I recently posted a series of posts on Facebook and Twitter entitled Why I Admire My Mother. It was my way of celebrating my mother’s birthday, and telling the world why I love her so much.
So here it is in its entirety:
It’s my mother’s birthday in a few weeks, and I’ve decided to celebrate the amazing woman she is (and to tell her how much I love her) that I would run a series of posts with at least one new reason every day why she is worthy of admiring, including any anecdotes to go with the reasons. She may never see this, unless Dad shows them to her (you hear that Dad… show them to her), and these little tidbits may prove to be more embarrassing for me, but this is all about my Mom. What better place to start than right there.
Why I Admire my Mother Reason #1: My mother will always be my Mommy.
You read that right. Even though I live in a country that is part of the British Common Wealth, I have a Mommy. My mother refuses to be compared to an ancient decrepit body wrapped up in strips of cloth, and who can blame her — she may be old, but she’s not that old.
Why I Admire my Mother Reason #2: She’s young at heart (complete with grazed knees).
Okay, this one demands an explanation. When I was in my teens, my mother and I were walking through one of those little outdoor mall shopping areas. Along the paths were posts with chains dangling between them at approximately shin height. (I think you can see where I’m going with this.) Anyway… We saw this child, approximately 8/9 years old, jump over the barrier and take a tumble for the worst. My mother, being the ex-nurse she is, rushed to his aid and cleaned up his knees and palms, covered in blood and dirt. To help him with his embarrassment and pain, my mother said, “You know you’re still a kid as long as you have grazed knees.” Well… The child left with his mother, and my mother and I carried on about our business, which meant we had to cross the chained barriers. Instead of stepping over it, like I did, my mother decided to jump — and missed. As she curled up on the ground, looking at her grazed knees, I said, “I guess you’re still a kid then.” If looks could kill, I would have been dead and buried.
Why I Admire my Mother Reason #3: She’ll answer all your questions, but be careful what you ask. The details may not be what you expect.
My mother’s philosophy towards sex education has always been one of open honesty. If I wanted to know, all I had to do was ask. It all started with the day that I walked in on my mother changing her tampon. I was two. You could imagine how I freaked out at that one. Anyway, when I was five, my aunt was pregnant with my cousin Megan. At that age, I couldn’t care less about how the baby got in there. I was more concerned about how the baby was going to get out. The conversation went something like this:
“Well, Judy, down near where you go pee there’s a hole…”
“Oh, so the baby is peed out.”
From that point on, I was entirely happy, until my cousin kicked me while I sat on my aunt’s lap.
Many years later, after I gave birth to my son, my mother asked me, “So, do babies get peed out?”
“No, Mom. They get poohed out.”
Why I Admire my Mother Reason #4: She doesn’t shock easily. It takes an eraser to do it.
I can think of only two instances in my life where I have managed to actually shock my mother. The first time I was 6/7 years old. She picked me up from school. When I got into the car, it was a short simple conversation:
“Hi, Judy. How was school?”
“Good. Mom, what’s fuckin’?”
Her jaw dropped. She was speechless. Did she answer my question? Yes, but only after she managed to string a few sounds together into something that resembled words.
The second time I shocked my mother was just after we moved to New Zealand. I came home from my first day at school, and the conversation went something like this:
“Hi, Judy. How was school?”
“Good. By the way, tomorrow I need to take a rubber to school.”
Her eyes bulged and her jaw dropped. “I don’t think so.”
Meanwhile, I grinned and shot an excited fist into the air. “Yes! I knew I would get that reaction.”
“Okay, what is it?”
“An eraser, Mom. They call them rubbers here.”
Several years later, she forewarned the minister for the church where my choir practised. He had just arrived from the States. (Geez, Mom. Spoil all my fun.)
Why I Admire my Mother Reason #5: Patience is a virtue, but nerves turn into grey hair when teenagers are behind the wheel.
Life is filled with milestones, rites of passage. The first time we walk. The first day of school. The first date. The driver’s license.
