I had a friend, growing up, who felt she was not supposed to come home with dirt on her clothes. A young lady was not to do that.
Which is how I learned early on to treasure my mother’s take on us after a good day down at the creek or in the woods in the back yard: she would give us an appraising look with a grin on her face and pronounce, “You must have had *fun* getting THAT dirty!”
She had this big bicycle horn she would raise high and honk to call us home from all over the neighborhood; all the other parents and children knew that sound and if we didn’t hear it would go, Hey, you, your mom’s calling you.
We would hold back and go one at a time, then run from our game of four-square or what have you on up the sloping street to Mom, especially in the summertime when the light continued for so long after dinner: run run running trying to pick up speed and at the end leaping up into her arms where she would swing us around and around and around on the grass next to the street, often till we were so dizzy we would fall down in delight when she let us down into the grass (or if that didn’t work, airplane our arms around and around till we made ourselves dizzy enough).Â Just every now and then, she would fall down laughing too.
We learned we couldn’t be jealous and try to push ahead of the next kid–Mom couldn’t catch two at once.Â Â She was perfectly capable of turning her back and chirping cheerfully as she walked away, “Nope! Lost your chance!”Â Awww, MOooooommmmm…”Â We had to take turns.
I wrote in my book about my friend Lisa, who 18 years ago volunteered to watch my preschoolers Monday through Friday mornings so I could go do swim therapy after my lupus diagnosis.Â And like I did with my own kids, I used to swing her preschoolers around and around like my mom had done with me.
When Lisa’s family flew back to this area for her mother-in-law’s funeral, I swung her two little boys and their little sister around and around till we all fell down, for old times’ sake, even though they were beginning to be a bit big for it.Â Arthritis shmitis.Â I was not about to miss the opportunity. They’d been such a big part of my life for the three years we’d traded off watching each others’ kids, and I wanted them to remember the fun parts.
Lisa later had one more child, who of course had no connection to his older siblings’ California memories.
A few years ago, they decided to come vacation in Washington DC to coincide with when we were going to be there for our oldest’s Maryland wedding reception.Â We had them over to my folks’ house and had a grand time.Â And before they left, in my folks’ grassy front yard, to the delight of the youngest, I ditched my now-cane and picked him up and swung him around and around and around till we both fell down laughing. (There was no way I wasn’t going over too, nowadays.)
What delighted me was the instant reaction of the older siblings to their little brother: “NOW you’ve had the Sister Hyde experience!”Â They still remembered being swung around! And they were glad for him that he got to have that!
My mom taught me how to do that.
My mom taught me to laugh when life makes you dizzy.
My mom taught me to see the best in others.
My mom (and Dad, too, I should add) taught me to go play in the woods and splash in the creek.Â To admire the box turtles munching the mayapples but leave the snapping turtles be. To fill the birdfeeder without fail when it was cold and to laugh at the antics of the squirrels trying to get at it (and not to mind feeding them, too).
My mom taught this high-strung child how to chill out.Â When my then-bachelor brother told her he could never have six kids like she had had, that he just didn’t have the patience, she stared at her older son a moment and then guffawed, “How do you think I *learned* it?!”Â On the job training!
Happy birthday, Mom. Thank you.Â I speak on behalf of all of us when I say, your six kids love you. Very much.Â Wishing you a little bit of creek, a little bit of dirt on your new silk blouse, and go twirl till you’re dizzy!
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