The Gardener – Mother’s Day, 2016

 

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I drew this as a gift to my wife, Linda Coleman, on Mother’s Day in celebration of what a great job she has done in growing a beautiful daughter, Caitlin.


Drawing © 2016 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com

Quote by Anna Rogers


 

My Other Mothers – A Mother’s Day Remembrance

I loved my mom. She was wonderful and flawed at the same time, like most moms.  I’ve written posts about her in years past and will put the link at the bottom of this post for you to read if you would like.

But today I am also thinking about my other mothers.  They were the women who also helped raise me. They didn’t help raise me in the ‘I went to live with them’ sense. They helped raise me in the ‘they took time to love me and nurture me’ sense.

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Aunt Betty (left) and my Mom, Lee Coleman

Aunt Betty

Aunt Betty wasn’t my aunt. And her husband, Uncle Frank, wasn’t my uncle. I didn’t realize this until I was probably 10 years old or so.  That’s when I figured out we called them that because they were as close as relatives to us, not actual relatives.  What they actually were were my God Parents.

But in real life Aunt Betty was my mother’s best friend while we lived in California. They were the Lucy and Ethel combo, funny by themselves but hilarious when together.  From the time of my birth until we moved away when I was 12 Betty treated us (my older sister and I) like her own kids, and my mom treated her kids as her own as well. That included watching over us, keeping us in line and feeding us among other things. It included letting us have complete freedom within their house. Their house, high overlooking the Del Mar racetrack and airport was, and still is, the best, most fantastic house I’ve ever ‘lived’ in.  It was definitely the golden age of free range parenting and we ranged wide and free around both homes.  I wouldn’t change a thing about my young life and she’s a big reason why.

Libby

When we lived in Maryland briefly during my first few years we had a housekeeper come in once in a while. I don’t remember Libby from those years.  Years later we had moved back to California and when my mother had a late pregnancy and my younger sister was born Libby, who had also moved to California, actually came to live with us for many weeks to help out.  While my mother took care of Jackie, Libby took care of the house and my sister and me.

We had a nice house but it wasn’t big enough for Libby to have her own room. My room was actually a big playroom downstairs, big enough that Libby became my roommate for those weeks.  It was totally awesome.

What I remember about Libby really is pretty fuzzy but I remember how much she loved me. I also remember how she silently championed me, the younger underdog, in my battles with my older sister.  She loved Nancy as well and didn’t take sides, but she was always letting me know that it wouldn’t always be that she could beat me up, or it wouldn’t always be that she would be the boss of me.  I held on to those promises for dear life during those years.

One of the most profound and devastating moments of my life, the first real eye opener into the wider world I ever got, was the day we went to Libby’s house. I had never seen it and I just assumed, as most kids would, that she probably lived in a house like ours.  I was wrong.  I remember driving up and seeing what in my mind was a completely dilapidated shack. Worn wood, crooked steps, mud. I really truly was shocked. I remember thinking we needed desperately to bring Libby back to live with us, that we just couldn’t let her live in that type of place. I had no idea about poverty or race or inequality until that moment. I was 9 years old.

Libby taught me so much but most of all she told me that no matter the issues of race, poverty or inequality, you still could be loving, supportive and happy. I also always remembered how she gave me a hope for the future. Of course, in my case, my hope for the future as simply to be able to wrestle my big sister to the ground, but she knew that and gave me the hope that was appropriate for who I was. That was a big gift.

Helene

Helene was another friend of my mothers.  She had met my mother in line at a grocery store decades before in Maryland when we had lived there for a brief time.  We moved to Connecticut when I was 12 and we moved to the same town she lived in by then, Darien, Connecticut. Helene was not a typical Darienite. She was bawdy and irreverent and funny. She had a witheringly sharp tongue for pretension and snobbishness that could rear it’s ugly head too often in Darien.  My mother was the same way.

What made her an important ‘other’ mother to me, and what really set her apart was her creativity and her desire, no – her demand, that one pay attention to creativity in their own life.  It was a godsend for me as an artistic teenager to have someone like that pay attention to me.

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Floyd and Helene Hall (left) and my parents.

Her home was a reflection of all that as well. It was messy and cluttered in the best artistic way. She had sculptures here and photos there. A painting leaning against a wall, a clay head in the inca style being worked on in her studio.  Trinkets and books and everything else inhabiting that space just screamed art, creativity and freedom.

