My Mom--My Hero

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Introduction

Mom lives, loves, and laughs (most of the time). She is a great person--always helping, always making sure everyone feels loved and accepted and wanted. I remember her stories of her childhood, teenage years, and grown years too. How she has been shaped and how she thinks, has much to do with the people she knows. I believe Mom to be a hero in her own way. She's my hero.

When Mom was young, she got into little predicaments and trouble, just like I did (and still do). Mom was involved with sports in her teen years, just as I love sports, and she admires her own mother, just as I admire mine. Mom and I are similar in many ways and when I hear her stories I enjoy every minute of them.

I want some of her history to be written in ink and saved on paper, so that it can be read and reread and reread through the generations to come. That would be the greatest gift to my future children. To know who my mom was and the irreplaceable person she is in our family. I know I can't tell all her stories. Such would take lifetimes to complete, but I can give a little taste of her personality, interests, and qualities.
Chapter 1: The Shortcut

"Let's never choose to take a shortcut like that ever again as long as we live, 'kay, Lynnette?" Shana said. Shana Baine was fairly new to the junior high school. Mom became one of Shana's first friends when she came.

"Yes, never again," answered Mom. "I think it's time we go home to a nice dinner and rest our feet."

"Definitely."


Mom walked to school and back. There was no question. Rain, shine, snow, hail, whatever. It didn't matter, because as long as Mom had two legs and two feet, she got the privilege of using them. The walk was four miles each way, not to mention it was uphill both ways since the road gullied down and then back up.

In the mornings, there obviously wasn't time to stop at the seven-eleven for a small bite to eat what with school being so early and the walk so long, but on the way home, stopping for slushies was a favorite pastime for Mom and her friends. Although they looked forward to getting out of school so they could buy a refreshing treat, sometimes they got tired of walking three miles just to pick up their slushies when there might be a faster way just waiting to reveal itself.

Mom and Shana were the first to give it a venture.

"Hopefully this won't take over twenty-five minutes if all goes well," Mom whispered to Shana in their final twenty minutes of class.

"Yeah, if this works out, we'll have a newer, faster way to get to seven-eleven and back home for the rest of the year," Shana excitedly replied.

Ding-ding-ding. The teacher dismissed them. Mom and Shana gathered their books and bags and were off. Instead of following alongside the road like usual, they crossed it, hoping to cut off the large corner that forced them to go around a seemingly empty field. They walked straight through the field for several minutes until, in the distance, they saw a large house. Neither thought much of it. It was only a house, after all. Well, just as they were approaching the house, an older woman came onto the patio, straining to grip the leashes of two vicious German Shepherds. Then she yelled in a loud voice, "SICK 'EM, BOYS!" The dogs ripped free and ran madly at the frightened young girls. Running from a wild dog is nothing like what you see in Hollywood--no matter how fast you go, you'll never get as far as movies depict. Mom and Shana had gone maybe twenty feet before the animals were upon them.

Mom had her eyes closed. "I'm not dead?" she gasped. She blinked. The two dogs merely sniffed them and ran back to their owner.

"I thought for sure that was the end of my life!" Shana was also in shock.

When they noticed the lady on her patio still, waiting and watching, the two stunned girls ran for it in the other direction, not wanting the lady to send the dogs for a real attack.

"Maybe we shouldn't try to cut off that much of the corner," said Mom once they caught enough breath to speak.

"Yeah," agreed Shana.

They attempted again to cut off some of the corner, but this time angling so that the house would be too far away for the crazy lady to set her dogs on them again. They walked for a mile or two and came across an odd-looking barn. Being the curious youths that they were, they decided to check it out. It wasn't too long before fuzzy weasel-looking creatures started popping up around them. Then Mom realized where they were. A mink farm. The mammals were hissing at them and some plucked up the courage to try their skills at human-leg-batting. Once again, Mom and Shana started running in fear that one might carry a disease, plus Mom's brother David had told her stories of how minks could bite your flesh off if you got too close. They ran until the barn disappeared.

"Whew, I'm getting tired," Shana heaved.

"Me too," panted Mom. "Wait a minute, where did we run off to?"

Shana looked around, "I dunno, we've never come this way before. Let's try heading in the direction we think the road is."

"That sounds like a plan. What's with our luck today?"

They started heading aimlessly toward where they thought the road would be, but nothing was all they found for thirty minutes. Suddenly, a flock of magpies swooped out of nowhere right above them. David enjoyed scaring little kids, especially his sister, so would it surprise you if I said he told Mom that magpies were the most dangerous and mean birds alive? And she and her friends believed every word he fed into their gullible minds. The running began again. This time screaming accompanied their movement.

