Happy birthday, mom.
I was taken aback recently when I looked at my calendar (something I do seemingly hundreds of times a day, being someone who regularly schedules people for daily slots.
Tomorrow, Thursday, March 29, would be my mother's 100th birthday.
It's sad she's not alive to see it.
Nevertheless, that got me thinking, and, to be honest, traveling down Memory Lane.
My mother was amazing, and far ahead of her time. Before I was even born she began a small business, Wee Cottage Antiques, in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. I was actually nearly born there -- my mother wanted to stay at the shore as long as possible, despite being over nine months pregnant with me. They barely made it back to Myerstown, Pennsylvania, our winter home base and the location of my family home, mother's doctor and hospital before my arrival in the summer of 1956.
We were back in Rehoboth -- and my mother working her shop -- within a month of my birth, unheard of at the time.
But my mother was a determined woman.
She cared for her mother, who died before my birth of what is now known as Parkinson's disease, and my grandfather, who also died before I had the chance to know him. She began a club for the older folks of our town that existed for many years as the "Golden Agers Club." She was very fond of her Woman's Club, and often spoke about antiques or other topics to other civic groups. She went back to college when I was in elementary school and got a degree in English, something in which she had always excelled but not been able to pursue before. In later years, she became a real estate mogul, buying, renovating and managing homes and properties in three states, and even running Country House, a bed and breakfast establishment in Lewes, Delaware.
In the midst of it, she had a forty-year love affair with my father, who sadly died all too early. I remember their marriage as one of love, warmth, loyalty and joy.
I learned a lot from her.
And yet, there's something about being dead that allows retrospection in those left behind, even those who dearly loved the departed one (and who were dearly loved in return).
I can see her faults and failings much more clearly now than I could when it was possible to actually speak to her about them. From the vantage point of my sixty-one years, there is more clarity to our relationship, our family and the various factors at work in my early years. Still, it's an odd phenomenon that I can see her feet of clay now in ways I could never have done when she was alive. And the really insidious part of that is that I can see that I share those clay-y feet.
My best friend got me a button one Christmas that said, "Stop me quick, before I turn into my mother!"
It's strange to look critically at a loved one and be able to see where you got some of the traits that you least like in yourself. I'm grateful to my mother for those wonderful things she passed on to me -- intelligence, an ability and desire to be loving and faithful in marriage, a love of writing, books, people and animals, an entrepreneurial spirit, loyalty and a loving heart. I'm glad I missed -- or at least I think I did -- her occasionally judgmental nature, her use of guilt as a manipulator and her sometime snottiness. However, I believe I have in full measure other things from her that I'd love to eliminate -- her almost-hoarding nature that encourages me to keep things that someday just might be worth something is a big one. I struggle with that. (My husband especially struggles with that! LOL). And sometimes I find myself being more critical in my private life than I think is generally helpful. And I'd dearly love to ditch the hereditary body type and prevalence to weight gain despite healthy eating and exercise that is part of my heritage from her.
Many years ago, as part of a funny story I'll relate another time, one of my cousins, on seeing me for the first time in a long time, said, "Oh, look! Here comes Aunt Anita!" At the time, I was unamused, but he really had it right in so many ways.
So today, mere hours from the time she would be blowing out 100 candles had she still been with us, I think about her and reflect on my life -- on her life -- on our lives together -- and how those mother/daughter bonds still exist and are even strengthened as I get older. How the woman she raised me to be is pretty much the woman I have become.
Somehow, even with all my foibles and failings, with the good and not so good that I've inherited, that's not a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all.
Happy birthday, Anita Irene Heagy Watson. Rest in peace.
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