So here I am, an orphan at 55, but a well prepared one for all that.
My mother’s first job out of college was teaching English at South Philadelphia High School. She didn’t stay there for very long – for one thing I came along and for another she needed to be awake and teaching at 7am and that just wasn’t going to happen – but she never stopped being a teacher.
From my mom I learned many things.
I learned how to read. Not in the “parsing out the words on the page” sense, but in the broader sense of seeing reading as a joy in itself, of exploring new worlds and ideas on the page – sometimes to use them in daily life and sometimes just to experience them. She was never without an open book, fiction or nonfiction, and she showed through her actions how important that was. I have followed her example for my entire life.
I learned how to write for an audience. She was always my primary audience. I wrote an entire dissertation on the basic premise that as long as my mom – an intelligent nonspecialist – could understand it then I was doing it right. I write a lot these days, and she was always my first audience for that as well.
I learned how to keep a sense of humor about things. She had a quick sense of humor, one that helped her accept things that needed to be accepted and change things that needed to be changed. She never lost it. This past summer I got into a minor fenderbender while driving her car. I told her that I would cover it, but she said just to let her insurance handle it. “They’ll raise your rates,” I told her. “Not for long,” she replied.
I learned the importance of strong, intelligent women – that’s an important lesson for any man in this world. My mother was a trail blazer. She was the first person in her family to attend college, which she did by earning a full scholarship. She was the first woman to run her company, much to the initial dismay and eventual relief of the old boy network that was there when she got there. She did what she needed to do and she did it well, and she showed me that this is how life was supposed to work.
I learned how to be a parent, and I tried to raise my kids as I was raised.
Perhaps most importantly I learned how to keep a welcoming home. My friends were always welcome in our home, sometimes when we weren’t even there. We always had a home, no matter how far away we were or how long it had been since we’d been there.
I don’t always live up to the lessons my mom taught me, life being what it is, but I always try.
I love you.