I wrote this post when my daughter graduated high school. With graduation season here, I decided to repost my thoughts from not quite ten years ago:
Today my little girl graduates high school. What a joy she has been to raise, teach and hang out with. I remember her kindergarten interview when she had to be tested for one of the coveted spots at St. Theresa’s. She had fun buns on her head and ankle high “Britney Boots,” marketed for little girls dreaming of becoming Britney Spears. She boldly entered the kindergarten class and announced to the world that she was “Robert’s little sister.”
Today, I have a tall, wise-cracking young lady with a big smile and sparkle in her eye. If I could tell my daughter three things she needs to know for her next adventure called college, what would it be?
“To thine own self be true.” Don’t worry about what other people think. Do what you know is right. This famous quote is from Polonius to his son Laertes, before Laertes boards a boat to Paris in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Even though it’s pretty old, it still resonates today.
Happiness is not having a boyfriend or being thin. My mom would tell me the worst things when I was my daughter’s age — mainly focused on the need to “have a man” — or that “a man would make me happy.” This must be a throwback to my mother’s generation, where a woman’s identity and self-worth were wrapped up in a spouse. Instead, I will tell my daughter that happiness is found within yourself — by doing something that you love. Once you find happiness in yourself, only then can you share it with others.
Don’t worry about what your career or major will be. You will figure it out. Don’t feel pressure about it. Most people going into college that have a major, change their minds anyway. Get your basic requirements out of the way and then after taking different classes, you will discover what you don’t like and what you do like.
And most importantly, not even on the list — I love you.
What three things would you tell your son or daughter on graduation night?
Last week a thought occurred to me. I should get out my flute. Not only would it be nice to play again after a few years of not playing, it might give me a burst of creativity. I’m always looking for ways to encourage my creative spirit including walks, sketching or reading. However, in my advanced age, I promptly forgot about playing the flute.
Actually after moving, the flute got tucked away along with my music. At our former home, my flute was out on the piano and I’d walk by and stop to play. We donated our piano to our kids’ elementary school before we moved.
I was reading through blogs yesterday when I ran across a mouse playing a flute in a story on Nuggets of Gold called Moonlight Sonata. A note went off in my head. Yes, I want to get my flute out — and music.
I remembered where I squirreled away my music in the guest room dresser. My flute was hidden in my closet. My favorite flute music is falling apart, but still readable. I also found piano music for the Phantom of the Opera and Wizard of Oz. The good thing with the flute is that it’s in the key of C and I can play piano music easily — at least the melodies.
My mom played flute since she was a child and took me to lessons when I was around 10 years old. I played her beautiful silver flute at lessons and practiced with it. She got the flute from her high school flute teacher as a teen. When I was 11 years old, she gave me her flute. Her friends asked why she would give a child such a valuable instrument and she took it back. My parents bought me a flute appropriate to play at school when I joined Band.
When I turned 30, I asked my mom for the flute. She said no even though she hadn’t played it after taking it back from me two decades before. I was planning to make a leap and join our church choir. A friend of mine played flute in choir and suggested I give it a try. I could have played with my old band instrument, but it sounds tinny and is hard to play compared to the rich tone and ease of Mom’s silver flute.
Anyway, that was my excuse — also I was scared. Buying a flute at that time wasn’t even an idea we could consider.
I asked mom at age 40 and again at 50. The answer was always no. Sometime in my early 50s she told me she wanted me to have her flute. On one of my visits, she insisted I take it home on the plane. I held on to it for dear life on the flight back to Palm Springs.
My son and I practiced Christmas Carol duets each year, me on the flute and him on piano. I’d go through phases where I’d practice daily and then stop and start again.
Then the phone calls began. Mom had moved into assisted living. When she was in her 80s she wanted her flute back. I tried to explain that I was enjoying playing and I knew she wouldn’t play her flute or even open its case. She assured me she would and wanted to practice for a concert. Then she’d forget all about it and months later she’d call again about the flute.
