With International Nurses Day and Mother’s Day being observed in the same weekend this year, it seems like a great time to write about my Mom. I realize I am biased, but I think my Mom has a great story. I could be wrong, but I think she has shown a level of independence that was often ahead of her time. I firmly believe that her choices and her spirit helped to provide me with the springboard to my life and some of the decisions I was brave enough to make. We’ve not always seen eye to eye – especially during those pesky teenage years – but I truly consider my Mom to be one of my best friends.
She started her life in Holyoke, Massachusetts, but I won’t tell you the year for fear of raising her wrath! She was the 4th born in a big Irish Catholic family with 8 kids. Her father died when she was just 12 years old and my grandmother did the best she could, but times were tight. That never stopped my mother and she rarely, if ever, mentions what she had or did not have as a child. After she graduated from high school, she enlisted in the US Navy and served 3 years. After her honorable discharge from the Navy, she joined the US Postal Service as one of the first (if not the first) female letter carriers in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts. It was there that she would meet the man that would later become her husband. She married my father in June of 1970 and became pregnant with me the next year. It was the beginning of a new life, but it was the end of her career with the US Postal Service. It is hard to fathom now, but at that time, there was no maternity leave at the US Postal Service in 1971. I was born in October 1971 and some time after that, my mother started and finished nursing school. With her LPN under her belt, she began working as a nurse. She worked as a nurse for a few years. Then because of my father’s work schedule and her work schedule, she resigned so that one of them would be home with me full-time. She stayed home full-time with me and then as I started school, she began working part-time. She began as a temporary/call-in employee for the School Lunch Department in our town and by the time I entered high school, she was managing the kitchen in one of the elementary schools. It was when I was in high school that she decided to start working as a nurse again. While still working for the School Lunch Department, she began to work on a Per Diem basis as an LPN for a nursing home. She continued working for that nursing home after retiring. In fact, she worked at that nursing home for 20 years. I didn’t realize it as a teenager, but looking back, I realize how intimidating it must have been to go back to a career she hadn’t touched in 15 years. She did it without blinking and she stayed working until she moved to Texas 4 years ago.
My Mom reinvented herself in her career more than once all while raising me. She was there in the morning to get me off to school and she was there when I came home. Dinner was always on the table for us to eat together as a family, the house was always clean and the laundry was always done. Now that I am a wife and a mother, I realize how impressive that really is! In addition to the things we did as a family, my mother added in activities that were just for her and I. We would sometimes take the bus to the downtown area one town over to go shopping and have lunch. We had a car and I have always thought she took me for the adventure, but I now realize that it was the 70s and the price of gas had skyrocketed. I still like to think of it as an adventure. She took me to museums to look at art and she took me to listen to the Boston Pops play at Tanglewood in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. I don’t know if it was that she wanted to expose me to those things or that she wanted to explore them herself, but it gave me an appreciation of art and music. It also taught me to do the same things with my daughter.
As I said above, we haven’t always seen eye to eye. There were fights about boys, make up, curfews and more, but as I became an adult and made different decisions, my mother was and is one of my biggest supporters. When I decided I wanted to apply to the MBA Programme at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, she not only approved, but once I was accepted, she traveled to Ireland with me to get the lay of the land before I moved. She supported my move to Connecticut after returning back from Ireland and my move to Rhode Island after that. When I decided to move to Texas in 2005, she supported my decision and was my co-pilot as I drove cross-country. We drove slow and took in sites such as the Rock & Rock Hall of Fame, Graceland and more. It was the best vacation I’ve ever had and the memories of it will last a lifetime. Knowing the choices she made, it’s not hard to see why she always supported me.
I met the man that is my husband about a year after moving to Texas. My parents came down to meet him before the wedding and my Mom was at my side to help me pick out my wedding dress. They came down for the wedding and then came down for an extended visit in 2008 when our daughter was born. Gwen was born in March 2008 and my parents were residents of Texas by November of that year. Both her grandparents love her dearly, but there is definitely a love affair between Gwenny and her Grandma. I’m still amazed that my parents moved here – my mother more so than my Dad. He had lived in Texas when he served in the Air Force, but my Mom was a straight-up East Coaster. Born in raised in Massachusetts with a few years in Virginia, her love for her granddaughter was stronger than any fear of change she might have.
I realize as I type this that you might not think my Mom’s story is as amazing as I do and that’s okay. To me, she is an amazing woman who came from very little who built a life and reinvented herself a few times along the way while raising a daughter and being a wife. She has a sharp tongue, a level of sarcasm that I admire and a heart of gold. She raised me to have her spirit. It is a gift for which I am grateful. It is a gift that I hope I am able to pass on to my daughter.
Now, tell me about your Mom!