Happy Birthday, Mom

Some people take their mom for granted, and they don’t realize how great she is until they lose her. I am not one of those people. I am fortunate enough to have both of my parents, as well as my husband’s parents, close to my home and my heart. In the almost 25 years my husband and I have been married, our families have spent every major holiday together. Our parents get along with one another: my mom and his dad play bridge together, and my dad and his mom have hiked together. We all have the same family values, and that’s what binds us. But the real glue in my family is my mom.

Born in 1939, Mom grew up in a small Illinois town. When she was in high school, her dad got a job in Denver, so they moved. It was a major change to go from a town of about 2,500 to a major city of hundreds of thousands. She had a brother nine years her senior who had a biting sense of humor that he taught her very early. Mom’s parents were very supportive of both of them; her brother went on to work for Mountain Bell, and Mom went to Western State College in Alamosa to become a PE teacher. That’s where she met my dad.

My parents, only nine months apart in age, eloped at age 19. With only a gas credit card and about $20, they told everyone they were going on a ski trip but took off for Pocatello, Idaho—the closest place two people could get married when the man was under 21. They drove all night, discussing how to explain to their families why they were on an overnight trip together. The next afternoon, Dad pulled up to the home of a Justice of the Peace and asked, “Will you marry me?” The guy replied, “You’re not my type.” Later, when he got to the part about “is there any reason you two shouldn’t get married?” Mom said, “Wait,” and she went to the blaring TV and switched it off. Then she motioned for him to continue.

Mom turned 20 a week later. Dad finished that semester of college, where they lived in gender-separate dorms, then quit school to get a job so Mom could finish her degree. In September of 1960 my brother Don was born. Living as frugally as they could on a coal miner’s dollar-an-hour salary, my folks lived in a converted boxcar to make ends meet. They moved from Alamosa to Colorado Springs where my brother Dean was born in March of 1962. I followed four years later in May of 1966.

The Fam, 1984. (Credit: Jan Winters)

The Fam, 1984. (Credit: Jan Winters)

My parents had very different backgrounds growing up, but one thing marrying early did for them was to allow them to decide for themselves how to raise their family. I think they brought in the best parts of their own families. Dad brought in a strong work ethic and high standards, and Mom brought in support and patience. Together they raised us to care about one another. To think of others before ourselves. To always give our best effort. To keep trying. To share our gifts with others who are less fortunate. To be there for someone who needs us. To love unconditionally.

Mom taught elementary school for 40 years, which is a major reason I became a teacher, even though I was in denial about it until I was halfway through college. We talk often about strategies, problems, and funny things our students did or said. I often wish I could bring her to class with me so my students can experience her. Even though she’s been retired for a long time, she hasn’t stopped teaching; anytime an opportunity comes up for her to share her talents, someone learns something new. She never stops learning, either. Now she’s learning how to play pool.

So many posts on Facebook warn others not to take their moms for granted. I don’t need a stupid meme to be reminded to tell my mom I love her; I say it almost every day. I tell her to take good care of herself and to let me know if she needs anything. I pray for my parents’ health and happiness, because in the end, that’s all anyone needs. Happy birthday, Mom. Many happy returns.

Photo By: DeLyn Martineau