Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Am I becoming my mother?

My mother with her sister-in-law, Claire.

I recently saw an article with the above title and, without reading it, it made me think. Am I? Would that be such a bad thing?

Gene Vilma Strickler
My mother is an extraordinary woman. At 17, she left her small Pennsylvania town (and a fiance) to see what life was like in the big city. She met my father, who was seven years her senior, while living in Washington, D.C. After the war, he settled there, after growing up in (Finnish) Harlem. They married, had two daughters while living in Arlington, VA, and then moved back to the small town of Manheim, PA, where my mother grew up. He worked as a treasurer for a company in Lancaster and she stayed home with her three little girls (I was a surprise after the move).

Life didn't go as planned for my mother. Just seven years after moving to Manheim, my father suffered two major heart attacks. It was 1964 and the doctors predicted he had five years left at most. My 37-year-old former SAHM quickly decided she better get a job and find a way to support her three daughters. So, she went to work, went to night school and learned to drive. As it turned out, Dad beat the odds and stuck around for another 18 years! I come from tenacious stock.

Rather than sitting around popping Valium, worrying about the future and feeling sorry for herself, she proactively transformed her life. By the time she retired, she had an impressive position in Human Resources in a large Lancaster County company.

Mom is a survivor. She's tenacious and driven. She does what she has to do.

My mom with some of the family. May '09
(Millersville University. Sculpture by my sister, Tina Haatainen Jones)

In the past couple of years, she's had some health problems. But each time, she's risen above them and bounced back. Just a couple of months shy of her 84th birthday, she had her left knee replaced. That was in November. She is now able to walk up steps without a problem. I'm impressed. So are the doctors. They attribute it to her taking water aerobics and staying active.

Oh, and she quit smoking after 60-some years. How about that? Cold turkey. No drugs, no programs, just will power. After all, she's quite bullheaded.

Gene and Danny
In 1996, she wed a man she'd known from back in her D.C. days. It was a beautiful ceremony in Las Vegas. Really. Danny died a few years ago, leaving her to face widowhood once again.

Mom has always been a stylish dresser, had a nice eye for comfortable, but classy, decor, and is generous to a fault. She is admired by many.

A voracious reader, my mother also attacks crossword puzzles with a vengeance, is tough to beat when playing Scrabble, Bananagrams or Boggle, and enjoys a competitive game of Pinochle. Her hospitality skills are unmatched and she can cook up a meal for a crowd or make an intimate dinner seem special for anyone lucky enough to be a guest in her home.

Mom and Laura
And she has always been a wonderful grandmother to Peter, Heidi, Bethany and Jessica, and now, a great-grandmother to Laura, Vera and Lincoln.

I would like to say, yes, I am becoming my mother. Perhaps that would be the greatest compliment someone could pay me.

Indeed, we are very much alike. But there are differences as well. While she opted for a corporate life, I choose to exercise my creative talents and work for myself. Despite being widowed at 32, I decided to stay home and raise my girls and not pursue a career until they were grown. I am passionate about causes I believe in, and they are not necessarily causes Mom even agrees with. I chose to remarry rather quickly after my husband died, much to my family's dismay at the time.

We often choose different routes than our parents. However, when there is a quality worth mimicking, how wonderful is it when we can actually do just that?

I'm thankful for a mother who taught me about strength. Who gave me a hunger for knowledge. Who never wanted me to settle for less than what I was capable of.

Are you becoming your mother? Or your father? Is that a good thing?

As children, it is our privilege to glean the good from our heritage. As parents, it is our responsibility to pass on outstanding traits to our children. My hope is that someday my daughters will look at themselves and say, "I'm becoming my mother," and they'll smile.

Sharing more of my life with you, my friends,



  1. I loved reading this post your mom sounds like a fighter, someone anyone would be happy to mimic....I on the other hand would not like to be compared to my mom she has made (still making) some really stupid choices in her life that affected me and my sisters in a negative way. I am 30 now and still carry around the resentment and anger at times. I strive to be a better mother so my daughter will never look at me the way I look at my mom

    I am your newest fan, you can follow me back if you wish at http://hugatreewithme2.blogspot.com

  2. Welcome to the community! Please join in on the conversations on the Green Grandma Facebook page.

    I'm sorry your experiences with your mother have not been positive. For your sake, I hope you can be free of bitterness and anger. Forgiveness is the only thing that will set you free. Of course, forgiving someone does not mean you have to foolishly give them permission to keep hurting you or your children.

    May you be blessed.



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