Despite growing up in the eighties, in the middle of a horror movie boom, my brothers and I always knew that Friday the 13th wasn’t unlucky. Our beloved mother, at the center of our lives, was born on Friday the 13th. As children we could not have understood how lucky we were to have her, but we knew that she turned the bad news of Friday the 13th on its head. She brought — and brings — joy everywhere. There was no way that a number associated with her could be unlucky.
As I reach midlife and see how many of my friends have lost their mothers or who have difficult relationships with difficult mothers, I do realize exactly how lucky I am to have the mother I do. My mother, Sheila Hobson, is one of those people who have a gift in conversation for making people feel not just like they’re the center of her attention as they talk, but like she sees and values exactly who they are. Coming away from a talk with my mom, we all feel like we are loved for who we are right now, that she sees the path that’s brought us to the present, and that we are now exactly who we should be.
My mother embodies what we think of when we think of Divine Love. But being always a practical person at heart, I find it much easier to envision that sweet love of my mother than the love of a distant God.
Of course, when I was a teen and a young adult, we had our struggles. Being the ever typical adolescent, I thought my mom was TOO nice, TOO kind to people, TOO generous in her outlook. Stereotypical teen angst against the world! That dark vision didn’t last as I lived long enough to grow up and mature, to see much of my dark outlook tempered by experience, brain development, and a mellowed hormonal stew.
My mom has a birthday this week, and I’m grateful to have her for another year. I’m thankful, too, that her birthday comes at the beginning of the school year. In August, I emerge from the solitude of summer. Summers of my early thirties and forties were taken up by the arduous, lonely care of young children. This summer’s isolation has come, by choice, from the pursuit of sustained creative work. Regardless, August is Back to School and back to work for me. It’s the time for me to cast off my natural introversion and misanthropic cynicism for the meaningful work that I love.
As we celebrate my mom’s birthday right before the year starts, I ask myself “What Would Grandma Sheila Do?” Every year, more and more, I want to be more like my mom. How can I give my coworkers, my boss, and my school families my complete attention? How can I greet and value them exactly as they are? How can I make each person come away from our time together feeling loved and cared for? I’m not that good at it, but each year I try harder. In addition to having my mom as a role model, I’ve been lucky to have coworkers like Diana Van Horn and Diane Smith who have showed me how to better show care in the unique and eccentric environments that are schools. Each year, I set my goal to think every day about “What Would Grandma Sheila Do?” (or Diana and Diane) as inevitable conflicts and annoyances arise.
In August, it all comes back to my mom. How can I be more like Sheila Hobson? How can I pass on some of the gifts she’s give to me as her daughter? How can I pass on the love that she nurtured in me from minute one?
Happy Birthday, mom, Sheila Hobson. The 13th will always a lucky day for us who have the grace to know you.