She challenged me as an artist. I remember taking a trip to New York City with her to go to a Picasso Sculpture Exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.  When I told her the pieces looked like anyone could do them she said one of the single most important and profound things any one has ever said to me about being an artist. She said, “It Doesn’t matter if you CAN do it. It matters if you DO do it.”  It took me years to figure out what that meant, but when I did it clarified so much about art that it really broke me through to art maturity in my mind.

She also was witness to my family falling apart. She saw my mother descend into alcoholism and she was the first person I called when I found my mother unconscious on the stairs, suffering from what we would later find out was a cerebral hemorrhage. It was not an easy time and she was there to help out.

Ginny Moore

My best friend during my teenage years was a guy named Jim Moore. I can thank his mother for our becoming friends. She saw that we had moved in down the street and within a day or two she kicked Jim out of the house and told him to go down the street to meet the new kid and not go come back until he had. So he did and we became pretty fast friends from then on.

Ginny gladly welcomed me in to her home, always making me feel welcomed and loved.  They took me on vacations (and we took Jim on some as well). They suffered through me being the rabble rousing teen that I was, including several instances where I broke, ruined, wrecked or otherwise caused mayhem to descend onto various possessions of theirs.

I was sort of the Eddie Haskell (A 60s TV show, ‘Leave it to Beaver’ reference for those not old enough to know) to the Moore Family. Nice but always tending to get Jim and myself into some sort of adventure. It wasn’t all me of course. Jim was pretty good at finding adventure himself.  What Ginny saw was the importance of our friendship and bond and allowed all the wild things to transpire as part of that bonding. I am grateful for that!

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The Moore Family (Ginny, bottom right)

When I moved away after my senior year of high school but wanted to come back and live in Darien the next summer, they graciously allowed me to stay the entire summer in their house.  It didn’t occur to me until much later what a incredible gift that was.

Vivian Johnson

I’ve written often over the years about the incredible man, Dwight Johnson, who was the father of my first wife, Kathy. I don’t talk as often about her mother, Vivian, but she was incredibly important in helping me move into adulthood and being a husband and parent.  

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Vivian and Rebekah

We had a good relationship, one that included a lot of patience on her part, watching this young ‘bad boy’ marry her daughter after only about 9 months of dating.  We were a lot alike in many ways.  We were the two most competitive people in the family, often going head to head in legendary Scrabble battles at the family cabin.  She was feisty but also very focused on being positive and nice.  She could say sharp things but chose not to most of the time. She gritted her teeth and smiled when she probably wanted to hit me, or at least yell at me.

She was supportive, kind and understanding as she watched her daughter and I build a life for our family, slowly and with a number of missteps on my part. She didn’t always like me but she always encouraged and supported me in spite of that. That taught me a good lesson about what it means to be a parent and parent-in-law.

It Takes a Village

None of us were raised in a vacuum. I am so grateful for all the women I mentioned above (and others I didn’t mention) who made up my village of nurturers, caretakers, friends, and visionaries. They helped me so much, I could never repay it so all I (or any of us) can really do is pay it forward as best I can.

Who are your ‘other mothers’ and how did they help you?

 


 

Here is the link to a remembrance I did about my mother a few years back.

© 2015 Marty Coleman


 

 

The Mother’s Dilemma – Mothers #4

 

 

We wave goodbye to the Mothers series with drawing #4.

 

Mother's Day #4 2014

This is true of fathers too, by the way.

The Gift

When I left home in 1973 for college, I really left.  I went to college in Ohio, then Massachusetts, then moved to Hollywood, then to more college in Southern California, then to Michigan and back to California, this time Northern.  I felt confident and able to make my way in the world and that is what I did.  My parents raised me so I would be able to do that. I am very grateful for that gift.

The Forgetting

But with that confidence also came a forgetfulness. I forgot how much I had, at one point, needed them, especially my mother.  I wish now I had repaid that attention with attention back to her in her later years. While I visited with some regularity, it really wasn’t as much as it should have been.  My mother taught me well how to cope, and how not to cope, with life.  I learned invaluable lessons from her, even when she was not aware of her teaching me.  I did let her know some of that, and thank her for it, as best I was even aware of it at the time. But she died when she was young, only 62, and I was deep in the middle of raising young kids at the time, not really all the way to the place where I understood the lessons so I wasn’t able to thank her as I would want to now.

