I delivered these words at my mother’s funeral this weekend.
I have some terrific memories of mom – which include the vacations we went on, the activities she encouraged us to do, and the independence that she always stressed from an early age.
I remember the vacations on Cape Cod, learning about how the glaciers formed the land, rolling down sand dunes, and picking wild blueberries for our breakfast cereal. I remember going to the Audubon society and learning about the different plants. Taking walks down the guided trails, ahead of mom but always knowing she was there, right behind me.
Mom taught me to appreciate nature.
I remember the injured birds we’d bring home, the abandoned mice, the ducklings, the rabbits, the turtles, the polliwogs, guinea pigs, gerbils, dogs, parakeets, and even a cat or two. Mom always managed to make room for them at the inn.
Mom taught me to be kind to others, especially if they needed help.
Mom loved the ocean (or the sound if you’re living up in these parts.) She loved boating with Dad and I remember weekend trips where we fished for baby blues, dug for clams, and ate salami sandwiches on hard rolls in the back of the boat. Dinner those nights would be clams, so many clams, along with grilled fish. A feast for a king.
Mom taught me to be self-sufficient and to find my own adventures.
Let’s face it – mom wasn’t the greatest cook in the world. I always tried to get out of that Wednesday night is Prince spaghetti night thing that she always did and we all know that according to mom the pork chops weren’t done unless they flipped on your plate when you tried to cut them, but no one and I mean no one could come close to mom’s meatballs, her stuffed clams, that green jello salad thing at Thanksgiving, and those Rice Krispy chocolate peanut butter cookies that I still dream about.
Mom taught me that all you really need are a few good knock it out of the ballpark moments in order to make great memories.
And about that independence part, when I was very young there were two rules. Come home when you hear the dinner bell and no fooling around at the bus stop. Man that woman had the eyes of an eagle and I can still hear her voice across the Evan’s yard. Weeeenddeeee!
When I got older, the rules changed to “Come home safe and stay out of jail.” (She was only half kidding.) Mom knew I had a spirit that was not like any others. In fact one her favorite stories of me was when she was called into Principal Peggy Griffin’s office at Timothy Dwight Elementary School.
“You have to do something about Wendy,” Miss. Griffin told mom. “She’s too rambunctious and just won’t settle down.”
Mom told the principal that she absolutely didn’t intend to do anything about me. “That’s behavior that leads to scholarships.” she told Miss Griffin and ended the meeting. And it turns out that’s exactly what it was. I got the largest scholarship at Ludlowe and it paid for all of my college at UCONN despite being a brat. Mom knew.
Mom taught me that being spirited often leads to getting things done. (Take note, Addy and Emma, my little mini-mes)
Mom went to college at a time when most women didn’t. She loved education and learning and she made sure to instill that love in us. She read the paper every day, she did word puzzles all the time and she read and discussed books at every chance she could get. Nothing brightened her day more than a good book review in a newspaper or magazine.
Mom taught me to continue my learning and discovering each and every day.
At 87 Mom even made a bucket list. She wanted to go on a cruise to see the Thimble Islands and she wanted to come up to New Hampshire in the fall to see the foliage. She ended up doing both.
Mom taught me that it’s never too late.
When I was a young woman, I behaved like all young women do. I left home vowing never to be like my mother.
But years later when I became a mother myself, I saw that being a parent of many children is not exactly the easiest thing to do. It’s hard, no it’s difficult work. And I finally realized that the things mom taught me weren’t all that bad after all. For example, all of my kids have heard “too tired to eat, too tired to stay up” and every time we put them down for a nap, we always gave them the power. They didn’t have to go to sleep, they just had to rest their eyes (it worked every time.) Oh yeah, and they’ve also heard about those kids who are apparently still starving in Africa.
As it turns out, my kids have been taught well. They love nature. They are self-sufficient and find their own adventures. They know that a boisterous spirit is an open prayer to the universe. My kids love shells and beef, we discuss what we’ve learned that day when we come together at the dinner table, and they now know that it is never too late to do anything.
Mom taught me a lot. Mom was kind, she was generous, she was smart, and she had a truly wicked sense of humor. It took me a long time, but in the end, I finally realized that I am indeed my mother’s daughter.
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
Also, join Wendy on Facebook to find out more about the flock (children and chickens) and see some pretty funny chicken jokes, photos of tiny houses, and even a recipe or two.
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