"What have we done to deserve this?" Shana asked exasperatedly. Her face showed her indignation.

"Right now we should focus less on the why and more on the getting home. I think we should skip seven-eleven today."

"You're right, our parents are gonna be worried sick if we take much longer."

They kept going. After about thirty more minutes, they finally found the road, having to backtrack a tad. And there up ahead was the seven-eleven, which meant a mile left to go. No incident fell upon them for another ten minutes; then, lo and behold, they ran into a new obstacle that seemed familiar--more dogs. Just what they needed. They were chased for five seconds before the dogs got to them, snarling and snipping. Thankfully, the dogs were all show, no action. Mom and Shana dragged their feet the last half mile home. It took them another twenty minutes. With all the wandering, running, retracting, and backtracking, the whole excursion took three hours. More than triple compared with the road.

Mom learned a valuable lesson in this experience: don't take shortcuts unless you know where the shortcut leads.
Chapter 2: The Narrow Escape

Mom moved to Germany when she was fifteen. Her dad was already there, working for a computer company. He wrote programs to run the electronic lighting system for Lufthansa Airline's runway. Grandpa was like the absent-minded professor. He was extremely intelligent and the perfect one to solve any kind of difficult or complicated problem, but he tended to forget the little things that were still important, yet easy, to do. He'd been in Germany for a year before he flew his family out to experience and live in a foreign country for the first time.

The whole family each got their own passport since they were leaving the U.S. Plus, they planned to do some traveling in Europe once they had adjusted to the change. Once they arrived, everyone began settling into their new home. They started adapting to the brand new atmosphere in which they would be living for the next few years.

After she felt confident in her new school, Mom tried out to be a cheerleader. She practiced and practiced, and after practice came skill. She cheered for many games in her international high school. One day, she, along with her fellow cheerleaders and the basketball team were all headed to Berlin for a major rivalry game in the free part of the city that happened to be surrounded by a communist state. Mom had been on many trips like this, because of her involvement with the school teams. She didn't expect this ride to be any different in comparison to those passed, but boy was she in for a surprise this time.

The train left the first station, and they were off. Jacqui deRuig was one of Mom's good friends as well as personal translator for the people around who only spoke German. The two girls sat and talked amongst themselves to pass the time. The train chugged its way out of sight of the first station. On the course from West Germany to West Berlin, their train stopped at various train stations periodically to make sure everyone had tickets and the proper passport qualifications.

The train kept on, moving at a steady pace. The young students looked out the window and noticed barbed wire; big, fierce-looking guards, holding machine guns and scowling, were standing by it. Mom couldn't stop staring until they halted at the final station before entering the half-free, half-communist city of Berlin. More scary looking soldiers, just like the ones watching the fence and carrying machine guns, clomped into the aisle of their compartment with heavy boots and harsh expressions. They carefully studied the pages of the passengers' passports, ready to detain anyone who didn't have their information in order. They got to Mom's and stopped when they looked at a certain page. Whispers were thrown back and forth quietly in their native language. One of the men turned heel and trudged off to fetch someone (no doubt higher ranked than he).

"I can't understand what they're saying," Mom nudged Jacqui, who had worry written all over her face.

"Lynnette, why don't you have the stamp on your passport that proves you're just a temporary resident in West Germany, passing through East Germany?" asked Jacqui.

"My dad told me he'd take care of everything," she answered. "He said I was good to go. I had no idea this would happen."

The rest of her friends also seemed afraid for her sake.

The man returned. Walking next to him was his supervisor who had clearly been retrieved so that he could come up with a solution to the problem.

Mom thought of the stories she'd heard of . . . how the guards would just take you off the train and keep you in confinement for an indefinite amount of time if you didn't have proper registrations. She felt cold and scared even though the temperature of the train was more than warm. This was the end. She was going to be stuck in Soviet-ruled Germany--alone--and there was nothing she could do.

The men left again, and, after what felt like an eternity, they came back. But they didn't come back alone. With them was the school coach, who explained everything to them--how Mom was with the school team, and how they were on their way to an important game. After what seemed another forever, the stern Germans allowed her to enter into the city. A very narrow escape.

It all turned out well in the end. They entered the city and, from there, hopped onto a bus to head for the families that would be accommodating them during their trip. The family that Mom got to stay with while visiting Berlin turned out to be one of the kindest she'd ever lived with. These hospitable people made her special, authentic German food and spent money on her, so that her stay was more enjoyable. They took her on a tour of the city also letting her invite her friends. Mom remembers how charitable and giving they were. And best of all, that night, when her host family took her to the competitors' basketball court, Mom's school team won the tournament, with her cheering throughout the entire game.
Chapter 3: The Exemplar

Nana, Mom's mom, has been one of the most influential people in her life. When Mom was quite young, Nana used to take her on one of her favorite expeditions--shopping. Mom remembers dancing around the fountain and running up and down the wide, shallow stairs at Buffum's--the local, posh department store.