Driving home from the testing centre, I was upset because I failed my learner’s permit for the second time. For a straight ‘A’ student, this was a big thing. My mother thought that maybe I just needed some hands-on experience, and decided to let me drive once around the block. Everything was going great, I was getting the hang of it — but then came The Turn. At a T-intersection, all I had to do was turn right into our street (remembering that, in NZ, we drive on the other side of the road compared to the US), avoiding the car wanting to turn out of it. Seemed simple enough. To this day, I still have no idea how I did it.
I turned completely around the car waiting to turn out, coming to a stop with the tires perfectly parallel with the curb and only inches between our car and the other car, facing the same direction. My mother stared straight ahead with her fingers gripped so tightly on the dashboard that she left indentations.
“Get out and walk.”
“I said walk.”
I nervously got out of the car and she drove off, leaving me stranded. At least I was only 10 minutes from home.
The next day, a scream reverberated through the house, with my mother standing in front of the bathroom mirror. She found her first grey hair.
Needless to say, my father took over my driving lessons from that day on.
My son will be eligible for a driver’s license of his own in two years time. Already I’m dreading it.
Why I Admire my Mother Reason #6: It’s good to be courteous, but let the bigger car have the parking spot.
Since I embarrassed myself yesterday with an anecdote about my first driving experience, I thought it was only fair to share my memories of my mother’s driving.
My mother used to drive this 10-person station-wagon painted army green. We didn’t call it The Tank for no reason. I have many fond memories associated with that car, including going to the drive-in movies and sleeping on the roof with my brother lying next to me. The Tank was of solid construction. Mom and Dad sold it to someone who took part in demolition derbies — and it won, twice.
Anyway, imagine a day when it’s pouring with rain and you’re on a mission to the grocery store. You see someone loading their groceries into their car, so you turn on the indicator and wait patiently while they finish and pull out, only to have some man suffering from a mid-life crisis driving a fancy Japanese sports car to whip around you and pull into the parking spot that you were waiting for.
Well… Mom got out of the car, and firmly put her hands on the man’s door, stopping him from getting out. “You will move your car now, or I will move it for you.”
“Lady, I’d like to see you try.”
(Never issue my mother a challenge like that. You won’t like what happens.)
She stormed back to our car and got back in, meanwhile the man gloated as he got out of his car. I think he might have even smirked. Mom put The Tank into gear and started pushing that tiny Japanese sports car out of the parking spot.
“Lady, you’re crazy!”
“No, just a woman who needs to do her shopping.”
I don’t know if that man learnt anything from that day, but I did: let the bigger car have the parking spot.
Why I Admire my Mother Reason #7: She’s adaptable and has quick reactions, even when driving into a ditch.
I should probably start by saying that my mother is a born and bred Californian girl. She did have the blond hair in her youth (thanks to bleach), but she never had the tan. I’ll get to that one at some point in the future. Anyway, we moved to New Zealand in June, 1987 (two weeks before my 11th birthday). New Zealand was going to be our home, and we needed a car. So Mom and Dad bought a red Toyota Corolla. It was a beast of a car, with manual steering, but she could handle it — she used to drive a tank.
Anyway, mom was still new to driving on the other side of the road, and she decided to take the car out for a drive in on the country roads of Albany (which aren’t country roads anymore, by the way). We were driving down the road and a car was heading straight for us. My mother was confused as anything, and she ditched the car. We had only had it for an hour and already she puts a whole bunch of scratches along the passenger door. She didn’t dent it, but they made cars differently back then.
After the other car passed us, she looked at me and asked, “What side of the road am I supposed to be driving on?” It was such an odd question given that we were now in a ditch.
It turns out that the other driver was actually on the wrong side of the road, but I learnt a valuable lesson that day. If in doubt, scratch up the shiny new car driving into a ditch.
Why I Admire my Mother Reason #8: She’s the only one I know who can be tardy because she got a speeding ticket.
In my younger years, my mother drove me to school every day, and like always we were running late — but we were going to make it in time. My mother had a lead foot. Anyway, we were driving down the freeway and of course she zoomed by a cop. He pulled her over, and because I was being the little brat that I was, he let her off with a warning. A little bit further down the freeway, she zoomed by the same cop. He let her go again. However three times was pushing it.
I think I’m the only kid in my school who can claim fame of being late to school because my mother got a speeding ticket.
