On June 26th, my mom turned 90. She lives far away and I won’t see her until later this summer. When we asked her how she wanted to celebrate this major milestone, she said she didn’t want a big party. Instead she said, “I want to celebrate all summer long.” As a family, we’ve granted her this wish, and we’ll be joining her and my dad (who is 93) at different times throughout the next couple months at their lake home in Minnesota.
Since I wasn’t able to be with my mom on the actual day, I decided to honor her in my own way. I checked the time of sunrise on her birthday and set my alarm a bit earlier so I could be on South Mountain at the exact moment the sun made its appearance. My timing was perfect. Right before my eyes, the purplish eastern sky transitioned into blue, pink, orange, and yellow. At first there was a tiny glimmer of light, then it burst open and filled up the sky. It was a sacred moment. As it happened, I thought of my mom and wished her all the love and light in my heart, expressed outwardly by the sun.
As the day unfolded, I thought of my mom’s influence on my life and consequently, the life of the Seed. Over the years my appreciation for her has grown, particularly what she and my dad provided for me as a child. When I see children of various ages working together on a digging project with water and sand, it takes me back to my childhood. We were given open space, raw materials, time, and freedom to interact with the natural world. There was no sense of being hurried. When I see children using their own ideas and techniques to create works of art, I remember how my mom would not let us have coloring books. Instead, she made sure we had a range of art materials, including paper, tools, wood, fabric, paints, crayons, glue, nails, clay…the list goes on. I don’t recall any limitation on where or when such materials were used for self-expression.
Throughout my life, each time I’ve visited my mom, she’s always had a project underway. Often it was some kind of hand work, such as knitting a baby blanket, or crocheting cotton washcloths for a service project. Her quilts are among the finest quality I’ve ever seen. More than the creative influences, though, I’ve come to see that my mom taught me to be strong and persevere. Regardless of what life experiences were dealt her way, she’s modeled how to stay with whatever came along without complaining.
When my mom was five, she lost her beloved father to a plane crash. He was an avid pilot in the early days of aviation, and it was a big loss for her and her family. She and her older brother were placed with separate family members so their mother could attend graduate school in a different state, and eventually build a career to support her children. My mom navigated all of this without the benefit of trauma therapy or grief support groups. It’s just the way it was in those days.
Managing and operating a school for over 40 years has required perseverance, as well as creativity, strength, and belief in myself. We’ve all benefited from these qualities I inherited from my mom. It’s a gift that will keep on giving, regardless how many more birthdays she or any of us celebrate.