This past week was my mother’s birthday. She would have been 86. Her cousin, who shares the name of their paternal grandmother, celebrated her 90th birthday the week before. As I saw FB posts of Cousin celebrating with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, I felt a selfish sting of jealousy and longing for my own mom. On her birthday I wanted to honor HER and started down the proverbial rabbit hole looking for new pictures to share.
I had one particular photo in mind but didn’t find it where I thought it should be. One box led to another, and I was lost for a week! It’s not as bad as it sounds… but whenever I had a moment, I was lost in my thoughts and “misty colored memories.” There were celebratory baseball cards from the Miracle Mets, slogan buttons for different causes and love beads. There were old notes and letters from friends about the most recent love tragedy or gossip -“Remind me to tell you when I see you later.” We passed notes to each other as we crossed in the hallway between classes in high school. I re-read letters sent from my mom and little sisters during my first year in college. They always added with love from Dad, Brother, the Dog and any stray cat they had named and were feeding at the time. I’m glad I kept these. They brought me back beyond the smiling faces of old photographs to the way we really were – to the struggles, the tears, and the adventures – now after having lived almost another half-century, they sound adorable and feel like a walk in the park on a spring day.
One of the treasures I found was my old yearbook from Intermediate School 88. Our advisor had included a couple of my writings – not the best entries in the book but certainly reflected the feelings of coming of age. “My Trademark” it was called and prompted me to write this blog today. As I went through the boxes, I began to realize that our hopes, dreams basic sense of who we are, remain the same. My little sister still loves animals. She and her husband bought some land when their kids were little, and despite her allergies, through the years they have had a variety of farm animals in addition to several dogs and her beloved cats. Her twin remains passionate about protecting and giving her all to care for those she loves most. My brother continues to do his own thing perhaps in the search for the next big adventure. My friends have lived and moved forward in the same way. Their strengths or weakness in academics and social settings more often than not reflect who they are today.
As for myself, my trademark also remains the same… the girl in the background observing, the one who will be the “homework helper” to the kid no one likes, the one who likes to talk to my older relatives and the “missionary” who is not afraid to take a stand for my beliefs. By far the greatest gift to my present-day self was seeing a couple of McGovern/Shriver ’72 pins in my box. Through the years I doubted my strength as an independent thinker. Growing up in a fundamentalist church and attending a bible college during the year of my first presidential election, I truly didn’t remember who I voted for – probably because I couldn’t talk about it openly. I often wondered if I had buckled to pressure and voted for Nixon but in that box of my secret treasures, I found my answer. Like the 2016 elections, my candidate did not win, but I don’t regret my choice.