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There Is No Box

Let me tell you about my mommy. She’s the little woman who used to call me “sweetheart” when I was so small I was scared to fall asleep. She’s the one who played me to sleep each night, the one who taught me to love Bach, Mozart, and Handel while I slept. She’s the one who, way back in the 60s, sometimes worked 2 jobs to make sure we were fed, with a roof over our heads. I remember all of that.

Sure, she had help at times. Grandparents on both sides came to the rescue more than once, but when the cold curtain of night fell across the Carolina countryside, it was her we clung to and counted on. It was her who taught us to think as if there were no box, no inside or outside, no limits at all except those we set for ourselves. She is the one who gave me and all my brothers and sisters the ability to think. She is the 1st person who ever told me to stand for what I believed, and to always question that belief, so I would know for sure just what my life stood for.

She doesn’t know how important she is to the world. She is one of the most humble people I have ever met. She is beautiful. She is a thinker and yet she has fun with life. She once told me, after taking me to a Yes concert in 1973, that I had good taste in music. She actually went home, set a record on the turntable, and listened to them.

She worries that she failed us, because of things over which she had no control. She worries that somehow, on one day or another, she missed some rare opportunity to be The Greatest Mommy of all time. She has no reason to worry, she just does.

The Greatest Mommy of All Time

My mommy gave birth to 7 rambunctious and sometimes frustrating children. By 1965 she was a single mom. In those days, it was a social stigma almost impossible to deal with. Nowadays, it’s just the social norm. She is a true Superwoman, though. Statistically, we kids should have grown up with a profound social bias against us. Statistically, at least one of us should not have lived to be an adult. Statistically at least 2 more of us should have died by now.

But look at us instead: One of us lives in Indonesia, having served as Chief of Party USAID (and now is a leader in the World Wildlife Federation). One of us is Vice President of a multi-million dollar construction manufacturing firm. One of us is CFO of another multi-million dollar construction company. One of us is a Project Manager for multi-million dollar construction projects in the DC metro area. One of us chose to make the Air Force a career, will retire soon after returning from his final visit to Iraq. One of us manages a prosperous medical office. We have each succeeded, not just by the world’s standards, but by our own as well.

She might have made mistakes. If so, I won’t tell it. I look at the results of her life and all I see is good stuff. She’s 72 years old and until very recently was teaching English as a 2nd language, tutoring both adults and children. She’s still active in her church, and I mean with the people, not with the building or the dogma. She Lives her faith. She still bakes delectable cakes (which she has never eaten!) and sells them so cheaply you have to wonder why she does it. She is always there for anyone in need, whether she knows them or not. Who knows what goes on in her mind, why she seems to keep giving and giving and giving… like that little bunny on TV, she just never stops.

I guess the answer is so clear as to be nearly invisible. She still cares.

I look in the mirror and I am glad I see her eyes.

I am Jon, 3rd-of-7, and I love you, Mommy.

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Rewritten from 2008