Someone very special is celebrating her 60th birthday today: my mama!! My mom is awesome sauce, folks. She's done a lot in her 60 years on this Earth, and as she told me this morning, she's got a lot she still wants to do. Let me tell you about my amazing mom.
Her parents were high school sweethearts and they loved their community in Western New York, volunteering for various causes whenever possible. Her father was principal at her high school and my grandparents were very well respected in their community. She was the youngest of three girls, and she was a bit of a rebel. When she was in her early 20's she hitchhiked to California and got a tattoo from Lyle Tuttle. She's a self-proclaimed hippie and has always had a bit of a wild side.
Education has always been important to my mom and her family. She and her two sisters are all educators, and my mom has always been an advocate for education for kids with disadvantages or special needs. She got her Masters in Preschool Special Education from the University of Arizona and worked for Head Start for eleven years. When I seven, she left Head Start to found a preschool program for kids with disabilities in Marana. I remember getting to go visit her school one day a year and meeting all the kids we heard so much about.
In 1998, Mom left the school in Marana and went to start another school called Wings on Words Child Language Center, a school funded by the Scottish Rite working in conjunction with the U of A's Speech and Hearing Department. The school specializes in not only early childhood education, but speech pathology and language development. Some of the kids are developing normally, other kids need a lot of help with their words, and others have needs beyond their speech and language delays. In the early years, my mom taught at the school, and now serves as as the Program Director. Recently, the school won a grant from the Angel Foundation and used the proceeds to build a new building and remodel the old one and expand the playground. The school will be dedicated on Friday and my mom is literally bursting with pride, as she should be.
She's always been a champion for education, in her own family as well as in the Tucson community, where she is very much respected. My sister and I went to a bilingual magnet elementary school - it was very important to her that we get the right start in our education. My mom was inspired by Ina Gittings, and believes that all children need to learn and thrive are books, blocks, and an imagination. She was honored with an award in Ina's name not long ago. On May 7th, the day I graduate with my own graduate degree, Mom will be recognized for her completion of a program in leadership in education.
She met my dad and married just after her 30th birthday and they'll celebrate their 30th anniversary in 3 weeks. They became parents 15 months later when I was born and had my sister 3 and a half years after that. Things weren't always easy for them, as marriage is a journey, but I look at my parents today and see two people very much in love.
She's been an amazing mom. She's always there for us, as a friend and guide. We butted heads some when I was young, but I think a lot of moms an daughters go through that. She's been supportive as I'm made both good and bad choices, and trusted me to choose the right path in the end. Though I may not have always talked, she's always listened. I don't think Megan or I could have asked for a better mother, and I have an excellent role model for the day I become a mom myself.
I can't begin to really explain the person my mom is. She's kind, funny, caring, compassionate, and silly. She bebops a lot to music, and enjoys being outdoors. She enjoys exploring and new experiences, cultures, and foods. I have amazing and funny memories of my mom, little pieces that stick with me: her Jack Daniels tank top, her perms, her playing with us and our imaginations in the summers and our trips to New York where she'd talk to her sisters for hours about the people from her home town. When we all went to Mexico for my college graduation, she was happier (and drunker) than I was. I remember seeing her behind the wheel of a ski boat and thinking she looked so natural. It's easy to forget living in Arizona that she spent her summers growing up on boats since her parents owned a marina.
My mom is an incredible woman, both to us and to the children whose lives she touches every day. I sincerely hope she has a wonderful birthday and knows how much we all love and admire her. We are all so lucky to be have her in our life.
Happy birthday, Mama!!