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Wide Awake: The Autobiography
Getting to know my mom in a most unusual way

I just read what may turn out to be my favorite book of all time. It has a beautiful white hard cover with 395 pages and a good amount of colorful photos. Oddly enough, I am in some of them.

On Christmas Day 2019, I gifted my mom something called Story Worth, which meant she would spend each week of 2020 answering a question emailed to her about her life. Questions like: How did you get your first job? Where did you go on your honeymoon? One good thing about quarantine was my mom had plenty of time to write her answers, which were then compiled and printed as a book.

On Christmas Day 2020, she gave her kids and grandkids copies of the book. On the cover is a black-and-white photo of my mom and dad dancing at their wedding. It’s a picture I’ve seen a million times. I’ve seen enough old photos that I can easily recognize the 2 of them in years past, but it took this book for me to know what they were like when they were young. And that’s been really cool.

Some of the stories were bizarre: When my dad woke up on their wedding day, his parents refused to drive him to the church. So he had to call my mom’s house for a ride. My mom also described leaving the church and seeing my dad’s mom sobbing – like, really, really crying and not because she was so happy.

In those passages, she was talking about my Grandmom Maley, who I can assure you later considered me her favorite grandchild. (i.e. When I was 17, she gave me her car.) She made me feel special throughout my childhood, because it was so apparent how much she loved me.

But then I read about how she treated my mom and dad when they were dating and throughout their married life. When I think back, I can remember how my parents took care of her when she was older, how they moved her into their home, even though she made it clear she was never all that crazy about my mom. I was aware Grandmom Maley wasn’t the nicest woman in the world, but I never knew the extent of her unkindness. I did, though, get to see the extent of my mother’s kindness.

Actually, reading the book gave me a glimpse of how love filled my mother’s entire life. It stretched from her brothers, sisters and parents to her friends and co-workers to my dad and all the way to her youngest great grandchild, who was born last November. There were a few sentences that were repeated throughout the book so often that I smiled every time I read one: How lucky were we. Who could ask for anything more?

Even though my mom was born during the depression, she wrote that she wasn’t aware of it. So somehow, my grandparents created a beautiful childhood for her, and I think that lead her to a long love story with my dad. There are many pages dedicated to that, beginning with the first time my dad saw my mom on a trolley when they were in high school. He often said he knew then he would marry her.

She writes about all the places they lived (just a few), all their trips (quite a few), their friends and their fun. In a chapter called “How has your love story continued,” she writes about my dad, my brother and sister, and me: “I started out in life loving my parents and siblings. Along comes Bud, who became the love of my life, is this possible? Then I added to that love – Jim. Again, is that possible? Then you question, do I have enough love to share with someone else and along comes Maureen and you know, yes, you do have enough. Again, the question arises and along comes Marianne, and the love gets deeper. It’s amazing how you realize that you have enough love to share. How do I count the ways this love has grown and grown?”

So my new favorite book is the story of all the love my mom has experienced, which means it’s a story about all the love I’ve experienced. How lucky were we. Who could ask for anything more?

 


Nominations for our Women of Excellence awards are now open. You can nominate a woman you know here.

Read more Wide Awake here

February 2021
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