If you haven’t yet seen it, do yourself a favor and Google, “World’s Toughest Job Interview.” The interviewer is conducting interviews with potential candidates for a fake job they’ve created called, Director of Operations. During the interviews, the employer slowly reveals a job description that is crazy beyond measure: Works 365 days a year with no days off, must maintain a happy disposition, eats only after the associate has eaten – and does all of it for no pay. The candidates respond similarly – “No – that’s crazy.” “Is that even legal?,” asks one. Of course, the job is that of a mom. Powerful stuff.
My mom, Shirley Mae Fulton Welch, passed away in 2006. While I had her for 39 years, I find myself thinking of all the milestones of my life she missed – she didn’t get to see me turn 40, wasn’t there when I bought a house in the neighborhood she grew up in, didn’t get a chance to meet my fiancé, XXL (whom she would have loved) and of course, the biggest milestone of all – she won’t be sitting in the front row when her baby girl gets married. Planning our wedding has been filled with many emotions, but the most powerful are the ones around my mom. I’m super fortunate to be in possession of the dress she wore when she married Dad back in 1954. I also have their wedding album filled with pictures of her and her attendants in front of her childhood home on Windsor Avenue in Del Ray. And, it occurred to me that her own mother didn’t get to see her get married, let alone meet my dad or any of her four children. My grandmother died when my mom was just 16 which reminds me how blessed I am to have had her for as long as I did. My young friends, Madi and Kenzie, lost their mom just over two years ago – they were fifteen and ten at the time. Their mom, Holly, was one of my oldest and dearest friends, and she left us with a legacy of beautiful, fun memories that we will all cherish for many years to come. We are all sad and a little angry that Holly’s daughters got robbed of so many of their milestones with her – proms, graduations, weddings, etc. There’s no replacement for a Mom, but we ‘stand ins’ are doing our best to make the loss as bearable as possible and ensure the hugs are plentiful and the milestones celebrated. Holly’s friends have become her memory keepers and share our stories at every opportunity.
Even though Mom has been gone eight long years, there are certain memories that seem like just yesterday…like her 39th birthday (I was five), when I woke up, snuck out of the house, and invited all the neighborhood women over for a birthday party (unbeknownst to my mother who was a late sleeper). They arrived at our doorstep as she was making coffee in her nightgown. Lucky for her I had an entire Easy Bake oven cake (burnt) to serve all six of our guests! Or, how we gathered at our kitchen table on rainy afternoons for coloring contests. She always let me have first pick of the book (Aristocats!), and we would sit for hours absorbed in our artists’ world. Whether it was Donald or Mickey or Tom and Jerry, her finished pieces were always way better, but somehow I managed to win every time. “Wait here a second, while I go get your prize.” She would retreat back to her bedroom and return with her hands hidden behind her back. “Pick a hand and that’s your prize.” Didn’t matter which hand – she had amazing treasures in both – a pair of clip earrings or a piece of bling from her jewelry box, a shiny quarter, or a lace handkerchief to be used for dress up. Enough to make a young girl leap for joy! Probably explains why I still secretly love to color and smile every time I pass a box of Crayolas. The smell alone sends me reeling. We both loved when Elvis Presley films were the movie of the week, and I can’t watch I Love Lucy or The Honeymooners without thinking of her. She was a night owl and loved her quiet TV time. Emergency, Medical Center, and Marcus Welby were some of her favorites. I still think she secretly wanted to be a doctor. She loved Peppermint Patties, iced tea, and the color blue. She was most comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt, didn’t wear much make up, and rarely bought herself anything. She didn’t much like to cook or bake, but she would stop whatever she was doing to help put on Barbie’s shoes. She was embarrassed about her dentures, but if we begged, would take them out to show our friends-which we thought was the coolest trick ever. When she had her first seizure in 1976, she wouldn’t let them do the CAT scan until after we got back from our planned trip to Disney World – she didn’t want to ruin our vacation. We never had a baby sitter, and Friday nights were a special treat because we either got to go to McDonalds or pick our own TV dinner. Even though she was a smoker all her life, her voice sounded like silk when she read my favorite bedtime stories, and I drifted off to sleep with thoughts of Pudgy Fudgy and Tickle Pinkle in Upsy Downsy Land. Life was good.
While not all of us were blessed with our own DNA to scoop up after falls and kiss away salty tears, we often become mothers of another kind. I’d like to think I’m one heck of a cool aunt, and I am a total momma bear when it comes to my baby cubs at work. My baby cubs just happen to be a group of smart, attractive, fun and funny young women who sometimes need my advice, kind words or even a hug because their own mothers are a USAir flight away. Oh – and let’s not forget our furry babies. When XXL and I first brought Macey and Dozer home, I imagined how new parents must feel – awakened every few hours to check on them, let them out, save a beloved boot from an untimely death, wipe pee off the floor, etc. To date, XXL and I have argued over how to discipline, safest toys, whom to allow to pet sit when we go away, to crate or not to crate, and whether or not we are showing favoritism because Macey is allowed on the couch and Dozer isn’t. It’s good to teach them early on that life isn’t always fair. In Macey’s defense, Dozer gets to go outside and she doesn’t. Loving and protecting those little creatures fills my heart with an indescribable joy – I can only imagine the joy of raising children of the two-legged variety. I comfort myself in the knowledge that I won’t have to send my kids to college or pay for therapy. Although, I must say that at the rate we are going through Kong toys ($$$$) and treats, XXL and I could have enjoyed a nice week in Napa. Regardless – the memories I’m creating with all my baby cubs are special in my heart, and there’s always room for more.
I look at Mom’s wedding dress hanging in my closet and wonder how she felt on that warm summer day back in 1954. Excited? Scared? Sad that her mom wasn’t there? I’m sure I’ll be feeling all those things and more, but somehow I know she’ll be watching. Real life feels a bit like Upsy Downsy Land without her, but at least I have my “Mom”ories. Miss you, Mom!
To all the Moms of the two-legged and four-legged babies, you’re amazing. Give yourselves a big hug, put your feet up and turn on the telly. If you’re missing your own Mom, grab a coloring book and some crayons and reward yourself with an awesome prize.
Written by: Lori Welch