using onomatopoeia.
Lesson Learned #1: Wait to have kids until you’re older, then space them out at least 4 years apart. On the other hand, Mom was already a free and easy empty nester by the time she was 44 – the age I was when I had my last child. Perhaps her way was smarter after all.
Story #2: I learned how to be a very VERY busy mom from my mom. She worked full time and still managed to mow the yard, cook dinner every night, keep the house extremely clean (except for the kids’ rooms which required hazmat suits upon entry), and volunteer as Pop Warner Mom, Little League Mom, Room Mom and most any other kind of Mom. She took us to Catechism on Saturdays, Mass on Sundays, and the beach every chance she could get. Her secret for doing it all? She had a kitchen phone with a very long cord. She regained her sanity by gabbing with her friends while cooking or doing dishes. My mom quite possibly was the person who coined the term “Smart Phone.”
Lesson Learned #2: Be busy, stay productive, and always have a phone and the ear of girlfriend (or a couple of loving sisters) nearby to keep you sane.
Story #3: I was 3, my sister Tammie was 2, and my brother Michael was just a year old when my mom was 8-1/2 months pregnant with my youngest sibling Teri. Mom’s sister was in the hospital for a few days, so she was also watching my cousins Michael and Ron who were just 1 and 2 years old. You heard it right – five kids who were 3 and under. Apparently we all came down with the stomach flu, so Mom was continuously wiping up vomit and diarrhea while she raced to the bathroom just in time to save herself. If that wasn’t bad enough – the washer broke down. Our home was a toxic waste dump, and no environmental agency could possibly have a strong enough stomach to possibly intervene. But then a miracle happened: Mom’s water broke. She went into labor and had the best excuse anyone could possibly give for ditching five puking, pooping babies. This is truly the stuff urban legends are made of.
Lesson Learned #3: Yes… you can survive hell.
Story #4: Every year Mom threw a kids’ Halloween party. We had an enormous closet off the Pool Room (named for the pool table – not a swimming pool) and Mom transformed the closet into a mini haunted house. She raided the local butcher shop and placed bowls with gooey grossness she labeled “Witch’s Eyeballs,” “Monster’s Liver” and “Dracula’s Heart.” She set up a black light, and if memory serves me, even a fog machine. Looking back, the fog machine may have just been in my nightmares, because that room was so scary, none of us kids would dare enter that closet anytime except for Haunted Halloween. This is very significant, because my mom had an extremely clever plan for that closet. It was where she hid our Christmas presents every year. She knew it was the one place we would never dare look.
Lesson Learned #4: The best way to save Santa is by scaring the be-Jesus out of your kids at Halloween.
Story #5: One Easter when we kids were probably 4, 5, 6 and 7 years of age, we drove to Tucson to visit my mom’s brother Scott and his wife who was certifiably nuts. On Easter morning my aunt flipped out and threw us out of the house, leaving mom to turn around and abruptly drive us back to Los Angeles with the four kids holding our metal Easter buckets in our laps. I was in the front seat and my siblings were in the back and being clever monkeys, they discovered something wonderful. The hot Arizona sun started melting their big chocolate bunnies. They dipped their fingers into the liquid chocolate and started painting the seats, the windows, and each other. Mom didn’t realize at first. At some point, she glanced in her rear view mirror and noticed that the entire back seat was hemorrhaging chocolate. She completely freaked out, and put the pedal to the metal so she could race for the upcoming rest stop where she could pull over and beat the crap out of her little hoodlums. Unfortunately, before she could get to the rest stop, another horrifying sight showed up in her rear view mirror: the flashing lights of a Highway Patrol car. Mom reluctantly pulled over to the side of the road, convinced that all she needed to do was have the trooper see what ill-behaved children she had, and he would certainly understand why she was forced to speed. Instead, he handed her a ticket and harshly reprimanded her for putting such little angels in danger.
Lesson Learned #5: If your arm is long enough, you don’t have to wait until the next rest stop to smack the crap out of ill-behaved children.
I try to keep my blogs under 800 words and I already passed that up somewhere during Story #5, but I could write a book about all the noteworthy things that happened in my childhood… which is exactly what my mom did for herself.
I had a mostly good upbringing. Unfortunately, my mom did not. Yet she took the lessons she learned from her own childhood and actually wrote a book, or rather a series of books. As a victim of some of the most horrific incest and childhood abuse I have ever heard, my mother transformed her tragedy and created a program called REPAIR which helps others recover from similar abuse. She is also the founder of The Lamplighter Movement, a safe place for victims to share their stories, which currently has 92 chapters in 13 countries. It is now my mom’s mission in life to help others recover from incest and move on to live healthy, productive lives.
Lesson Learned #6: Keep learning lessons. Then write about them, so others can learn from them too.
Happy 70th birthday Mom! I love you, and I’m so proud of you!