Hi! It’s the official day when we celebrate love. I’m blessed to have lots of people that I love in my life. The person I’m thinking about this afternoon, though, is my first beloved — my mother. I lost her more than half my lifetime ago. Well, I didn’t exactly lose her. She died and I couldn’t call her on the phone anymore. I still have the gifts she passed to me as an artist, teacher and humorist.
Before she had children, my Mom was a nursery school and kindergarten teacher. She was brilliant at encouraging the children in her life to express their creativity and make stuff. I remember fingerpainting at the kitchen table, cutting out paper dolls and snowflakes, and singing lots of songs with her. She even wrote songs for all kinds of birthdays and other occasions so I always had the idea that I could do that too. She taught me to knit and crochet, and enlisted the help of my grandmothers to teach me more crocheting and embroidery. She was always delighted with anything that I produced creatively.
My mother played piano really well and could sightread and play by ear. I wanted to play too, but she wisely decided to have me study with someone else and she made me wait to take lessons until my legs could reach the pedals. Luckily, I was tall for my age, and started piano lessons at age 7.
I hated that she smoked cigarettes but I would go sit with her in the kitchen where, in the evenings, she usually sat by herself smoking, reading and playing solitaire. I went in sometimes to sit at the same table to do homework, and other times to play cards with her. That’s where I started becoming a humorist because we would play and tell stories and jokes and laugh and laugh and laugh. My father would come in but he couldn’t stand how fast we talked and the way my mother and I could talk at the same time and still understand each other, overlapping with ears wide open. He also just didn’t get our sense of humor which sometimes had no content at all. The point was the laughter and we often laughed until we cried, a necessary release for the mother of 5 children and her oldest child who was precociously terrified about what she knew about the Holocaust that happened before she was born, and the arms race that might kill us all right now.
Now, one of the things I love to do most is support the creativity of my professional speaking students, my improvisation students, my friends, and the children in my life.
Thanks, Mom. I will always love you and what you gave to me.