As a teenager, Mom resented being Nana's baby doll, to dress up and decorate at her whim. Later, though, Mom came to admire what she eventually learned was her mother's great talent. When she was in high school, her very musically talented aunt said to her one day, "Your mom is one of the most talented people I know." Turns out Nana is the most talented person Mom knows.

Nana has devoted a huge portion of her life to art. She's painted hundreds upon hundreds of paintings--from still life, to landscape, to portrait. If only she had a portfolio of all her work. Instead, she used it as her own personal meditation time and creative outlet and, at times, as a way to help support the family financially. Home always felt like an art gallery for Mom, because Nana's paintings lined the walls of every house her family lived in. Nana even displayed her craft on the walls of fine art galleries.

If that were the extent of Nana's creative capacities, it would already be highly impressive, but to demonstrate the extent of her talents, one day Mom was walking down the sidewalk of a large, artsy district in LA; Nana caught a glimpse of what were dubbed "poopay dolls." They consisted of a beanbag body with handmade porcelain feet and hands as well as an intricately designed porcelain head with an eccentrically styled hat. All hand-molded, painted, and fired. Next thing you knew, Nana's tiny home was exploding with poopay dolls. They sold like hotcakes. And that was just one of many, many examples of Nana's spontaneous, creative talent.

Creativity showed up in her cooking as well. Mom never really saw her mother pull out a cookbook. Only occasionally, Mom would see her peruse a recipe or two in a magazine, and yet delectable foods were the order of the day in their kitchen. Nana could turn just about anything into an edible work of art--both in appearance and flavor.

In the category of handiwork, her sewing was no exception to her amazing abilities. Her children were all the best dressed (with matching outfits) on special occasions as well as on Sundays, as she sewed much of her children's clothing, especially while they were young. Again, Mom rarely saw a pattern for these model creations.

For mom, Nana's example of an untiring work ethic was equally impressive. Her house was always spotless, even while raising four children (initially, ages five and under), babysitting for money, sewing fine clothing, cooking gourmet meals, and creating artistic masterpieces. Now that her children are raised, she's added gardening to the list. Greenery and colorful flowers flourish at her fingertips. Oh, and don't forget her professionally decorated home--without the paid decorator. She has quite the eye for beauty. Her home is the envy of all the ladies in the neighborhood; they usually ask her to host the group's luncheons. Even now--in her mid-seventies!

Nana is an example of service and generosity. Mom came to expect returning home from Nana's with a new outfit or bag or just about any gift. Often, the gift was one Nana's own treasured possessions, but she's never happier than when she's making other people happy by giving them gifts or serving them. She never passes a beggar without giving him or her money or food. One year, her entire garage became a depot of humanitarian supplies for needy people in a third-world country. The door to Mom's home was always open to anyone who needed a place to stay. Sometimes the stay was long-term--up to a year or more.

Nana was an example in all meaningful areas of life. Whenever Mom feels lazy and doesn't want to do what needs to be done, the image of her mother's face, and her hardworking hands enter Mom's thoughts, and gently reminds "to be able to work is a blessing. Just get it done." The job is less of a job when having the example of someone who works with such optimism.


For me, the example has continued through the generation. My mom has many of the qualities that my grandma has, and some others that are all her own. She raised me and my brothers and sisters with high moral standards and values. We were raised in a religion that I could not live without, and I have my mom to thank for always keeping religion our first priority in life. With her example of how people should treat each other, and how people should live as children of God, a thought comes into my head, and I know for a fact, "Mom is an angel."
Conclusion


Mom lived--and still lives--an amazing life. She grew up in many areas of the world, experienced many different cultures, and lived her beginning to the fullest. And I'm sure she'll live the rest of her life even better, because of the knowledge she has gained since the start. Mom loves to learn. I know she'll keep learning and growing right up until the end. That's just who she is. When she was in school, she soaked up information like a sponge and kept it. I admire her for her extensive knowledge. I'm thoroughly impressed by how well she can recall her younger years. She is very talented, but not with her mind alone.

When I think of my mom, I think of a hard-working, kind, loving person. She knows how to understand and empathize. I feel extremely blessed to be her daughter. She's been the one person who's always been there for me when I really needed someone. It's great to know that I have someone who I can always turn to for support. She listens to me when I need to let all my frustration out. Life would just be incomplete without her. As far as I'm concerned, Mom is the best person I know.





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