Why I Admire my Mother Reason #9: She will always fight for what is right, even if she has to punch a hole in the principal’s desk.
It was in my first year of high school and we were two weeks away from the uniform transition period from winter to summer. My winter uniform consisted of black cardioid pants, and New Zealand at the time was suffering from a heatwave. Every day I would come home from school suffering from heat exhaustion, bordering on heat stroke. My mother decided to send me to school in my summer uniform with a note explaining the situation. However, for some unknown reason the deputy principal refused to give me a uniform pass — I was meant to be wearing the winter uniform, and that was that. “New Zealand doesn’t get heatwaves.”
My mother arrived at the school to deliver my science project, only to discover me in tears because I had detention for not wearing the correct uniform. My mother marched into the deputy principal’s office, demanding answers.
“You have no authority to dictate to us how we administer your daughter’s education. Between the hours of 9am and 3pm, you have no say.” The conversation went downhill from there.
I don’t remember what my mother actually said to the man, but I remember quite clearly the hole that she punched through his desk. She stormed out of the room, meanwhile I just looked at him and tsked.
“You just made a big mistake,” I said.
“What exactly will she do?” he asked. I smiled at the sound of fear in his voice.
The next day, I had an out-of-zone enrolment interview at one of the other high schools in the area, and the day after that I had another one. I was a straight “A” student. Of course, I got into both schools.
Today, my mother is a social worker for CYPS (Child and Young Persons Services). She doesn’t punch holes in desks anymore, but I know that impulse has coursed through her body on more than one occasion. She will relentlessly fight for the rights of the children under her care, even if they don’t appreciate her for it. One day, perhaps they will.
Why I Admire my Mother Reason #10: She’s a rebel on a beautiful toilet mission.
My mother was in her teens in the late 60s, early 70s. She was a hippy. She had the long blond hair, which I found out was bleached with peroxide and ironed with her mother’s clothes iron. She protested against Vietnam, and had friends that served and die. However she wasn’t the “free love” type hippy. No, she was the rebel on a beautiful toilet mission.
As a high school prank, my mother and her friends decided that the school football field was missing something vital, something that every player would need at some point during the big game. A toilet. So she and her friends plumbed a working toilet, complete with flush cycle, right in the middle of the field. So everyone would understand the efforts that they went to, they planted flowers around the edge and made it look all pretty. I can only imagine how the cops reacted when the school filed a police report. The insurance adjuster was probably laughing the entire time.
Why I Admire my Mother Reason #10: She’s a rebel on a beautiful toilet mission. (Amendment)
When I first posted this one, I thought it was the football field where my mother and her friends plumbed that beautiful toilet. Well, I had it wrong. It was the Senior Lawn, where the footballers and the cheerleaders hung out. Now that I know this, how they actually managed to plumb a working toilet makes sense, complete with flush cycle. In truth, the hangout spot makes a much better statement too. It’s would be the place where only the “popular” were allowed to hang out. Well, the “popular” ones were always full of shit…
Why I Admire my Mother Reason #11: Happy hour is for the whole family. Long Island Ice Teas anyone?
Growing up alcohol was never the forbidden fruit. Christmas dinner at my great-grandparents, and my Great-Grandma would pour me that glass of wine — granted it was in an aperitif glass, only two tablespoons max, but that’s beside the point. When I was teething as a baby, my Great-Great-Grandmother told my mother to soak the corner of a cloth in rum or brandy and rub it on my gums. (As you can see, it was a generational thing.)
Anyway, my mother had a particular fondness of Long Island Ice Tea. In the States, you can buy it already made up. In New Zealand… It’s illegal to sell the premix here because of the number of shots in a standard drink. Well, like I said, alcohol was never the forbidden fruit. If I wanted to try something, all I had to do was ask. She allowed me to have a sip of her glass. Well if you’ve ever had Long Island Ice Tea, then you will know how smooth that stuff is going down. A sip, which was all I was meant to have, rapidly turned into a gulp. Afterwards I had to go pee, but I couldn’t make my legs move. My mother, the kind caring person she is, helped me up, and deposited me in the bathroom where she left me. (Thanks Mom.)
Today, I don’t really drink. Some will say that it’s because of that one experience, but I believe it’s because alcohol was never the forbidden fruit.
