Two years ago I was asked to write about someone that inspired me. I did, and fortunately, shared it with her a couple of months later...
Sometimes we find that in looking for inspiration that we have overlooked what was right before us all along. At the first mention of this project, I immediately thought of Sarah Palin. This woman, a wife and mother, had been raised in a tight-knit family, played sports and went to a small Christian college, obtaining her degree. She married and started a family with a husband that worked in his family's business and had separate jobs as the seasons changed. Palin became involved in her children's school PTA. Eventually running for Mayor of her town, and a small town it was. Everyone knew each other and when children departed from the way they were raised, a neighbor would intervene and return them to their parents - not so much that it took a village to raise a child, but that a village was there to support the parents in their job. She eventually was picked to chair a commission that accomplished in 3 years under her leadership what it had failed to do the previous 10 years - get multi-national oil companies to the table and completed an agreement that resulted in Alaskan citizens receiving substantial benefits from the depletion of the state's natural resources.
In doing so she went against her political party and rooted out corruption. Her run for Governor thereafter resulted in a huge margin of winning. Throughout it all, she was a wife and mother first. Her commitment to principled stands made her well worth the admiration she garnered. But I wondered if I had someone better to hold up? I sighed inwardly...of course I did.
This woman was born into a wealthy family. Her father had a national reputation in his field, but World War Two and an addiction to alcohol cost him his reputation, his business and eventually his respect. But his wife remained and the four daughters they raised made a transition to working class. This woman would work as an usherette in a theatre and her boyfriend ran the projector. After a couple years, instead of a proposal, the boyfriend dumped her.
Three years later he showed up on the doorstep of her mother and asked her to marry him and leave the country she called home. She said yes. Imagine the inner strength of that. Marriage, leaving your country all for a guy that dumped you. Yet she did, and the children came. Six children in 10 years. Two miscarriages marred the happiness, but together, this woman and her husband did something no one in their families had ever done - they bought a home. Fixed it up, sold it and bought another one. In 1964 they were the original real estate flippers. Her husband worked nights, went to school during the day and moved from sweeping buses to maintaining high voltage substations for the Chicago Transit system.
To this day, some 56 years later, my mother and I share a connection that miles and daily living can not break. I have lived in 8 states, and while that is not the same as leaving your homeland, my willingness to jump into the deep end and move forward is in my genes. My mother's commitment to raising children that were cared for and loved has found few positive comparisons. She maintains a log book with every birthday and Christmas present bought and it's cost. None of her children can say one was favored over another, one loved more. That sense of fairness has never wavered. I am reminded every time I see that book that it was never about the dollar and cents of my parents giving, it was knowing that in the future their children might mistakenly accuse them and they would have proof of their caring for each equally. That book now has spouses, grand children and great grand children and the commitment is still there. Steadfastness in the face of everything.
We were not raised to be religious, we were raised to be reverent. To be respectful and to be respectable. My sibs and I have led others in every task we have been charged with. Loyalty given has been loyalty earned. When my brother passed, the City of Chicago Council recognized him and his contribution to the community. That certificate sits next to my brother's ashes in the kitchen/dining area in my parents house - so that he will always know we remember him and keep him close. Love not til death do us part, but forever.
My parents received a normal education, my father apprenticed and earned his master's license before he left for the United States. He did it again here in a new field will working and raising a family. When I received my Bachelors, they simply nodded and said, good job. We didn't get extra praise for doing what was expected. Ask my mother today if she did anything special and she will deny it. She raised six children that have benefited and contributed to society. Today that merits special attention because of its rarity. She expected we would all work and live to our potential. I can't say that we have all done as well as we could, but that didn't change my mother's attitude towards us.
My mother, a wife, a plumber, a cook, a chauffeur, a seamstress, an electrician, a painter, a den mother, a friend, has no awards or certificates to celebrate her accomplishments - she will point to me and my sibs as her reward.
When my partner of 18+ years passed, my mother said my strength and my adherence to my principles moved her to tears. My partner's daughter was embraced as my parent's 15th grandchild. My mother and father never wavered in their acceptance and support of our life. When my illness forced me into a dependent state, they were there to support and encourage. My mother talked to me every day. I am 56 and I still listen to and am comforted by her wisdom and advice.
A wife, a mother, a woman that I am still trying to emulate because I have found no other woman in my life more worthy than her of my ambitions.
The one word, mom. No job, career or ambition is of higher regard.