Camaraderie a gift for families

Author’s note: Eleven years ago, editor Don Ratzlaff accepted me into what he called the Free Press’s “stable of monthly columnists.” My first column was about Mother’s Day and family and holidays and kids and Cadbury Eggs, all the things I feel most lucky to have in my world. I also know how lucky I am to freely write about anything I please twice a month. In honor of my mom, my sisters and my two daughters (who have grown up considerably since May 2005,) I decided to rerun a portion of my first column. Thank you to everyone who hangs onto some kind of appreciation for the printed word. (And Happy Mother’s Day.)

“I, who have no sisters or brothers, look with some degree of innocent envy on those who may be said to be born to friends.” —James Boswell

When it comes to holidays, while I do my best to keep the reasons for seasons in mind, I admit I’m a prime target for commercialization.

I’m that person who is excited to see Christmas decorations filling the store aisles in October and I dive into those day-after-Thanks­giving-sale flyers.

I stock up on Cadbury eggs at Easter and my dog’s pen glows with red, white and blue string lights on the Fourth of July.

I’m a sucker for a holiday.

Mother’s Day is no exception. It’s a day that I’ve grown to love, literally. Since I both have and am a mom, it’s impossible not to appreciate a day that I can celebrate on so many levels.

The most obvious way: as a mom of two daughters, Taylor, 6, and Tanner, 3 months. My girls are my “in” to this holiday. I’m more than happy to take a day to pat myself on the back for doing what I can to raise good little people.

And as a bonus, I’m guaranteed a homemade card and a “Happy Mother’s Day” hug first thing that morning.

But I also celebrate Mother’s Day as a daughter to a surprisingly laid-back mom. She and my dad somehow managed to raise me along with seven others like me.

Considering her 40-plus years of monitoring diapers, puberty, marriages and, now, grandchildren, it’s a wonder that she even wants us around.

I know we challenged her and gave her a few sleepless nights. Regardless, she sent eight reasonably well-adjusted adults into the world.

My mom is a nurturer and a giver. Of all the things she has given to me, I put my four sisters at the top of the list.

For the lucky ones, there’s camaraderie among women in the same family. I often feel our family is somewhat of a rarity because we do actually get along. For that, I credit our parents.

My dad’s approach to life was very matter-of-fact and he had a way of breaking things down to the obvious. Most of his advice came in three-word sentences. “Use your head.” “Don’t be dumb.” “Work it out.”

My mom still uses that “obvious psychology” on me. When I’m at my wit’s end with my screaming daughter, she tells me, “They have bad days just like we do.”

Or the next day, when I’m at my wit’s end with my other screaming daughter, I hear, “Take it as it comes, that’s all you can do.”

I was fortunate to grow up with her simple approach to parenting and to be part of a family that made itself a priority.

Last Mother’s Day my sisters, Mom and I snagged tickets to “Hi Gorgeous,” an event in Kansas City put on by Oprah Winfrey and her “O Magazine.” The day’s purpose was to encourage women to discover and build on our own individual talents and gifts, and to recognize them in each other.

As we walked into the park that morning, we were given pink tote bags and welcomed with a string of prerecorded “Hi Gorgeous” greetings.

OK, it might sound a little cheesy, but it set the tone for the day.

For the next eight hours, we strolled from station to station collecting freebies. We watched fashion shows, sampled wine and listened to motivational speeches—the grand finale being Oprah herself.

This Mother’s Day, we’re going to spend the weekend organizing my parents’ shop, which has sat basically untouched since my dad’s death five year’s ago. Since Mom followed behind us with wash cloths and vacuums for so many years, the least we can do as adults is offer our cleaning services for a day.

Knowing how important my sisters are to me, and experiencing Taylor’s passionate plea for a sister of her own during my last pregnancy (we got lucky on that one), I remind her often how fortunate she and Tanner are to have each other.

Sorting through a stack of photos one weekend, I came across a picture of my sisters and me from Hi Gorgeous.

“I’m so glad you get to grow up with Tanner,” I said, tossing the picture to Taylor. “You two will be sisters forever, just like me and my sisters.”

“Yep,” she said, studying the photo. “You’ll be sisters ’til you’re old and walking on sticks.”

I think she gets the idea.