My middle name is Joanna, so it was no wonder that I grew up being affectionately called 'Becky Jo' on occasion. Apparently when I was very small I called my mother 'Momma Jo'...seemed logical to me! So when you look at my cell phone my mom is listed as 'Momma Jo.' There's been discussion of giving a little girl, should I ever have one, the middle name Joanna. But I suppose regardless I will someday be a Momma Jo myself. Which is no small task.
My mom is 5'2", eyes of blue...like the song. I've always teased her about being tiny. I say that she is fun sized and used to sing that 'short people've got no reason to live' song. At 5'10" I've been taller than her since sometime in middle school. But despite her being fun sized she is a formidable woman.
I've learned from her that there is nothing a woman can't do when she's put her mind to it. Shortly after my brother got his driver's license he bought a stick shift neon. My mom needed to leave for work and was blocked in, I was the only one home and she couldn't remember how to drive stick. With my guidance she turned her car around in the garage and maneuvered around the neon. I've seen her move objects too heavy for her, fix things she has no idea how to fix, and do things that she really can't do simply because she puts her mind to it. I find myself doing the same thing. The other day a female co-worker and I fixed my computer out of sheer determination and I said to her, 'there's nothing a woman can't do when she puts her mind to it!'
She taught me that women can be intelligent. I remember her coaching me with my reading, sitting beside her bed each evening. I would read my American Girl books aloud and we'd talk about the stories. In this way she shared two of her loves with me, which have become two of my passions--reading and history. When we'd go to history museums she'd encourage me to ask questions and learn as much as I could. In fact, this has been a life lesson instilled in me; learn as much as you can wherever you are. Learn and be educated simply for the sake of it. My degree is 'practically' worthless, but in an impractical sense it is invaluable to me. I learned a lot, I am well read, I am educated, I am intelligent. And rather than shying away from that I embrace it, as my mother taught me. It is okay for a person, for a woman, to be intellectual and proud of it.
My mother is known for her hilarious one-liners. She's one of those quiet types that sneaks in a gut busting quip when you're least expecting it. And her sense of humor has saved several rainy, bad days. She makes the most of it, choosing to be cheerful when everyone else is glum. I remember being on vacation once and it just poured every day. We were all annoyed, irritable, and grumpy. Clear as day I remember her insisting that we were going to have fun if it killed us. And then we all went sliding long the slippery boardwalk, laughing in the rain. Perhaps this is why I see the rain as opportunity for laughing and memory-making rather than a reason to complain.
In previous posts I've written about her domestic prowess (check out the post on the side of the page which features her as a very happy kid with a pretend iron). She truly is a domestic diva. She's one of those 'from scratch' cooks and I'm pretty sure she's anti-Kool Aid because its too easy. In an age where a woman can go to the store to buy cookies and birthday cakes she's made it all from scratch. Before Ace of Cake's Duff Goldbloom had ever baked a cake, let alone had his own show, my mother has made some amazing birthday cakes--from a baseball game with teddy graham players for my brother to an enormous cake castle for me. I've always teased her that her definition of having a messy house is if there is a fork in the sink. But I have to justify that by saying that we didn't grow up in a museum. Our house was clean, orderly, but inviting and warm, like her.
We've always joked that she is Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way. But the older I get and the more I really get to know my mother, I see that she really is. Like Mary Poppins there is magic and possibilities in every day. I've learned the freedom of having an active and boundless imagination from my mom. From believing that stuffed animals can come to life if you love them (as in The Velveteen Rabbit) and that dolls come to life as soon as you leave a room (as in A Little Princess) to believing that a positive attitude can change everything, I've learned the power of believing from my mother.
I know that I will never by just like my mom. Instead, I'll be a version of her. My take on her, if you will. But she's marvelous inspiration for mother hood. Momma Jo-hood, in this case.
I love you, Momma Jo!