Her life has always seemed like a grand adventure to me, and I count myself lucky that she has decided to share her love of travel and life with me.
My Mom was born in 1948, in the middle of the Booming generation. And the middle child. She also has a cleft lip and palate, and struggled with the same orthodontic and surgical nightmares that I have. I have not seen a picture of my Mom between the age of 3 to 30 in which she smiled a true smile with teeth showing. She's always had the same awkward Mona Lisa all-knowing smile, starting with the picture of her rolling a huge melon across the lawn at age three, her middle school pictures, and senior picture.
She was born in Salem, Oregon, but her stories start in Saratoga, California. She lived next to a fruit tree orchard, and used to watch the immigrant children work in the orchard. She and my Aunt Sherry have birthdays that are 1 day apart, and they had to alternate birthday cakes; and it was one of the few things my grandmother could make well. This year was my Mom's cake year. And she was excited about eating the cake! But, she couldn't forget about the other children in the fields who didn't get to eat cake. So, she went into the house, to the kitchen, where her just-frosted cake was waiting on the counter. Out the door, down the block went the cake. She gave hers (and her sister's) birthday cake to the hungry children on the other side of the fence.
My Mom moved to France when she was eleven. They lived in a itsy-bitsy-tiny town outside Paris called Wissous (say Veee-sooo). We were forced to walk to this little town in the early 90s, but that's a whole other blog (watch for "The Forced March to Wissous," coming soon).
No one in the family spoke a word of French, and no one in the village knew English. The elementary school was separated into boys' and girls' sides. And the toilets were holes in the ground with water constantly running through them. She had to learn to speak, write, calculate, and study in French. She was forced to use a fountain pen, that got ink all over her fingers, all over her papers...
One of her favorite things to do was to wander around Paris -- by herself. She visited the Grande Palais and the Louvre (I would write more places, but my French is rusty), and bought herself bread and fromage from the local stores. She fell in love with the city and the people, and has shared her love with a reluctant (if not snotty) daughter.
She moved back to the states after another 2 years in Holland, learning Dutch and eating herring (well, maybe not that!). There are many stories in between, including a car angel, and being left behind in California with $50 when she was 18.
All of her experiences are what make her who she is today. She is strong-willed, assertive when necessary, opinionated, and fair. She sees beauty all around her, and does everything she can to make sure that her loved ones experience the same. She and Jim have taken me to New York, where I laid down in the middle of the World Trade Center buildings; sent me to Russia, where I learned the meaning of being an American; traveled with me to Paris, London, South of France, and all over Scotland; and they cheered me on when I decided to go to Australia for the millennium.
Now, they are sending my husband and me to Mexico for a much-needed vacation. How does one possibly express one's amazement and eternal love to someone as wonderful as she? Well, I hope that I have several more decades to try and show her.
Happy Mother's Day