I think in the back of my mind, I was hurt when she took the flute away from me as a child. I overheard her telling a friend that I was getting my sticky peanut butter and jelly fingers all over it — which was not true. I also felt that it was wrong to hang onto a possession for thirty or forty years and not let someone enjoy it.
My aunt, her little sister, had a similar story with china inherited from their family. My mom gave it to her little sister (my aunt) before she moved from her home, but once in assisted living kept calling to get her china back. There was obviously no room in the assisted living studio to display the china or store it.
Looking back, I wonder if I should have returned the flute for a few years to appease my mom. I think she was attached to these possessions because they reminded her of her earlier years and she saw them as her identity.
In any case, I have the flute and music out and it brings me joy to play and connects me to Mom in a good way, that I am able to enjoy her beautiful instrument and her musical talent. RIP.
Do you think people hold onto possessions because they see them as part of their identity or youth? If yes, what other things do people hang onto for that reason?
When my family got together to share memories of Mom — while feasting on her favorite dinner of prime rib and popovers that my brother prepared — my aunt (pictured above with Mom) shared several stories. I wrote about the red square contest HERE.
My mom had a funny sense of humor. Even in her later days. When I’d drive her for our favorite sushi lunch, if someone was crossing the street, she’ tell me’d say “Hit her. She’s worth three points.”
Mom’s dad died from stomach cancer at a very young age. My mom was possibly a freshman in college? With her little sister 11 or 12 years younger, my aunt didn’t remember much about her dad. She asked Mom, “What was Dad like? Was he an introvert? Or an extrovert?”
My mom thought for a bit and said, “He was just a regular vert.”
That reminded me of several comments I’ve seen on blogs lately, including my own. We identify as introverts and extroverts.
But are we really one or the other? Is there a combination? Are we introverts more extroverted with people we’re comfortable with? Or is that true for everyone?
The house I grew up in from second grade on. No we didn’t have a blue garage! What were these people thinking!
I grabbed the front of the house photo from Redfin.
After my aunt and I left Robe Valley and my mother’s ashes, we drove to my hometown, Snohomish, Wash. During our journey we detoured up Lord’s Hill to my old house that I lived in from second grade until I left for college. My mom sold it after “the divorce.” It was too expensive for her to keep up on alimony payments.
We stopped for lunch at Andy’s Fish House. The Pacific Northwest has the best seafood. I had chowder, salad and a piece of cod. My aunt had fish and chips. It was delish!
My nephew played Moonlight Sonata and Für Elise as a tribute to my mom. He used his Covid shutdown days to learn piano!
My aunt and I spent the night at SeaTac airport after our adventure in Robe Valley and Snohomish. Next door to our hotel was 13 Coins which was a favorite memory of mine with my mom. My aunt said it was a place she and her husband frequented in the 1970s. Sitting at the counter is more exciting than in the booths, because it’s where all the cooking takes place.
My aunt shared a small scrapbook she made for my mom’s 70th birthday. This was a photo in it that I loved.
Thanks for taking a look at my week in the Pacific Northwest.
This is the private road through the woods to our riverfront property. We ran across this obstacle on our journey.
My aunt and I made the trek to Robe Valley where our family has owned property along the Stillaguamish River since the crash of ’29. Our mission was to spread my mother’s ashes in a place of beauty that she loved.
At dinner the night before at my brother’s home, we celebrated mom’s life. I was surrounded with love from my brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew, spouses and children and of course aunt.
I worried about the condition of the road to the river. Would it be too muddy? Would it be flooded? We were told we’d need a chainsaw this time of year to make it to the river.
“We don’t do chainsaws,” I said.
My aunt who turns 80 this year, nodded her head in agreement.
Our first obstacle was a new gate. Prior to this gate, we had a chain across our road. Fortunately, I packed the key that was mailed to me by a distant relative a few months ago. Whew! It worked!
When we stopped at the fallen branches blocking the road, I was able to push and hold them back while my aunt gunned the accelerator and drove through.
Then something surprising happened. A Great Blue Heron (not a Phoenix) rose from a low branch and flew up in front of us. The Great Blue Heron was my mom’s favorite bird. In the 80-plus years this property has been in the family, no one has seen one.
