For the 48th Carnival of Genealogy the theme is: Mom, how’d you get so smart? The challenge was to write about how Mom got so smart whether it was through book learning, self-study courses, or the school of hard knocks.
My mother is primarily a very private person, and it took me three tries to write something that I think she would approve of just in case someone she knows reads this and tells her! She hasn’t always been a hero to me – just ask my teen-age self 20+ years ago! But as a mother with four grown children now, I look back on what my mother has endured over her 80+ years and realized just what a hero really means. So here’s my take on what made my mother so brilliant in my eyes.
Highest School Attended: High School – received diploma in 1939.
Domestic Skills: Learned the basics from her mother – cooking, cleaning, sewing, running a household
Parenting: Dr. Spock wasn’t around when Mom started having babies so she learned on the spot with some sage advice from her parents.
What College Might Have Meant: Had Mom gone on to college, she probably would have made one heck of a great CPA. She could do bookkeeping and math in her sleep. During her employment in Civil Service she moved quickly up through the job grades because of her accounting ability. It also meant that later in life when she had to leave a job she didn’t want to leave, the company had to replace her with two people.
Unique Skills and Talents: Mom was the best seamstress I have ever met. I didn’t say “designer”. She could look at a pattern and know how to tweak it to make it fit a person the right way. Shoulder seams where they were supposed to be (not halfway down the upper arms), the inseam just right (not too tight or loose), the hem perfect all the way around. Nothing she ever made fell apart or ripped at the seams (unless the person tried really hard to rip it). She’s the only woman I know who will walk into a department store, turn the clothes inside out to see if they are “made right”. Most of the time – they weren’t. She made most of my clothes when I was growing up. I’d complain because I wanted to wear “store-bought” clothes. True to Mom’s word, when I do that now – I see myself coming and going. Most of my clothes became hand-me-downs to my niece, who is 6 years younger than me and some of those clothes I got back for my own daughters! And the seams and stitching were all still in perfect condition.
Other Handicrafts: Mom wanted to knit so my dad bought her this big knitting machine that she had to take classes to learn to use. But the things that she produced from that machine were amazing! She taught herself needlepoint as a grown woman and that became a passion for her. She didn’t just stitch “samplers” – she’d find the most elaborate needlepoint designs and when they were finished, had my brother frame them. They truly are works of art! She was also making all sorts of things when I was growing up: a Christmas wreath in pinecones or folded newspapers spray painted gold, hand painted Christmas ornaments, embroidered items, she’d arrange flowers like a professional florist – she was like that home decor goddess with the initials of MS – only BETTER!
Flying: Mom learned to fly when my parents lived in Japan (Dad was stationed there twice in the ‘50s). At that time and in that place and thanks to the NCO Flying Club, lessons and pilot licenses weren’t that hard to obtain. It was amazing to watch an insurance salesman almost fall off his chair when he asked her if she had a pilot’s license and went to mark the box “no” when she said “yes.” He stared at her in amazement until she produced said license for him. True, by then, she hadn’t flown in a number of years. But it was still amazing and I was filled with admiration that she could “awe” someone else!
Fixing a Car: When Mom faced the future without a husband (or a male family member who knew much about auto engines), she enrolled in an Adult Community Class that taught basic mechanics to women. No mechanic was going to pull the wool over her eyes. It came in handy a few times when she actually showed the mechanic what was wrong for him to fix!
Pop Culture: If I hadn’t been a late in life baby, Mom would probably still be ignorant of so many pop culture influences. I was (and still am) a huge fan of Alice Cooper. Of course in the 70s, most parents thought he was evil incarnate. I actually made my points clear enough that Mom not only likes some of his softer songs but watches him whenever he plays golf!
Sports: Mom played on her high school basketball team (still has the scars to prove it!), played golf for recreation, tunes in to pro baseball and college football and basketball games. She is up on the all stats and knows who the up and comers are.
Religion: Mom was raised in the Evangelical and Reformed Church (which has since merged with the Congregational Christian churches to become the United Church of Christ). She attends every Sunday that she is able to and has attended many adult Bible or study classes. She’s served on the church’s council and as a delegate to their association and conference meetings. She reads her devotionals every morning and has listened to or watched services on the radio or television.
Languages: During their years in Japan, Mom learned quite a bit of the Japanese language. I grew up hearing phrases that became standard vernacular in our household. She learned more about the culture, language and people of Japan by living it.
Teacher: Without college or a degree, Mom couldn’t be a teacher. Yet, she served as a substitute teacher many times at my elementary school and was a Girl Scout leader for many years. My friends always wanted to be at my house instead of their own because Mom, through her words and actions, cared enough about them to teach them right from wrong. Even after I’d left home for another state, many of my friends continued to visit Mom seeking her advice and counsel.
My mother may not have gone on to college or higher education, but she has learned through doing and experiencing. If not for the low points in her life, she wouldn’t be the same person she is today. If not for the happiest moments of her life, she wouldn’t have raised three children to “live today like it’s your last”. She is a storyteller, a confidante, a friend, a teacher, a world traveler, a cook, a seamstress, a pilot, an accountant, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a grandmother, and a wonderful Mom!
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