Mom 1Our mothers are our first and most important female role models.

In those early years, they are the center of our universes. We think they know everything.

A few years later, the eye-rolling starts and before long, we’re bound and determined to do the exact opposite of anything our mothers tell us we should do.

Here is the one thing you should know about my mom – she had perfect attendance in high school, a fact she never failed to throw in our faces.

“MOM! I think I have that flesh-eating bacteria. Or maybe leprosy. I can’t go to school today. Call the attendance office and tell them I won’t be in.”

“Linda. Get your uniform on and get to school. I had perfect attendance in high school, you know.”

Now, it’s possible it didn’t go down that way. Probably, she didn’t throw it in our faces at all. In fact, I may never even have had a flesh-eating bacteria.

Memory is a fallible thing.

Maybe it went something like this:

The young, sassy version of me standing in the kitchen, hands on my hips. “Pam’s mom is a nurse. Peggy’s mom works for Century 21 and wears a gold blazer. Lisa’s mom makes homemade ravioli on Thanksgiving. Have you ever done anything? What do you have for me to toss into this competition, Mother?”

And she’d be all lower-lip-trembling, blinking back tears, her voice breaking up “Well… I did have perfect attendance in high school, but, really, it was no big deal.”

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle of those two scenarios. I don’t actually remember Mom telling us she had perfect attendance. As a little girl, I remember going through her big leather jewelry chest, one drawer at a time, and seeing that high school perfect-attendance pin laying there on the red velvet next to her class ring and some of the most amazing giant daisy clip-on earrings I had ever seen.

I just always knew my mom had perfect attendance in high school.

Some years after high school, she married my dad and before long, she had three babies in diapers at the same time.  We weren’t multiples, we were just Irish. And Catholic.

Eventually, my youngest sister joined the family. Once all four of us were in school, my mom went back to work. It wasn’t  gold-blazer job or anything like that, but still, it was a darn good job. I don’t think they gave perfect attendance awards at work, but if they did, she would have gotten one. Well, until the blizzard hit.

In 1982, St. Louis had a huge blizzard. Over 18 inches of snow fell on us on a quiet Sunday. The whole city came to a stand-still. Monday was, of course, a snow-day for us kids, but my mom was determined to go to work. She had all four of us out there digging her car out of its city block parking spot. And we did. We dug that car out. I remember thinking “Now what, Mom?” I wondered if she was going to have us run ahead of the car and shovel the road all the way to Anheuser-Busch.

If there was a perfect attendance award at her work, she lost it that day. She couldn’t get to the office. She was not happy.  My mom didn’t like to miss work. She wasn’t the type to not show up.

Because, as you know, she had perfect attendance in high school.

In contrast, I did not.

My siblings and I knew better than to try to fake illness with my mom to get out of school. Fortunately, she left early for work and my dad was the parent in charge in the mornings. My strategy, once I reached the devious and brilliant age of adolescence, was to wait for Mom to leave and then approach Dad.

“Uh, Dad? I have really bad cramps.”  I would say. He didn’t ask questions after that.

That only worked until Mom found out, because even with menstrual cramps, Mom showed up.

The truth is, I didn’t even finish high school. I had to do that Catholic schoolgirl walk of shame, my white blouse untucked from my uniform skirt to cover up my burgeoning baby bump. I finished my diploma via correspondence courses.  My mom made sure I showed up, even if it was by US Postal Service.

My first daughter was born when I was 18. I was still living at home. I needed some time to get my mom-legs steady under me and learn how to handle this whole being-in-charge-of-another-human thing. My mom showed up for me through all of that.

Eventually, I moved out and then had a second child. When the marriage to their father failed, I found myself a single mother. I had my kids and I had a job, but he took the only car we had, so I had no vehicle and no money with which to buy one.

During that period in my life, my mom showed up at my house every morning. She picked me and the girls up, drove to my babysitter’s house so I could drop my kids off, drove to my office so she could drop her kid off, then she went to work. At the end of the day, my mom showed up to pick me up from work, then took me to pick my daughters up, took us home and finally went home herself. For over a year, five days a week, until I could afford a little used car of my own, my mom showed up for me.

Over the years, my mom showed up for a lot of things. Softball games, band concerts, birthday parties. Sometimes I landed on her doorstep with an overdrawn checking account or a failed marriage and she showed up for me then, too.

Looking back, I kind of wish we would have shoveled her all the way to work the day of that blizzard in 1982.

I can’t go back and do that, of course, but what I can do, and what I’ve tried to do, is follow in her footsteps and show up for my daughters.  And while I’ve been tempted to join the Witness Protection Program during those teen years, thus far, I’ve been true to her example.

I’ve shown up for them because my mother, the most important role model in my life, always showed up for me.

Needless to say, I stopped rolling my eyes many years ago.

There’s a lot going on in my life right now. I’ve just started a new job. I’m in the middle of a divorce. Sometimes I need someone to pick up my kids for me and sometimes I need someone to pick up the phone for me. In any case, I know I can reach out to my mom, because where motherhood is concerned, she has perfect attendance.


Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

Mom 3

Mom 2

Mom 4