Growing up the son of a conservative, Christian mother who was a teacher wasn't always easy. My mother is a woman of strict morals, self-discipline, respect for authority, and high expectations. She raised her kids to follow in those footsteps in many ways, but while growing up we also discovered from restrictions and constraints comes freedom, abandonment, and fierce love.
In elementary school we would be woken up by Mom and head downstairs where she would make us breakfast. 99% of the time it was a bowl of Cheerios or Crispix and then a "next." She would ask, "What do you want for your next?" and we would proceed to have toast or a cinnamon roll or something. One day she asked, "What do you want for your next?" and with my little kid humor I joked, "Ice Cream!" Without missing a beat, my mom got out a bowl and scooped me out some cookies and cream, the breakfast of champions. That was when I knew I had the coolest mom ever. The next morning the request for ice cream didn't work.
My mom isn't like your mom. She is such a night owl, you would never believe it. As a teacher who has to get up in the mornings you would never expect it, but she loves late nights. I know past 1:00 a.m. the only person I can call and expect to answer is my mother. She's still got better things to do than sleep. While I was at college, a number of times she would actually call, waking ME up! It would be 2:00 in the morning and I had class the next day. She didn't see the issue. When I was little my mom always tucked us in and would be up for hours and hours later, but she also woke us up early in the morning, ready for work. The rule of the house on Saturday was STRICT, though. If you are up before noon, you better head downstairs and stay pretty quiet. And whatever you do... do not even THINK about cracking open or sneaking through the door to my mom's bedroom. Saturdays were no joke. My mother slept in like a 22-year-old college student...and still does to this day.
I remember my mom and I had a wild chase one Saturday morning in high school when we began fighting over who would get to eat the leftovers in a bowl of brownie batter. We chased each other around the house in our pajamas, me running with the bowl in tight grip and her wielding the mixing spoon like a weapon. The chase continued into the back yard, barefoot and laughing, but unrelenting... mom won. In the same irreverent way, I remember my mom and dad arguing over a lost spatula in the kitchen. Dad insisted mom had put it in a wrong spot and now it was lost. My mother was viciously bitter. After all, she did the dishes most nights and always put things back properly. Upon discovering that, in fact, the spatula was sitting right in front of my dad, exactly where it should have been, my mom didn't gently point it out and move on. She grabbed it and started spanking him with it until it cracked in half!
My mom breaks rules. She HATES cooking. When my dad would travel out of town for work or something she would maybe make a simple dish, but usually she used that time as an excuse to order pizza or chinese takeout. She LOVES facebook and her facebook account is more active than mine. She loves her kids like mad, but also loves to make fun of us, be sarcastic, and laugh at us. Nothing is off limits with her. When I need an ear she is there to listen to my frustrations, encourage me, knock me back to reality, and sometimes tell me the tough stuff I need to hear. I am still learning from her every day. She is incredibly successful in her work and continues to learn and grow and come up with new ideas. She is loving and hardworking. She is dedicated and fiercely loyal to my dad and our family. She is wildly talented and the funniest person I know. (After me.) And she is mine.
My parents raised us in a home where you knew the rules. We had chores without an allowance. We knew words we weren't allowed to say unless we wanted to eat soap for dinner. We knew what channels we were allowed to watch. We knew our butts would be in a church pew every Sunday morning. Our house was always clean; we made our beds and dusted our rooms. As a music teacher, my mother required my sister and I to take piano and practice DAILY from 3rd grade until we graduated high school. By middle school we were required to be making our lunches and doing our own laundry. We couldn't see PG-13 movies until we were 13, and if we planned on driving a car once we got our drivers' license, we knew we would have to pay for it ourselves by getting a job. Life could seem a bit regimented...but it never did.
My mother always had a love and zest of life unlike other moms. Other moms are sweet, kind and gentle. My mom is all of that, but I more admire her wit, sarcasm, and spontaneity. As an actor, I have had the privilege of stepping into different worlds on stage and telling stories. My mom was the one who instilled in me the love of story-telling. Some of my earliest memories are of her reading to me and convincing me to watch a new movie musical with her. When I picture my mother in my head it is usually with my father and sister around the dinner table laughing at each other. Our dinners were better entertainment than anything the television could provide. She is an entertainer through and through, and most times... an even better audience member, laughing at me or my dad telling a crazy story. My family loves louder, harder, and harsher than any other family I know.
|More into her Halloween costume than me or my sister|
As we cleaned the house every week, I remember BELTING out to the soundtrack of "The Big Chill" and to Billy Joel and Beach Boys albums. My mother has always loved music and watching her love it taught me to love it in a very special way. Forcing us to take piano was a monumental task. No parent wants to argue every day with their kid to practice. And no kid wants to practice learning an instrument every day. No parent wants to have to hear "Tarantella" and "Flight of the Bumblebee" 7,000 times, each time with repeated mistakes. My mother knew the secret, though, that my sister and I certainly didn't know. She knew the joy and freedom that would come from the drudgery that is daily practice on the piano. She knew the payoff would be worth it.
|Me trying to keep up with Mom's mad skills.|
My mom instilled in us as kids the need for intentional fun. Growing up we always had games to play and places to go. One of our favorite days was the Donna Hampton original "Kid's Shopping Day." We would have a big day of fun where my bookworm sister would get to go to Hawley-Cooke Booksellers to purchase a new treasure and I would pore over rocks and gems at the Nature Company. To top it off we would head to downtown Louisville and go to Caufield's, a costume and novelty shop where my mother led us in finding the wackiest and most hideous masks, wigs, and hats. You've never seen anyone rock a crazy hat better.
When I bought my first car, a Jeep Wrangler, my mother was not happy. She insisted it was dangerous, foolish, and not practical. I bought it anyway. When I brought it home I remember taking her for a ride in it for the first time with the top down. We were driving on a back road and all of a sudden my mom begins to unbuckle her seatbelt. She proceeded to stand all the way up while I was driving, head all the way above the windshield. She raised her arms high in the air and shouted and laughed and screamed. She wasn't happy I was driving that car, but she sure was happy she was riding in it. A year later she bought herself a nice little convertible.
When we got our new dog while I was in middle school I'll never forget my dad trying to convince my mother it was a good idea. The dog wasn't well-trained, it shed everywhere, used our living room as its bathroom a couple times, and was disobedient. While trying to find the perfect name for the dog, my conservative Christian mother insisted that we name the dog "Damnit." That way we could say, "Come here, Damnit." "Look what you did, Damnit." We named the dog Sadie.
|Sneaking around backstage at one of my shows to get a go at those hats!|
|Her favorite picture of us. Okay- it's actually MY favorite picture of us.|
I love you, Mom.