As I continue with Storyworth, I’ve apparently ignored their suggestions on what to write about, as I recall lifelong memories for my family. One of those topics was apparently of interest to my son. “What was it like growing up with your mother?” was their question of the day. I’ve never followed a structured approach to writing, so this will be a different challenge.
Let me start with a little background on my parents. My mother, his grandmother, was a petite lady and a former beauty queen, sorority sister, and college grad. She was a recreation major at Indiana University, so trained to keep people actively engaged. Before she married my dad, she also worked for Red Gold canning tomatoes. It was their top priority to start family, but allegedly due to my father’s ice hockey accident, they were unable to have children of their own. The alternative was adoption, a highly regulated and controversial process that involved raising someone else’s mistake. There were apparently extensive background checks, lengthy interviews, and rules to follow. They went to the Suemma Coleman Agency (a home for unwed mothers) in Indianapolis for guidance.
I don’t know how long they waited or how costly the exercise was? All I know is that I was two months old when they took me into their Elkhart home around Halloween. It was a two-bedroom home, and it was required that I have my own room. When they added my adopted sister four-years later, our living room doubled as their bedroom with a fold-out couch, so Judy could have a required room of her own. This is a strong indication of how selfless they were in adding us to their family.
They did parenting right, whether it was demanded in the adoption contracts or not. They took me to church every Sunday, taught me right from wrong, curbed my language, and made me mow the lawn to earn an allowance. I was given everything but a sense of direction.
Mom was a busy lady as a stay-at-home parent. She was involved in a bridge club, ladies club, collected stamps, and owned a small business called the Calico Cottage. She organized several big birthday parties for me growing up. If I ever needed to borrow a tool, she was a much better resource than my dad who was usually working at Miles Laboratories as Assistant Treasurer. He frequently traveled to Europe, but my mom was never into flying, so family trips were usually by car. Mom was never a good cook, relying mostly on the microwave, clearly evident when the pressure cooker once exploded while she was trying to make applesauce. She was, however, highly organized with a freezer full of neatly stacked soups and vegetables, frozen in the shapes of the very bowls they would be nuked and served in.
Her mother, Grace, was a competent cook, canner, and pie-maker, but seemingly only passed along a jovial nature, love of games, and strong will to her only daughter. I was mom’s treasured son long after the initial adoption agency monitoring was lifted to assure that I was never mistreated. It’s a wonder that I was ever allowed out of the house without constant supervision, but she was rarely over-protective. I remember being gone most of the day while allowed to roam the neighborhood, play in the park behind our house, and even go to the nearby stores. I don’t recall her having to escort me to grade school every day that was about a mile away. I mostly got everything I wanted, but there was a time when she wouldn’t let me go see House on Haunted Hill at the movie theater because it was too scary.
I was a terrible teen, giving her every opportunity to regret ever adopting me. I was ungrateful, lazy, foul tempered, and disrespectful. She was the opposite of all this ugliness and somehow tolerated my hormone-raged moods. I slept late, lived like a slob, and never really liked myself. However, my two best qualities were saving money and getting good grades, important disciplines that they taught me. The only time I struggled in school they drilled me with flash cards to the point where Math was my best subject.
I couldn’t have asked for better parents, but they were sadly never rich enough to satisfy me, whatever that means. We were Country Club members, lived in a nice neighborhood, paid for my college, bought me nice clothes, but somehow it was never enough. We didn’t live on the river, own a boat, take elaborate vacations, or own the first color TV. I’m ashamed of this now in realizing how spoiled I really was growing up. I only hope that she can forgive me. Thanks Mom, for all the love.