My aunt said “Mary is that you?” (Mary is my mother’s name.)
The heron kept flight directly in front of our car as we made our way down the road. Literally we were looking up and forward.
I’m reminded of Victoria’s post yesterday at Victoria Ponders with these words from her dear friend:
Today would have been my mother’s birthday. The Ides of March. (Mom died New Year’s Day.) Today I’m going to my brother’s house and we will reminisce and have dinner with family including my mom’s little sister who is 13 years younger than mom.
My mom often told me that she raised her little sister.
My cousin wrote me a loving sympathy letter that included a funny story I had never heard before about Mom, my aunt (my cousin’s mom) and red squares.
My aunt had a friend over and my mom, as the older sister, had them in a competition to earn red cloth squares. I’m not sure what ages they were, but Mom had them busy doing chores. They would earn a red cloth square for finishing their chore first.
I talked to my aunt about it and she said whoever earned the most red squares won the grand prize. She said she wanted the grand prize more than anything!
She won — and the grand prize turned out to be a bigger red cloth square.
Mom was a strong Christian and I have memories of her giving us a Bible verse each morning. She typed hundreds of them on 3 1/2 by 2″ cards.
She was big on chores and that’s one thing I despised the most coming home from school. We’d come home to an empty house, as latch key kids when Mom was earning her degree in Music at the University of Washington. She already had a degree in Home-Ec Education. Mom would leave a legal-sized yellow sheet of college-ruled paper with both sides filled with chores to be done before she got home. She had an ineligible scrawl that was hard to read.
I realize now, she not only wanted dinner cooked, the dishes done, the house vacuumed, the garage swept (you get the idea) — she was keeping my brother and I out of trouble. She was keeping us busy.
Tomorrow we spread her ashes at our riverfront property.
Here’s a photo of her in her teens or early twenties at the river.
What chores did you have growing up? Did you have your children do chores too?
While I was with my kids, my son asked me to drive to Target and buy a game of Scrabble. I’m not keen on driving in the Bay Area — really not driving anywhere. I’d walk everywhere if I could.
If you were watching the weather, a bomb of a storm was predicted. Fortunately, where we were in Berkeley — it wasn’t hard hit. There was a ton of rain and wind. Some houses were flooded, but we were fine.
Still. I wasn’t excited about driving. I walked to my daughter’s apartment, which is less than two miles from my son’s house. She asked me to walk Waffles the pug while she was at work. I asked if I could borrow her car to go to Target and the grocery store. The answer was “of course.” She left the car keys for me inside her apartment. She’s so close to her job, she doesn’t have to drive.
Scrabble wasn’t at the Target .2 miles from her house where I could walk. I had the choice of two Targets in other towns. I buckled in and found my way with little trouble except for dodging massive potholes — which must have cropped up from the storm. They were tire or car killing potholes. I avoided all but one and felt proud of myself.
Armed with Scrabble and groceries, I returned to my son’s house. He and his fiancee have been playing Scrabble online as of late. I haven’t touched the game since I was around 10 years old?
I played my son who was home alone (and doing very well after surgery FYI.) His first word he laid down was qis — notice there isn’t a u after the q. His word was placed at the center star where you get a gazillion extra points. I challenged the word.
“Look it up,” he said. “Google to see if it’s a word in Scrabble.”
I had my laptop handy and BINGO! Qis is a “yes” for Scrabble.
The next word he played was drat.
“That’s not acceptable. That’s slang!” I said.
“Slang is allowed.”
“Not in my day,” I argued.
Needless to say I lost by more than 100 points. This is not the Scrabble of my childhood.
We both broke out in fits of laughter when he built a new word and it resulted in a second built word “za.”
“You can challenge that if you want,” he said. “I’m not sure za is a word.”
“What do you think it means?” I asked.
He said it was short for pizza — but we were laughing and he admitted he had no clue what it meant or if it was a word.
I checked the laptop. Za is a yes for Scrabble. Short for pizza.
Do you remember slang words in Scrabble? What are your thoughts about what I believe are new rules for Scrabble? Is this the Scrabble of your childhood?