So, I actually won a contest! Jimmy, Gus, and I got to be featured on the cover of Raising Arizona Kids Magazine (no Zach... but he couldn't have made it anyway, so he can't complain) and we won a trip for our whole family to Legoland for two days along with two nights at a hotel. It was a pleasant surprise because I never win things, but I did have a really good feeling about this one. The magazine has an essay contest ever year for Mother's Day and my friend Dena actually won it last year. She happened to send an unrelated email that led me to the RAK website where I saw that the essay was due in a week. Then I saw the topic for this year: "What I learned from my mom about being a great mom." I knew in a moment that it would be easy for me to write. Well, I say easy because I have so many things I could say about my wonderful mother and how she inspires me. It turned out it was actually difficult getting it down to the 500 words allowed because I wanted to say too much about her. It felt good getting it all down in writing, but it was also a little bit hard to put it all out there for the world to read. Here it is:
My mom played with her kids. I don't just mean in the normal way every mom plays with their kids. She really got down on the floor and played with us. I know a lot of moms who never really do this and they are still great moms, but to me this was something that made my mom special. Our house was where all the other kids wanted to come play. She once let my best friend and I turn our entire living room into a fort that literally used every couch cushion in our house. To top it off, she let us keep it up for a week. I knew that was pretty awesome at the time, but it really sinks in when you stop to contemplate this situation in your own home. My 4 year-old Jimmy and I are pretty frequent fort builders, and when he begs me to let him leave them up for “just one more day,” I can't help but give in. Thank goodness living in an immaculate house would be unnatural for me. I would much rather live in a messy one where kids are having fun.
I would hardly put myself on par with my own mother's patience and kindness (I still work on those ones quite a bit), but I like to think at very least her playfulness rubbed off on me. In my house we make massive toy set-ups made of everything from Legos and Little People to cardboard boxes turned into airports. Currently, an entire room of my house is dedicated to a Swiss Family Robinson island made of Playmobil, and I am confident my mother would be proud.
We were never spoiled because we never really had enough money to be, but my mom had a talent for finding ways to make things special. We would wake up on any given birthday or holiday to find decorations and treats. She would let us play hookie from school to go to a Spring Training game. She managed to plan creative birthday parties and take us on amazing vacations. She knew that family time should come above all else. We never had a beautiful house, or nice clothes, or fancy meals. As a kid sometimes I was embarrassed about those things, but now I can't thank her enough for giving us wonderful and happy memories instead of lots of “things.”
I wish I could talk to her now and ask her how she did it all, but I can't. She passed away more than 6 years ago. My greatest sadness is that she will never get to meet my two boys, Jimmy and Gus. I think the only way that they will ever get to know even a piece of her is through me. When they grow up I want them to be able to brag to their friends about how awesome their mom was in the same way I still brag about mine.
I have already posted about this on Facebook and sent it out to a few people via email and I have gotten back so much wonderful feedback that any qualms I had about putting myself out there have all gone away. A man stopped me tonight at Jimmy's t-ball game because he recognized me. He told me that he lost his mother last year and that the article really moved him. He said he was even thinking about writing a letter to the magazine and thought it was so weird that he would bump into me. It was very nice to hear. I teased on Facebook that I enjoy making people cry, but it is a little bit true...as long as they are good cathartic tears. It has been such a nice tribute to my Mom and it has been so nice to hear from many long lost friends and relatives about how much they loved her, too. She was so special to so many people and I know that she is smiling down on all of this.