Monday, December 28, 2009

The Big Factotum has a birthday

posted Sat, 05 Feb 2005

Tomorrow is the Big Factotum’s birthday. My mother is an amazing woman. And I’m not saying this just because she’s my mother. At least three or four men have wanted to get hitched with her since my dad died.

She was her class valedictorian and went to the University of Wisconsin on a full scholarship, but dropped out to get married. That was how things were done then.

She got married three days after she turned 20, then got pregnant right away (between "Gunsmoke" and the pizza, as my dad joked). She had three babies by the time she was 25, then her husband went away to war for a year. She got to be a single mother way before it was fashionable.

She had her own business when we lived in Panama. She baked bread and other yeasty things. Neighbors called and begged to know when the next baking day was. If I had my own business, I would want her to be the Chief Financial Officer. When she is in charge of the details, they are done right. Nothing gets by her, although she thought she had hidden her chocolate so well when I was a kid. In her closet -- in the shoe box. In the grandfather clock. Like you could hide chocolate from me.

I didn’t understand the magnitude of all the things she did when I was growing up, but now I really appreciate them. She was the class room mother. She headed my brownie troop, along with Mrs S, our next-door neighbor and friend to this day.

When I was twelve, she became the assistant coach for my soccer team, even though she had never played soccer before. (Neither had I. She made me join the team.) She also made all the uniform shorts for the team because she decided that the league charged too much for the store-bought ones.

She sewed most of the clothes for my brother, sister and me, including the blue kitten flannel nightgown that I wore until it was threadbare, despite the teasing of my college roommates.

She made Barbie-doll cakes for my birthday. When she made chocolate chip cookies, I got to stir the dough, which required that I sit on the kitchen floor and hold the bowl in my legs. She always let us kids lick the beaters, an act of major generosity that I don't think I would be able to do if I had kids.

She drove me to violin lessons and orchestra practice. When we moved to Spain, she made sure I had my own bedroom for the first time and decorated it with me, making one of those yarn octopuses to match the bedspread. I think she made the cute pajamas that matched the spread, too.

She taught me how to do long-division when I was in second grade because I was bored with the math we were doing at school. She taught me to sew, knit and embroider. When I went to cooking school in France on vacation, they taught us how to cut up entire chickens and the right way to chop onions. My mother taught me how to do thess things when I was 12, I thought. But there were people in the class who didn't know this stuff!

I feel sorry for kids today whose moms are too busy to be moms. I am very lucky to have mine! Happy birthday, Mom! I love you!

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