The first book that I “wrote” was a short story about Superman. My grandmother had sent me a set of stickers in my birthday card, and I immediately set them to work on paper, drafting a story around the poses. My attentive mother wrote the story down for me, as I was probably about 3 years old at the time, and this began my marriage to writing (I would never call my relationship with writing a “love affair”—it’s much deeper than that!). By the time I was 6, I was writing prolifically; during in-class writing time I would write 10 pages on that dusty green recycled paper to my classmates’ 1 or 2 pages. I loved to write. By the time I was 8, I adapted one of my stories into a play and directed my 3rd grade classmates in a production. My mom typed up and copied the script, and made the costumes for the play.
This was the beginning (I feel it was the beginning, but of course, it started from the moment I was born) . The beginning of so much quiet support from my mother. She nurtured my skills—always giving me the tools to succeed but never judging, giving advice, or her opinions. She was the creative genius behind my bringing in “Lemon Popcorn” in kindergarten when it was my turn to bring in a snack beginning with the letter “L.” She sewed everything under the sun, let me pick out ceramics to paint, entertained me with art projects and “smelling games” (smelling herbs and spices from a covered cup and guessing what they were). She let me “study” tadpoles in our backyard pond, make dozens of crazy movies (back when it was a whole lot harder to make them! No iphones, dude!), and she basically supported all of my creative endeavors with her actions. She typed up my plays and stories when I abhorred typing on the computer (unfathomable now, right?), saw all of my plays from childhood through college to NYC and graduate school (not to mention supporting me in all of the other non-theatre related activities I was swamped with). She designed and sewed puppets for photography shoots for me to illustrate a children’s book I’d written. She fostered an environment of creativity and entrepreneurship (backyard summer Olympics, a children-run newspaper for sale, summer carnivals we hosted in our yard) that undoubtedly formed more of my creativity than I realize. She was creative herself—hosting fun parties complete with games and prizes, making her own “pear orchard dolls” when cabbage patch kids were all the rage (and giving them out to dozens of kids in our community), turning star-shaped cookies into a 3-D Christmas tree display, making curtains, lamps, cross stitched birth announcements, clocks, toys… She hosted murder mystery parties, she made green eggs and ham to celebrate Dr. Seuss (she even had us write letters to Dr. Seuss for his birthday, having us draw a picture of our own creature to send to him), she made home-made playdough, her own pizza dough every Sunday and "herman" (Amish friendship bread) which gave us various desserts for months at a time.
Without my mom, I would not have had the creative foundation needed in order to develop my craft as I have. My mom never questioned when I decided to go to graduate school for playwriting and make a career out of theatre. She, honestly, never seemed to judge anything in raising me—but accepted my decisions and gave me the ownership in making them. She continues to be this way as I’ve started my own family—supporting me with my decisions as a parent, but never judging me in the least (or if she does, she doesn’t let on to me!). But this is part of what makes her who she is. She is more than a creative supporter. She is kind. So kind. So thoughtful. This woman has been sending birthday and anniversary cards to dozens of people every single month. It’s hard to have grown up in our community without having received a card, a cookie, a glass of kool-aid or pear orchard doll from my mom at some point in your life.
My mom has volunteered all her life—from sitting on the library board, to volunteering at my school, at a daycare, as a teacher at church, the superintendent of the Sunday school (even after her own kids were grown), always tithing no matter what, sponsoring a child in Africa, hosting “inner city” children in our house over the summer, not to mention the meals, homemade baby clothes and other thoughtful gifts she’s bestowed on hundreds of people over her life time. She helped paint and repair our fixer-upper house, she made bridesmaids dresses for my wedding, she’s help to throw numerous baby showers for young moms in the community. She’s had a love for life that is contagious—camping throughout the summer in my parents’ retirement, geocaching before anyone knew what it was, going to amusement parks, a Star Trek Adventure, traveling out west in an RV, playing baseball and board games with her grandkids, releasing sky lanterns into the air. She is everything that I could ask for a mom to be, and if I have taken away anything from her parenting example, then my children are lucky for that.
My mom now has ALS and has lost the ability to walk, use her arms, and her voice is getting weaker. She has been a pillar of strength in my family all of my life, and even now, she exemplifies strength, despite this cruel disease. She participates in every aspect of her regular life that she can for as long as possible. And when she can’t, we, her family and community, are happy to do what we can now for her. She deserves this. When I started a gofundme campaign to raise funds for a wheelchair-accessible van for her, we were touched to see it shared over 500 times, and receive donations and cards from people from all walks of her outreach and influence.
So on this Mother’s Day—and every day—I am grateful for all that my mother has given me through my years as a child, teenager, and adult. She has given her entire life to helping others and personifies Patience and Kindness. Her community, her family, her friends, my life, and the world, are a better place because of her. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I LOVE YOU!