The following is an essay I wrote about my mom, before I had my daughter (now 3) and before my mom’s infamous knee surgery, which I’ve written about numerous times on here (see the Sandwich Lady posts). This essay involves activities on the holidays, so I wanted to share it with you this season! Happy holidays!
My mom is one of the best teachers. The lessons she taught me about life, love, and kindness will stick with me until I grow gray myself. Many mothers teach these same lessons to their children, but I am luckier than most. My mom also taught me how to be a good sport—that games are supposed to be fun, whether we win or lose. When I was young, these good sportsmanship lessons usually occurred on holidays. I remember one Thanksgiving especially.
At my grandma’s small house, my aunts, uncles, parents, and cousins crowded in to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast. We had all the usuals—turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberries, and green bean casserole. As if that wasn’t enough, we also had pies and plenty of whip cream to load on top. Even though I was in middle school and a growing girl, the meal was not my favorite part of the day. I couldn’t wait until after dessert. I couldn’t wait for the games.
My mom loved to play games, too. A smile always on her face during these competitions, lighting up her brown eyes; and a high-pitched laugh often accompanied her turn. On this particular Thanksgiving night, my family sat around the dining room table, opened the Trivial Pursuit box, and got ready for the competition. While the scent of coffee lingered in the air, we divided into teams, and team one rolled the dice to get us started.
My mom and aunt made up a team. What we all thought would be a good combination for the sister-in-laws turned out to be overly frustrating for my aunt—thanks to my mom’s winning attitude. My mom wanted everyone to win. My aunt wanted ONLY her team to win. This difference in philosophy caused some friction whenever my mom was the one to read the questions to any of the other teams.
What we all soon figured out was. . . if we didn’t know the answer and didn’t try to guess right away, my mom found great joy in giving us hints. Her hints were generally easy to figure out and often handed us the answer in a nice, tidy package. If the answer was a TV show or movie, my mom hummed or sang the theme song. She gave us the initials of a famous person or even acted out the answer like we were playing charades. If our team discussed several answers and mentioned the right one (but we weren’t quite sure), she would clear her throat to let us know which choice was correct.
At first, my aunt tried to stay calm. She said, “Shh, Marcella. Don’t give any hints.”
My mom grinned. “I know. I just can’t help myself.”
Then my aunt’s protests became just a simple, “Marcella!”
And my mom laughed and winked.
Eventually, my mom was banned from reading any questions. But still, if she knew an answer without looking at the card, she just couldn’t help herself. The hints enthusiastically flowed out of as if she was preaching the word of God.
I don’t remember who won or lost that game. But what I do remember, and what seems to be more important, is the laughter and joy that surrounded us that night. All thanks to the fact that my mom wanted to have fun, and she didn’t care who won or lost.
Twenty years later, it’s still a running joke in my family. It’s a known fact if Marcella reads you a question, you’re going to get help. She is the best sport among all my relatives.
Her winning attitude doesn’t only appear during the games at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. My mom has had rheumatoid arthritis for over 35 years, but the only way you might be able to tell is from her misshapen and swollen fingers. She doesn’t let the disease slow her down. At the age of 61, she also had a heart attack and subsequent surgeries to place stints in her heart. Does this slow her down? Of course not! My mom is a good sport in life as well as at the games she loves to play. Maybe even more so.
I saw her good sportsmanship in action when she spent a whole day in the kitchen, preparing a special meal for my dad, husband, stepson, and me. She didn’t complain of her aches and pains she battled, just stopped every once in a while to rest in her recliner with the heating pad on her back. Then she was right back out at the table, chopping onions and mixing batter.
I saw her winning attitude when she helped me plant a garden when I purchased my first home. She and I worked side by side, sitting on the ground and pulling weeds. Then we dug holes to plant the flowers, which was not as easy as it sounds. Roots, from trees cut down in my front yard, tangled underneath the soil, and we fought with them as we planted geraniums, daisies, and impatients. By the end of our first day, I was sore, and she was more so. But she kept me working the second day, and I had a beautiful garden to enjoy all summer.
I see her optimism every time I am with her. She lives her life with a winning attitude in her work with the church, in her activities with her friends, and in the love she shows my family and me. I am lucky that this wonderful teacher has passed this lesson on to me, and that I also get to enjoy it at every holiday gathering. It’s more fun when she’s sitting around the board, laughing and giving out answers for free. I’m always honored to have my mom on my team, but it’s really fun if she’s on the other one.
There’s still time to shop from the Lit Ladies holiday sale: http://www.thelitladies.com/holiday-book-sale/