Sunday, June 2, 2013

To Dance With No Music

This is my mother. 

This is her with my kids. :)

They are at a park, and simply decided to dance. So my mom hums something, and they do.

Growing up, I did not know Shakespeare said that "all the world's a stage." In my family, I simply knew it to be true.  At any moment, my mom could break into a jig or a song and require me to join. Wherever we were.  Whoever was watching. And I always did, shy as I was, because I knew it made her proud.

I'm not saying it was not sometimes more than a little embarrassing. My humble piano, recorder, and even guitar skills (of which I knew five chords) were trotted out at every nursing home.  Company over for dinner was always treated to some sort of performance by the Mitchell kids. "So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen" etc... remember that song? Yeah, did that every time we kids went off to bed and left my mom and the other adults to chat. Oh no, I'm quite serious.  Thankfully, there are no pictures...

My mom's confidence spurred me on through auditions, acting in plays, performing in choirs. Whenever I sang--and even now, as recently as this Mother's Day in church--my mom signs an "L" to me. Nope, not for "loser"... It meant "loud" as in "sing louder!" :). And for her, I will sing a forte.  She gave me the ability to face life with song, with confidence, optimism, and joy.

My mother and I are different. I'm a bookworm... My mom claims she does not like to read, though she frequently researches things on Google.  I'm not sure she knows about blogging yet, and she still does not trust Facebook. :) Yet, my love of reading is from her. I can still hear the cadence of her voice as she read me endless Madeline's growing up, sitting on her lap on the old tweed couch. She wanted me to love something because she knew was good, even though she didn't love it herself. 

My mother and I are the same. We eat to live. Mind you, she can cook well--no one could beat her chicken cutlets or lasagna, and her chocolate chip cookies have won competitions.  But the usual fare of my youth?  A can of green beans, instant potatoes and extremely well-done hamburg was a perfectly acceptable dinner... Come to think of it, how about just grab an apple and forego the whole cooking stuff altogether?  I married into a family that was horrified at my culinary techniques.  One I'm still teased about: Drop block of frozen ground beef on a frying pan.  Scrap off meat as it cooks and thaws.  Yes, this results in some burnt bits with medium rare hamburger.  I was trained in more acceptable defrosting techniques.  My dirty secret?  I prefer my mom's original way to this day, burnt bits as a spice that remind me of the home I grew up in.  

My mother taught me what was most important: to thank God for everything, in everything, through everything.  When I sulked during adolescent, my consequence was to write what I could be grateful for in a "Blessing Book."  I kept it from the age of 13 till I started this blog.  :)  My mom taught me to cherish children: to treat them as the individuals they are, who can't help being young.  She taught me to love one's family, to have compassion, to not cry over spilled milk; when I broke something, she would help me sweep up the fragments while telling me not to worry about it. I learned that women did not have to be squeamish.  When I got sick, she would hold my hair back till things were over, telling me I was going to feel so much better soon.  She imparted a love of animals: to my father's dismay, we would regularly seek out and rescue birds for mom, usually pigeons. I remember being up late one night with her, bathing a fat bird that had gotten tar all over, gently scrubbing its feathers with old toothbrushes.  We would release them later, holding hands in pride and some wistfulness as they took to the sky.  

Yesterday was my mom's birthday. Having retired from teaching some years back from the school she taught at with my father--from whom she is inseparable--she now spends most of her days indoors: at church, then to the nursing home for her mother-in-law, followed by visiting her homebound dad.  But knowing how she loves to be outside, my sister and I prepared a picnic. Someday, we hope to finally get her to Ireland, her lifelong dream, but for now, a day by the water with grandkids will do.

Now that I'm a mother myself, I appreciate my own so much more. I understand why she was the last to sit and the first to rise form dinner. I admire how she hosted so many parties, so readily, at the drop of a hat.  I laugh thinking about how she made dad take us camping. I honor her childlike spirit, the one that believes the good in everyone and encourages it to bloom.  I love that she taught me to make my own music and dance despite the world, and that I will pass this on to my children.

"Awake, my soul!  Awake, lyre and harp!  I will awake the dawn." Psalm 57:8


  1. That is beautiful!!!! I am sure your kids will blog about your awesomeness someday too!

  2. Love this one!!! I'm with you on the frozen hamburger :o)

  3. This is exquisite, Katie. I love this. Your mom is an inspiration. I am off to make my kids dance to my hums!

  4. Katie, I so love your mom and dad. My time at Saint John's was doubly blessed because of those two people. I've tried in the past few years to call your mom, but i don't think I have the right number anymore. I would very much love to speak with them and even visit them. I'll be in RI in the beginning of August.