I think it started in second grade. I wished only to sink deeper into my oversized paint smock as I watched my exuberant classmates splash rainbow colors on their papers. They were having the time of their life. I was beyond horrified. The creator of all this "fun" was a visiting parent teaching an art class.
And so began the recurring fantasy of my early years...Why don't I have a mom that bakes cookies?
This was only further cemented by my obsession with watching the Brady Bunch. Although my brother Joey and I were well taken care of, you would never quite call my mom the domestic type. The expensive sewing basket given as a present from my aunt, turned into a wasteland for my disheveled Barbies. I think my aunt may have been more forgiving had she not found her gift in the sandbox.
Instead, my mom could be found working on her dollhouses, painting murals on my bedroom walls, playing piano, or taking her weekly ballet class. She tried to enroll me in structured group activities such as Brownies (pre-Girl Scouts), Colonial Camp (I still have an aversion to candle dipping) and numerous other attempts which usually ended with my fleeing the scene in tears. It became evident she was seeing herself in me, and I happily spent the remainder of my summers running though sprinklers and playing imaginary games with my friends.
Traditional sit-down dinners only occurred when my father was in town. He was an airline pilot, and when he was away we ate out. A lot. It was common to find us nestled in our favorite booth at Pier W with our homework spread out over the table. When my brother went through his phase of only eating hamburgers, Kenny Kings and Bobs Big Boy topped the list.
On Friday evenings, we visited the local libraries and checked out 15-20 books at a time until our card was temporarily revoked due to so many overdue and lost items (my new status as a delinquent did not help my worrying habit). We finished off the night sipping root beer floats with my mother often saying, "Someday you will grow up and this will all be a memory."
Her life was secure in many ways, and truthfully she could have continued on that path. But as I would later discover in my growing up years, my mother never chose what was easy over what she felt led to do. Our new life would primarily be the three of us. I'm sure my mother may have faced uncertainty of the unknown. If so, she didn't let fear stop her.
By the looks of that rifle, perhaps she wasn't so fearful after all.
As you perhaps read in my mother's earlier posts, while we were at school, she was busy inventing and creating. Encouraged by her earlier successes at American Greetings, she became driven to create that same success for herself. Big dreams with even bigger odds. And she was driven. I look back now and am truly amazed at her ingenuity and courage.
But back then if it wasn't about me, I wasn't really paying attention. I was a teenager, forever obsessing about pink and green clothing spotted with whales, basketball, and which singer I would marry from Duran Duran. I found my mom's numerous projects and properties tedious, especially when I had to wait for what seemed to be endless hours in the car while she frequented art stores, seamstresses, bookstores, printing shops, graphic designers, and the most boring of all, fabric stores.
Thankfully my friends were as zany as myself and no one blinked an eye at the doll parts (prototype dolls), furry fabrics resembling squished squirrels, and other pieces and parts scattered throughout our home. Most of my friends had "traditional" parents and found the whole thing amusing. Just like my second grade class, they loved my mom because she was fun and dropped us off at the video arcade with our pockets bulging with quarters for Pac-Man.
Many envied the independence I was granted: riding the Saturday bus downtown for my ballet lessons, starting my own lawn mowing business, and going off to summer camps for a month. The fact that I traveled to NYC with my mom to meet with her licensing agent also stood out in their minds as super cool.
Dressing up as Baby New Year and Boy George & Cyndi Lauper with my best friend Tami
My mom wanted the best education for us and sacrificed to send us to schools that were out of her reach. For that, I will always be thankful for some of my best school memories growing up. She was frequently the inspiration behind my creative school projects and assignments that stood out from the rest. I still remember my first creative writing class in 6th grade that entailed her idea of using a furry monster hand as part of my presentation. No yawns in that speech. She encouraged my unique voice and creativity in my writing, a talent I now share with other students.
Although I thought I wasn't paying attention over the years, I was. Before me, I watched an entrepreneur in the making; a visionary who believed in the power of big dreams, the courage to risk failure, and the tenacity to never give up. A producer friend of mine told me that it takes great courage to put a piece of yourself out into the world. Being vulnerable is not easy.
While I didn't have the aroma of freshly baked cookies wafting through the house, I think I am okay. Instead, I gained something far greater that influenced my journey to become the person I am today.
And for less calories.
Coming up next: My Neighbor, Jackie O.