Why I Admire my Mother Reason #12: Shopping with Mom is like shopping with my sister (I say frowning).
My mother and I get along extremely well, which is not always the case between mothers and their daughters, so I cherish it. However it can lead to some interesting situations when out and about. Once when I was sixteen, my mother and I were out shopping for something (bugger me if I can remember what). There we were laughing and making jokes, and the shop assistant said, “It’s so nice to see sisters getting along so well.” That is the last thing a sixteen year old wants to hear. My mother preened, meanwhile I scowled. “She’s my mother,” I growled.
To this day, my mother loves to reminded of this particular story.
Why I Admire my Mother Reason #13: If she can’t pronounce your name, she’ll give you one. (Ain’t that right, HeyYou?)
In New Zealand, we are surrounded by many who come from different cultures: Maori, Samoan, Fijian, Malaysian, Chinese, Dutch, Russian, Indian, Iranian, and the list goes on. Anyway, when my mother first met one of my best friends in all the world, she struggled with his name in a big way. He name is Gijs, and let me tell you, spelling it doesn’t help in any way, shape or form, to pronounce it. He’s Dutch, and the closest we non-Dutch uncivilised Kiwis can get to pronouncing his name is Yace.
Anyway… At my 18th birthday party, Gijs spent hours trying to teach my mother (and another close friend of mine) how to pronounce his name. In the end, my mother decided that his name would be “HeyYou”. “HeyYou is on the phone.” “Were you at the pub with HeyYou?” “So HeyYou is coming to dinner. What are you making?” She called him that for over four years, and even twenty years later, the odd “HeyYou” slips in.
When Gijs and I were married and had children, my mother only had one criteria: that we name our children something she could pronounce.
Why I Admire my Mother Reason #14: She has no shame. She’ll pinch anyone’s butt.
Those in New Zealand will understand what an institution the TV Soap Opera “Shortland Street” is, however I wonder how many know that “Shortland Street” when it first started in 1992 was filmed in Browns Bay on the North Shore of the Auckland area. I know, because we lived in Browns Bay at the time. When we went to fill up the car with petrol, we would often see one or more of the stars from that show also at the petrol station buying their cigarettes. Well…
One of the actors on the show back then was a gorgeous hunk, nicely built abs and all the bits that go with it. I’m talking in particular about Rene Naufahu. He was cast as Rocky in the Rocky Horror Picture Show when I was in my late teens. Mom put of a poster of him in those gold shorts on the toilet door. Gives you an idea how hunky he was. I believe that a few of my friends will remember that poster. Who could miss it? You’d sit on the toilet and there it was.
Anyway, there was this time when we pulled up to get petrol and stood in line at the counter to pay the bill. At the counter in front of us was Rene. My mother kept reaching forward to pinch his ass. Me… I spent the entire time trying to hold my mother’s hands down so she wouldn’t embarrass me too much. The attendant at the checkout… He chuckled at all the goings-on behind Rene. And Rene… He had no clue about how he made my mother’s day.
Why I Admire my Mother Reason #15: Her greatest joy and privilege was to embarrass the hell out of me.
My childhood was filled with laughter. Mom was always being silly. But sometimes her antics left me red.
When I was in 5th Grade (still living in the States), my mother volunteered to help out with my class Halloween party. I was fine with that, but when I saw that pointed hat walk by the window, I wanted to hang my head in shame. “She didn’t,” I mumbled. Oh, but she did. She came into the classroom with her face painted green, a long nose stuck on her face, and the classic wart. For a child who was only 10, seeing your mother dressed up as a complete fool… Nothing can be more embarrassing. However for some reason everyone else in my class thought my mother was the Coolest Mom in the World.
Now that I have children of my own, I can look back and see how “cool” my mother really was, but I still remember the embarrassment I felt at the time. I can appreciate how much she enjoyed making me turn red. Not only is it fun to embarrass your children, it’s mandatory.
Why I Admire my Mother Reason #16: She’s solid as a rock, even if the ground is not.
This one is not funny, but still requires mentioning.
On 4 September, 2010, Christchurch was rudely awoken by a 7.1 earthquake. Fifteen minutes of hell, aftershock after aftershock. Miraculously, no-one in the whole city died.
