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Saturday, May 10, 2014

One for Mom

Mom in the Redwoods, circa 1970s
I've written about how my dad influenced my life, in many ways shaping my fondness for the outdoors and photography. But I haven't been entirely fair; Dad might have been the one teaching me how to set up a tent or choose an f-stop, but it could never have happened without Mom's help.

Soon to be Mom and Dad
Mom and Dad before they were a Mom or Dad.
Mom having fun on the dunes with my brother.

Mom was really the unsung hero behind all our adventures when I was growing up. She was the support team behind every outing, be it a one day motorcycle ride or a three week sailboat cruise. A typical trip to the boat for the week had Mom busy shopping/packing/loading the groceries, planning meals that were prepared in a stuffy cabin that (more often than not) was bucking back and forth in the swells. She arranged to have the dog watched, the mail held, the newspaper picked up by the neighbor--all those little things that need to be attended to when you go on vacation. I wasn't really aware of them until I picked up that gauntlet for myself after moving out. I've got it easy though; Mark and I share all those duties.

One of the hundreds of meals Mom prepared below deck.
Mom and I sharing that meal. We were the only ones in the family who could eat in the cabin
without getting seasick, one of the many traits we share.

Mom bridged the eras of housewife/women's lib/working woman. She grew up in a working class family, moving around quite a bit before settling down here in Sonoma County. I don't think she ever had a formal vacation growing up--there wasn't the time or money to do so. She was married in the late 1950's at the ripe old age of nineteen, and had three kids by the time she turned twenty-six. She stayed at home and raised us until we were out of grade school, then went back to school herself, earning an Associates degree in music then a Bachelor's degree in business and joined the workforce about the time we kids hit high school. Although we never talked about it during that time period, I know she struggled with balancing the household and the work world. She had all those ingrained habits--laundry on Wednesday, vacuuming on Thursday, etc.--that she was still trying to uphold, but she was gone for eight-plus hours a day (and for a few years, school at night as well.) It was impossible to keep up, and I'll admit we kids weren't much help. We did what we were told to do, but not much else. Dad grew up in the era of "woman's work" vs. "man's work" and never really broke out of that habit. I can count the times he went grocery shopping on one hand, and I only witnessed him with a vacuum in his hand once. Once. My brother's and I were so stunned we just sat and watched in awe. We didn't even know he knew where it was kept.

Receiving her diploma

Mom on a break during one of the many motorcycle rides
she made with my Dad.
I don't think Mom was entirely committed to all Dad's adventure ideas, but she put on a brave face and rolled with it. She lived through multiple phases of Dad's idea of fun: camping, motorcycles, sailboats, and back to motorcycles again. She admitted to me recently that she would rather have stayed in hotels and eaten in restaurants; in fact that's exactly how she travels now that Dad is gone. But she also said that she misses the boat. Being out on the water and seeing all the sea life, hearing the water slide across the hull and the smell of the salt air really does get into your blood, as trite as that sounds. (I miss it too, I've just traded it for dust and non-swimming wildlife now.)

Mom doing what she does best, taking care of the details.
Nowadays she's the one that keeps an eye on our house when we're away, so I suppose she's still taking care of things just like she always has. I can count on her to remember to pick up the paper, to remind me to hold the mail, and to water my plants when I'm gone. My house isn't nearly as clean as hers and it never will be; that's one habit that didn't get passed along, for better or worse. What she did pass along though was much more important; how to plan meals that would not suffer for lack of refrigeration, how to pack for a long trip, how to most efficiently take a pay shower when running low on quarters and, most importantly, how to put on a brave face and roll with it when things aren't exactly turning out as planned.

I'm not a carbon copy of my Mom or my Dad, but I think I got the best of both of them. They worked well together as a team and to their credit, never lost any of us overboard (as much as they may have been tempted at times.)

So thanks Mom, and Happy Mother's Day.

Me, Mom and my niece, who one day soon will be off on adventures of her own.