She taught me how to love reading when she taught me my ABC’s, then sat me down with a newspaper and made me read to her.
She taught me how to make a child feel smart when she would pretend like she didn’t know a crossword puzzle clue.
She taught me how to have fun with my children when she played a marble game called “Wahoo” with me and taught me how to play Rummy.
She taught me that even ordinary objects like sticks, pieces of fabric, and buttons can be playthings and can be the source of hours of amusement.
She taught me how to express love when she would tuck me into bed and say every night, “See you in the morning, I love you, goodnight.” It was our mantra.
She taught me the meaning of protection when she called up the mother of someone who was bullying me and issued a “cease and desist.”
She taught me how to stand up for what was right when she chased away a man who was trying keep a black family from moving into our neighborhood.
She taught me not to play favorites by loving each of her children equally. We never knew who Mom’s favorite was, although I am sure it was me.
She taught me the importance of extended family by telling me all about her brothers and sisters and how much she loved them. She had fourteen of them. She always said her brothers were German and her sisters were Irish, though I think even the brothers insist to this day that they are Irish.
She taught me to never waste an opportunity to celebrate a holiday, though I haven’t gone as a far as wearing shamrock antennae and a green top hat. I am however, trying to get people in Utah to accept the tradition of leaving treats and flowers on doorsteps on May 1. It’s not that easy.
She taught me about marketing when we had a bowl of bread, milk and sugar for breakfast and thought it was the best treat ever.
She taught me what LOL really means when she would stand in the aisles of the Hallmark store, reading all the naughty birthday cards, and embarrass me with her loud laughter.
She taught me about honesty when she would correct a cashier who had undercharged her.
She taught me the fine art of practical joking when she would make lunches for my brother-in-law, but would stick a piece of cardboard between the slices of meat.
She taught me how to relax when she would make popcorn, season it with fried minced ham and parmesan cheese, and settle on the couch to watch Johnny Carson.
She taught me about fine dining when she would make herself a radish, cucumber and baked bean sandwich. She also taught me that there was no greater delicacy than a large juicy onion. Okay, that’s a lie. There is no greater delicacy than a ripe Iowa tomato.
She taught me that no job is too “belittling” when she worked her fingers into an arthritic state by putting radios together at Zenith and when she sorted through other people’s garbage at the Goodwill.
She taught me that it’s never too late to learn something new when she began oil painting after her kids were grown.
She taught me about the importance of being able to laugh at yourself when a bird pooped in her hair and she said, “I probably ratted my hair too much so she thought it was her nest.”
She taught me about selflessness when she would get up at 4:00 a.m. to get herself and her kids ready to go in the morning, would work all day, would come home exhausted, would immediately begin dinner, housework and laundry, and would fall into bed around 10:00.
She taught me about compassion when she would try to make my single motherhood easier by sneaking into my house to wash dishes, make my bed, vacuum, and cook dinner for me.
She taught me how important it is to take pictures of family life, even when it seems mundane. You will never know when that photo that shows a kitchen clock in the background will become a way to prove your side in an argument.
She taught me the meaning of inexpressible grief when she died.