It took months for life to return to any sense of normalcy, but on 22 February, 2011, a 6.3 hit, decimating the city. My children and I were wrecks. We tried to make jokes about it—such as having a new excuse for a messy bedroom—but for 6 months we had lived with this…
Now for the point behind my story. Why my mother is a solid rock.
My son was 9, just old enough to understand what was happening, but still too young to process it. Months after the February quake, every time we had an aftershock, he’d be under the table. My son was a mess. (Our daughter was 6, and looked at her brother like he was weird.) So many told my husband and I that we should leave Christchurch permanently, and some said that we should send our son to live with someone else while Christchurch settled. No-one could give me any real advice—except my mother.
The advice she gave me was this:
“Christchurch is your home. The earthquakes will eventually settle down, unfortunately it will take years. When your son bolts, just offer him a hand out from under the table and give him a big hug so he knows that he’s okay. Eventually that little shake won’t be so scary.”
Four years on, my son still gets nervous with the little shakes. Recently we had a good jolt, but instead of bolting for the table or doorway, he casually walked over to me and gave me a hug.
It was my mother that helped both of us through the quakes, providing us with the tools needed to pull through together.
Why I Admire my Mother Reason #17: I know exactly what I will look like when I get older.
The genetics in my family are incredibly strong. My daughter is a spitting image of me at her age, so much so that on a recent trip to visit my parents, they kept calling her Judy. I look a lot like my mother too; there’s no mistaking the family resemblance. And Mom…
Well, when I was about thirteen, Mom decided to get her short hair died red and permed. When I saw it my eyes bulged with shock.
“So what do you think?”
Now most people at this point would just feign a smile and say that it looks great. Not me. I’m too honest for my own good. Instead, I said, “Do you really want to know?”
Mom frowned and looked at me with sad eyes. “Okay, let me have it.”
“You look like Grandma.”
She kept the red hair, but the perm was gone at the first opportunity.
Why I Admire my Mother Reason #18: She has a joke for everything, even stellar evolution.
My mother may not be the most scientific person, but she always had a way of helping me get those complicated concepts to stick in my head. Frequently, she would say some off-the-wall comment that stuck. While sitting my exams, I would remember that comment and start giggling—which often landed me in trouble with the exam supervisors.
One in particular that stands out in my recent memories is the order of the star classifications associated with temperature: OBAFGKM. How do I remember this odd sequence just off the top of my head, even though I have not needed this information for over 10 years? While studying for my Stellar Evolution paper at university, I randomly mentioned this to my mother and she came up with the following phrase:
Oh Bugger All Fairies and Gay Kinky Men.
It’s probably not the best mnemonic in the world, but it made me laugh, and it still does. Over 10 years later and I still remember that conversation and the sequence of stellar classifications.
Why I Admire my Mother Reason #19: Her youth is everlasting. No one will believe she is 58 today. Happy Birthday, Mom.
In the last post of this series, I thought I needed to include a photo.
When do you think this picture was taken? Well, it was taken in 2006, meaning that my mother was 49 at the time. You read that right, folks, she was nearly 50. And believe it or not, she hasn’t aged much since then.
It’s a sad fact of life, but we humans judge people based on their outward appearance. For women, youth is all people see. It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how successful, if you look youthful, then people will actually take you seriously. Many look at my mother and find it very hard to believe that she is rapidly approaching 60. She is so youthful, not only on the inside, but on the outside as well. So what’s her secret?
When I was young, my mother said to me that outward beauty all starts with your face and skin. Don’t wear lots of makeup. It’s not necessary. Cleanse and moisturise daily. Use sunscreen whenever you’re out and about. Don’t waste your time trying to get that perfect tan, turning your skin into a wrinkled leather mass in later years. And most importantly, don’t forget to eat. “It takes a special kind of stupid to forget to eat.” She also frequently said, “The Italians have a saying: forget the hips and save the face.” I don’t know if the Italians really do have that saying, but I like to think they do.
It all sounds simple enough, but it’s amazing how such simple things can make all the difference. My mother is living proof.
Today she is 58, still young and beautiful. Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you.
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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2015