My mother is an artist. Even though she works as a school teacher, that is the defining characteristic that I think of to describe her. As a child, I didn't understand why people would be so impressed by the paintings in our house. Didn't every mother make several watercolors and acrylic paintings a year? I think the only piece of framed art in my parents house that was not made by a family member is a print of a Monet that I needed for a report in high school. My sister and I both continue this artistic tradition when we have the time.
I think one thing that my mother has taught me is that determination is really the key to success. When my sister and I were young my mother stayed at home with us. After my sister started school, my mother went back to college to get certified to teach, and started teaching when I was in high school.
She had an absolutely horrible time that first year. After staying at home for over ten years with children that were fairly well behaved naturally, the wilds of a public middle school were quite a shock to her. She had very little classroom management, and often came home after school crying. Her principal started an aggressive observation and mentorship program with her, and after drying her eyes, my mother threw herself into it whole-heartedly. Now, ten years later, she has become a teacher that other teachers are sent to learn from, and leads her group, or "team" of teachers. I have seen my mother go from being a shy, sensitive housewife to an assertive professional. Her "teacher look" is particularly well developed. I have seen her make grown men stop the annoying behavior they are participating in and apologize with just a glance.
Growing up, whenever I had any questions about boys, or relationships, or childbirth, or just about anything else, I could ask my mother, and after a blush or two, she would tell me what I needed to know. The one thing we didn't talk about - anything I thought might make her upset. I can't stand to make my mother upset, or disappointed with me. For years I suffered from depression without telling my parents, because I knew that my mother would take it to heart and think it was her fault.
How do I know that my mother would react this way? When my sister had to get treatment for panic attacks, my mother called me up on the brink of tears, convinced that she must have caused it by eating something she shouldn't have when pregnant. Despite the fact that my father has asthma, and my paternal grandmother had it, and that my paternal aunt, one cousin, and her son all have asthma, my mom is convinced that I have it because one of her coworkers smoked next to her when she was pregnant with me. My mom is great at accepting guilt for things that are not her fault.
My mother and I have actually talked about the whole GLBT thing, because a friend of mine came out to her family a couple of years ago. Her parents basically flipped out, joined a fundamentalist church, and tried to sign her up for deprogramming counseling. They have told her that she is not welcome to visit them as long as she is still a lesbian. My mother and I both agreed that this was an absurd and painful reaction. She said she couldn't think of anything that me or my sister could do that would make her not want to see us any more, and basically thought that my friend's parents' reaction was cruel and extreme. I had just finished thinking that my mom was the coolest ever when she said "But regardless, I'm so glad that you and your sister are straight, and I don't have to worry about that."
I'm not sure how to take that, especially now.
I talk to my mother every day on the phone, and some days it seems that I just want to say, perhaps in passing, "Hey Mom, I'm a lesbian." but even if one day I get to the point where I think I could handle telling my parents, I'm pretty sure the phone would be a bad way to go about it.