As my mother approaches her birthday, I want her to know that with her by my side I have always known I am a woman with a mother. In my previous post I wrote about a moment when I was 12, that it dawned on me that I was a girl with a mother.
As the “only child of only children”…she has repeated that many times…my “mom” and my dad raised four children! Such energy, passion and love! I believe it’s derived from the difficult years of her adolescence. Her father died when she was 15 during the times of the depression. She and her mother “ate” out of the family grocery store when times got tough. As her mother assessed their situation she left my mother with “grandad” for a period of time, returning as often as she could, to go to another city in order to earn a teaching credential. The lessons of those years shaped how she taught us to face problems. Among the lessons, you can’t depend on a man to support you because… It gave her the perspective that she passed on to us regarding what real problems are.
Never forgetting two drownings she had witnessed as a child, our mother encouraged us to learn to swim at an early age. Chilling thought. Her encouragement was not a simple nudge. She saw to it that we received the necessary swim lessons that translated into junior lifesaving, senior lifesaving and competitive swimming levels. She sat by the poolside for hours every summer, assuring herself that my siblings and I would not only learn to swim but become expert swimmers at a pool, in a lake or ocean. We learned to sail on a lake and on a canal in Florida, with life jackets, and with the confidence of knowing that if the boat capsized…and it did several times…we would be able to handle it.
I marvel that my mother left her home in the Pacific Northwest and took a risk marrying my father in Mexico. By then she had experienced the death of her father, had witnessed the traumatic drownings…and yes, had already lost a fiancée to leukemia. She left all that was familiar and at the same time heart breaking from her great state, to embrace a new culture learning the language and ultimately dedicating herself to her bilingual children. She was and remains an expert in her field of bilingual education. Her commitment and vision for bilingual education and bilingual students she says originated with us, her four children. (She got mad…very mad when our needs were overlooked in the public schools and she channeled her anger here.) She refers to us as her first bilingual children since thousands of bilingual children have benefited from her influence. This commitment played out in her “grant writing” years. The President of the university where she worked called her “a grant writing machine.” Her grant writing assured the existence of a bilingual education department at her university. She was passionate about serving bilingual children and grant writing was her vehicle. However, as I write this, I would want you to know if my mother were a flower she would be a rose. Although she has officially retired, in her 80′s, she is still supervising bilingual student teachers for still another term. She never stops!