By the time LarryD made his appearance in the world, way back when in 1965, my mother had had plenty of experience. I was the ninth of ten kids – six boys, four girls (I was the “tie-breaker”, and my younger brother was the “empty net goal”). She was an SAHM, managing the home and raising us ankle-biters with the perfect combination of loving embrace and firm hand.
The most important thing to my mom was living, learning and teaching the Catholic faith. She was a convert to Catholicism – she told me that when she met my dad in college, she was impressed that such a “manly” man (football player, ex-Navy) professed to being a faithful Catholic, and he lived it. So much so, it inspired her to convert.
She taught us our prayers long before we set foot in the parochial schools. First thing every morning, before breakfast or turning on the TV on Saturday’s, we had to recite the Morning Prayer, kneeling before the image of the Sacred Heart hanging in our living room. Prayers before and after each meal. Family rosary every evening. Frequent confession -how many times my mom would say “That’s it! Confession this Saturday!”
All of us attended Catholic schools, K-8 and high school. Hey, with that many kids, the ‘multi-child’ discount was so good, it was almost as if the school was paying my folks to have us attend.
By the time I was of school-age, the initial shockwave of the Second Vatican Council had rippled through, and subsequent tremors were making their effects felt across the Diocese. Of course, I was too young to notice any of this, but it did not take my parents by surprise. One story my mother told me involved the all-girls high school attended by my sisters – she got into an argument with the principal because the school invited Planned Parenthood in to make a human sexuality presentation. Apparently, it was epic.
She would review all the religion class materials we brought home to verify they were faithful to Church teaching, and on many occasions, had to set us straight on the Truth.
She taught us all boys how to wash the kitchen floor, scrub down a bathroom, iron shirts and make beds. We didn’t get an automatic dishwasher until I went to college – until then, we had the “two legged” variety. Chores were assigned and posted on a spreadsheet prominently posted on a kitchen cupbaord.
Nearly all of us learned a musical instrument – some more than one – and most of us learned the piano. It helped that she was proficient on both the piano and the cello – and it was pointless trying to pull a fast one concerning practicing, but it was great having her expertise available to work through a difficult passage.
Her cooking was awesome – and she was gracious in passing along her skills. I learned much from her, and will be eternally grateful.
She loved our father (and still does – they’re celebrating their 60th anniversary next month) and never displayed signs of disagreement or anger in front of the kids. If there’s one thing I had confidence in while growing up, it was that I knew my parents were always going to stay together. It was the age of “no-fault” divorce, and I had friends who were suffering the ill-effects of quick divorce – but that was one fear I never experienced.
She showed no preference, yet loved all of us unconditionally. As we grew up and moved out, getting married and starting families, she showed respect by maintaining her distance and not inserting herself into any of our marriages. She admitted to me once that it was hard for her to bite her tongue, to dish out some unsolicitied advice, but bite it she did. I know she prayed, and continues to pray, a lot of rosaries.
Now I’m not naive to think that my mom was perfect. It wasn’t always a bed of roses – how could it be with ten teenagers across a twenty year period? – and I’m not wearing rose-colored glasses. But this is Mother’s Day, and it’s not the time to recall Mommie Dearest moments. And I never would, because that would be detraction at worst, and the selfish failings of a wounded memory at best.
All I know is – any screw-ups I’ve had in my life were the result of my own stubbornness and stupidity, not the parenting and love of my mother.
So Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.
And I still make my bed. And say my prayers.