It took me many years to realize the extraordinary influence my mother has had on my life. From an outsider's perspective, she might appear to be just another ordinary working-class woman. These is little in her dress, clothing or position to distingush her from other divorced mothers in town. Yet her modest possessions and demeanor are a sharp contrast to the extraordinary gifts and wisdom my mother possesses.
My father left our family permanently before I was three. I was raised by my mother in a small, three bedroom tenement flat in North Chicago. Nothing in my mom's background prepared her for having to accept the awesome responsibility of raising three kids by herself. She was raised in a loving, albeit modest home with two decent, God-fearing parents who taught her that love and marriage were forever. The one thing she always said about her abandonment was that she was grateful her own parents did not live to see it.
I somehow managed to grow up without knowing we were poor and "disadvantaged". I credit my mom for that. She was always a sweet, fun-loving woman who enjoyed every minute she spent with us. She worked hard all day as a legal secretary in Chicago, but always made it home by six to share dinner with us and to hear about our day. It never occurred to me that by the time she began cooking pasta for us, she had already endured an exhaustive day of working, commuting and managing our home. We just knew that she loved us and that we were very special to her. She enjoyed all of the simple things in life, like ice cream and fresh-baked brownies, and taught us to do the same.
Our favorite family activity came every Sunday morning after church. We'd...