One year I gave my mother a spatula for her birthday. Except that it wasn’t a real spatula, it was one of my own construction — made of masonite and floor tiles. I expect that if you actually used it to spatulanate something, it would have disolved into a mass of sticky goo.
Although this gift, with the blue toilet seat, and the popsicle maker, has entered family lore as “one of those crazy gifts,” at the time I don’t remember Mom being anything but grateful.
It’s only been in recent years, since Oliver joined in, that I’ve come to realize my mother’s sheer fortitude. Catherine and I are often overwhelmed by the enormity of what it takes to manage Oliver’s day to day life: things like “leaving the house” that used to take 30 seconds are now a extended 15 minute drama of mit location and boot application. My mother did the same things. Except she had 2 boys. And, in a year from now relative to where I sit now, she had 4 boys.
Whenever Catherine and I take Oliver to the dentist, or grocery shopping, there’s always a part of us thinking “how did Frances ever do this with four?!” I mean, how did she keep me from eating molases while Mike was being buckled into his car seat? Or how did she keep John and Steve from wandering off into the basement when she was dressing me down for calling Mike names? What happened when the phone rang and we were all eating lunch?
Miraculous more is that when we were all still relatively little — I think I was 14, Mike 13, and the twins 8 — Mom went off and got another university degree. And then a masters. And then started a career as a librarian.
Net result: not only were we all somehow miraculously prevented eating poison, but smack dab in the middle of our formative years we bore witness to a real demonstration of “oh, and by the way, women go to university and learn Pascal and have fulfilling careers too.” I’d like to think that we’re all better men because of her example.
It’s Mom’s birthday today. I just wanted to say thanks.