Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Family, Memories, Legacies

Last week we traveled to Minnesota for my mom's 93rd birthday. Both of my children were able to come this year, along with my brother, his wife and three kids, and my sister and her husband. Every year it's a different combination of people who are able to make it to Minnesota, but it's always good to see whoever comes!

At some point, someone always brings up how lucky we are that we all get along so well. We all know families where someone isn't speaking to someone else, or where people feel belittled or neglected. We all like each other. We are indeed fortunate.

My mom is a healthy 93. She walks, she does the crossword every day, she takes care of her own finances. She's a cheerful person, but she has been doing some reflecting back on her life, and so lately she has been sort of apologizing for not being such a good mother when we were growing up. Of course, she has nothing to apologize for - she and my dad raised three children who are all well educated, doing interesting things, and who have raised their own children. However, she feels her unusual upbringing gave her no examples of how families work or how mothers were supposed to act.

My mother's father died when she was two, leaving her mother to figure out how to support the two of them. My mom lived for several years on her grandparents' farm in western Minnesota, until she was old enough to start school. Meanwhile her mother was learning to be a seamstress and working for a tailor in Minneapolis. She and her mother moved to "town" so she could attend the local school and her mother went to work. They moved quite often - my grandmother was very handy and usually improved their apartment, at which point the landlord decided to raise the rent. By this time the Depression had begun. Like so many others, they were very poor. I asked her once what kind of things they ate. She told me their relatives on the farm would send in vegetables and other things, and they often ate pickled pigs feet and other inexpensive foods. In spite of these obstacles, my grandmother managed to send my mother to college, setting an example for the rest of the family. My mom became a teacher and worked until she married my dad.

So that's the background that my mom thinks was a detriment to being a good mom.

When I remember growing up, I remember feeling safe and loved. My parents set the expectation that we would all go to college, without pressure to get all As as we went through elementary and high school. They set an example of thriftiness without deprivation. They gave us lots of freedom to try things and make choices. We knew that life involved hard work and you had to earn things. We had what I remember to be a lot of free time, especially in the summer. Sometimes we were bored, and we had to figure out what to do about it ourselves. It was a good childhood; I have no complaints.

Not bad for a mom who was winging it!

(Though really, aren't we all winging it as parents?)


  1. Becky, your post brought tears to my eyes, for a number of reasons! I think as parents, we all worry that we are doing a terrible job of it. But, to hear your memories of your childhood, even though your mom has apologized for not being a good mom, gives all parents hope that we aren't doing so bad after all :-) It also brought tears to my eyes because I know my mom did the absolute best she could, but never felt it was enough. Such a beautiful tribute to your mom. I hope she gets to read it :-)

  2. Sounds like your mom did a great job! I too have a very close knit family and we feel very fortunate as well. I think you should share this slice with your mom, it's very special!