“But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begins.”
―Mitch Albom, For One More Day
1. One of my first memories of my mother is her French braiding my hair while I sat on our kitchen stool. Unfortunately, this was class picture day and in my photo, I looked like a boy.
2. She could throw a softball farther than any of the kids on our block.
3. Her threshold for customer service was excessively high. She once threw an armful of socks across the J.C. Penney shoe department because the line was moving too slowly. My brother and I pretended we were with another family.
4.Her first job was a cashier at a grocery. Her last job was teaching seventh grade.
5. One Halloween she dyed footie pajamas red and bought a devil mask to dress a four-year-old me as the ASU sun devil mascot. My long ponytail would not fit inside the mask so she cut it off. She still loves telling this story, saying she thought I wouldn’t notice. I did.
6. We ate dinner together as a family every night and discussed current event table topics at her insistence.
7. I asked her if I could try out for the cheerleading squad in high school. She told me no, that I should read books instead.
8. She loved fast and flashy cars. Among her fleet was a Javelin, Volkswagen Rabbit, Cadillac, and a LeMans. When she married my dad, her father gave her a vintage Packard. In high school, she let me drive whatever car du jour she had.
9. She was a devout Catholic, until she decided she wasn’t. During the time that women were required to cover their heads at mass, if she forgot a chapel veil for me, she would bobby pin a Kleenex on the top of my head.
10. Her mother was born in France and had 11 sisters.
11. My mother was an early civil rights activist. She first taught in the South Phoenix school district because she believed the need was much greater than in the suburban white schools where we lived. She was a co-founder of the Arizona teacher’s union.
12. She insisted I attend a private school for first through eighth grades, even though my parents could not afford to pay for the tuition.
13. My brother Danny thought our washing machine was named shit because my mother would pound on it so often and say, “Oh, shit.” She is able to use the F-bomb as a noun, verb, and an adjective. Sometimes in the same sentence.
14. She grew up in Cheshire, Connecticut and moved to Tucson, Arizona when she was 16 because her father had severe asthma. She lived down the street from one of the Bonano family members.
15. We grew up answering to the name “DannyMichaelDori” because my mother rarely remembered our individual names quickly.
16. Once my mother told my brother Danny that she was not really his mother–that she was really a wicked witch who had eaten his mother. He would not come near her until my father came home from work to convince him otherwise.
17. My mother decided she wanted to work and not stay home anymore (not related to the witch incident) and got a job when my brothers and I were 12, 10, and 6. I am the oldest. We had a wonderful housekeeper named Mrs. Russell who my youngest brother Michael thought was his mother for years.
18. In her late 30s, my mother decided to go back to school and went on to earn a Masters Degree in Education graduating summa cum laude.
19. My mother has never been social. My high school girlfriend Vicki and I nicknamed her The Good Neighbor because she wasn’t. These days I tell her she invented Anti-Social Media.
20. She is a fabulous gourmet cook. We were always surprised with some kind of extravagant feast she found recipes for in her huge cookbook collection. She taught me how to make nearly everything I can cook.
21. I found a suede jacket with fringe on it, hippie style, in her closet once, leftover from her Tucson western high school days, and I wore until it fell apart.
22. Her knowledge is near encyclopedic. If I want to know something, I usually ask her first before I Google it.
23. She had two sisters. Patty, who died in 1974, and Doree, who died when she was three years old, after whom I’m named.
24. My mother has always been an avid reader. She taught me to read when I was two years old. In high school, she gave me books like The Invisible Man, Atlas Shrugged, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X. She bought me nearly all of the American and British classics when I was in grade school. Her bedtime stories were from Rudyard Kipling’s Just So stories.
25. Perhaps the most important things my mother taught me were to be kind, polite, the importance of thank you notes–and to seek out those who stand alone.
Photo: ©Dori Owen All Rights Reserved