The Much Sweet and The little Bitter

Now my daughters are all grown. And all of them are strong and independent and able to make their way in the world.  They make their missteps just as I did, but for the most part they are more than capable of correcting the misstep and moving on.  They like hearing from me and they probably call me more than I call them.  But they don’t need me the way they once did.  A little bittersweet but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The joy of seeing someone who once knew nothing of how to cope with the world navigate through it with class and intelligence is a heart-filling thing for a parent.   I think it is probably easier for me, maybe as a man, maybe just as me, I am not sure, than it is for their mothers.  But even though it might be harder, I know it makes them so very proud to see their daughters strong and capable, able to move forward on their own, just as it does me as well.

What is your story of letting go of your mother or your child?  Was it easy, hard?  How did you do it?

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Drawing and commentary by Marty Coleman

Quote by Barbara Kingsolver, 1955 – not dead yet, American author

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Expectations – Mothers #3

 

What a perfect day to present Mothers #3!

 

Expectations - Mothers #3

 

Perfection in Parenting

After Mothers #1 was published earlier this week a comment was posted by Julie from APlaceforThoughts.com.  Julie was worried about failing at her work as a mother, comparing herself to her father who had to raise her on his own and had done a great job in her estimation.  In the course of that conversation I came up with the above quote to try to assure her that it wasn’t about perfection in parenting, it was about love in parenting.

The thing is, kids are looking for love, not perfection.  If you are supporting them and encouraging them and guiding them, they don’t really care if you are good at math, or able to run a marathon or make a million dollars a year. And if you do do all those things but don’t show them love, they don’t really care much about those accomplishments either.

Love Over Limitations

We all have our limitations in physical capabilities, emotional strength and intellectual prowess.  One mother is missing an arm and a leg.  Another never graduated from high school. A third is fragile emotionally.  But none of that matters if they make the decision to deliver love to their children as best they are able.  That is what the child will remember. That is what the child will pass on to their children.

Don’t expect to deliver perfection in your parenting. Expect to deliver love.

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Drawing, quote and commentary by Marty Coleman

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Working Mother – Mothers #2

 

Yesterday we wondered why, if evolution were true, mothers don’t have more hands. 

Well, today I solved that problem.

 

Working Mother - Mothers #2

 

SAHM, WAHM, WAW and WAHWEE

The Stay at Home Mom (SAHM) supposedly that means they don’t ‘work ‘at home, they just ‘stay’ at home.  Those that ‘work’ at home, they are WAHMs. The Work at Home Mom combines some sort of job, all the way from part-time self-employed to full time corporate employment, with the bulk of the domestic activities.  And then there are the WAWs (I just made this up). The Work at Work mothers go someplace to work and then come home. And then there are the WAHWEEs (I made this up too).  Those are the ‘Work at Home & Work & Everywhere Else’ moms.  

Most of the women I know, including my wife, sisters, oldest daughter and many friends, are WAHWEEs.  In other words, all mothers are working mothers. They do it all and they are awesome.  

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Drawing and commentary by Marty Coleman

Quote by Jane Sellman, American author and college professor

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Evolution – Mothers #1

 

The start of a new series on Motherhood.

Evolution - Mothers #1

Hard Moms

I always feel very sad when I hear from someone who had a mother that did not care for them as they deserved.  I am not talking about moms that are a bit too controlling or a bit too demanding. I am talking about moms who abandon and abuse.  It’s just really, really sad when I hear those memories come out.

Luckily it does seem they are in the minority. Most of those I know are very grateful for their mothers and what they did for them, even when there are shortcomings in them that cause hardship for us.  I had that with my mother. She was an alcoholic and wasted many good years in a fog of liquor.  But she became and stayed sober for 15 years before her death and that made a huge difference in the redemption our family had together.  There is nothing quite as sweet as a family rebuilt and restored.

Emotional Hands

We read the quote above and look at the illustration and it seems to be about physical limitations.  But what about all the emotional and psychological hands a mother needs? How many of those hands does one have available?  It becomes a lot more complicated when we realize it’s not just about if they can do all the activities they need to do, but about all the emotional personas they have to deal with and be.  It isn’t easy being a mom.

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Drawing and commentary © 2014 by Marty Coleman

Quote by Milton Berle, 1908-2002, American comedian

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