Mom's the Word
I have the world's best mother. Yeah, I'm aware that lots of folks say they did or do, but if you ask around people in the know will confirm this claim to be true.
Our family grows and gathers awesome moms. While I don't see my stepmother enough, she's a keeper. My cousins have beautiful, brilliant children, a testament as much to their parenting as to genetic jackpot; so does, mind-blowingly, my little sister — two girls, who each look amazingly like she did at their ages in different ways, and one boy, who's the spitting image of his Uncle Brian way back when. And of course there's my mother's mother, great-grandmom to eight kids (one heading to college this year) and still a lady I enjoy talking to. No lie.
I was 7 years old when my mom and dad split up. Mom did a heck of a job raising my sister and me, with considerable help from her own parents. We stayed with them often, including every summer after my parents' separation up to my high-school years, and I was lucky enough to live with them on my own after that as I worked a summer job on the parking lot behind their old store. Now and then back in the early days I'd wonder if we weren't one of those families in which my mom was secretly, actually my older sister, because she was so youthful and cool while my grandmother would wait up for all three of us, Mom and my sister and me, to come home from a night on the boardwalk. I have a good bit of my grandfather in me, helping make the case, but also far too much of my own dad for it to really be a plausible scenario. And besides the fact that my grandmother was 54 when I was born, somebody would've spilled the beans by now.
Yet it continues to astound me how our mother managed to be not like a mom and exactly like a mom, each in the right ways. One afternoon, not too long after we'd moved from the Jersey shore to the Philadelphia suburbs so that my mother could pursue her doctorate and we could attend a school system with more to offer, I turned on the television to see Phil Donahue tackling the issue of "latchkey kids". Apparently,
I was a latchkey kid; I wore a key to our apartment around my neck so that I could let us in after school, and often prepared snacks or even dinner when I got older if our mom was going to be home late. We lived in a complex of apartment buildings with plentiful grounds and lots of kids for just this reason; we had a school bus; we had fresh air and babysitters when necessary and friends' homes nearby that didn't require negotiating street traffic. I never liked the phrase "broken home" and, despite it being a more neutral in description, I never liked the phrase "latchkey kids" either. Mom did all she could to give us a rewarding life, and we simply helped her raise us.
I don't have sons or daughters of my own, but I still hold out hope that I will one day. Apparently I'm fairly qualified to be a father; I relate well to children, I've been told that I hold babies appropriately, and earlier tonight I lost my television remote. Should I become a dad, if I'm half the father that my mother was, the kids will turn out fine.
Related: An M and E Post • The Fab-Four Score • Stella Saner 1916-2016