Mom passed away in 2004, Dad in 2013. I miss them every day.
In this season between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I would like to honor my parents by enumerating the ways they made me what I am.
My parents taught me:
- To work hard. Whatever chores they assigned me, I was expected to do them well, without complaining, and be happy that I was contributing to my family. (I often disappointed them by not complying with the no complaining and happiness stipulations.) My father worked long hours and sometimes worked a second job to support our family. He worked so hard at his baking job that he eventually became a partner in the business.
- To learn as much as I can. There was never any doubt that my brother and I would go to college. My parents didn’t have the opportunity, but they were determined that we would. Excellence was expected. My mother didn’t like to see anything less than an A on our report cards.
- To do the right thing. My parents sent us to parochial school because they wanted us to have a Christian education. Imagine my surprise to learn that many of our house rules grew out of the Ten Commandments. I thought my parents’ strictness was out of a desire for me not to have any fun. When my teachers reinforced my parents’ guidelines, I realized a higher authority decreed them.
- To play outside. My mother wanted me to enjoy being active in the fresh air, but I didn’t appreciate it at the time. (I think she also needed a break from me.) In the summertime especially, she always told me to go play outside, maybe ride my bike. Summer in New Jersey is humid and miserable, so I’d ride my bike—to the library, which was air-conditioned. Which takes me to the next item.
- To read a lot. I was reading by the time I started kindergarten. I think it was because my mother read to me every day and underlined the words with her pointer finger as she said them. We had a collection of Little Golden Books because they were inexpensive. When a neighbor family invited me to go to the library with them, I was thrilled to learn I could borrow as many books as I wanted as long as I brought them back two weeks later. My world expanded, and reading became a life-long love.
- To look for bargains. When I grew up, my parents were struggling financially. My mother pinched pennies until they cried for mercy. Often when we asked for something, my mother would say, “Maybe when it goes on sale.” To this day, I find it hard to pay full price for anything. Whenever I enter a store, I head for the clearance rack first. I hate to waste money when a more economical alternative might be available.
- To save things that might be useful. My parents were incredibly thrifty and upcycled and reused long before it was fashionable. When they remodeled our childhood home to include a second floor, Dad reused the attic stairs as access to a treehouse he built us. My mother saved the strings on teabags and used them to darn my father’s white work socks.
In a nutshell, these lessons my parents taught me have served me well and contributed to the making of the person I am today. Thank you, Mom and Dad.
Watching you, I learned how to nurture.
You modeled how to put another’s needs before yourself.
You gave me what I needed to grow.
You showed me how to make wise decisions.
You taught me to act with integrity.
You helped me find the beauty hidden by the pain.
If you can see anything of value in me,
It’s because of you.
I am your legacy of love.