My beloved mother passed away two weeks ago.
I wrote an essay once about my mom with the alarmist title “I’m Turning into My Mother,” and it chronicled some silly and scary things that I got from her. But the truth is more complex, because I also got a lot of really fine qualities from this woman.
I got an instinct to rescue abandoned baby birds and dogs wandering on the side of the road, to listen to young people who were having trouble with their parents or other parts of their lives, to offer shelter to friends and strangers.
I got a strong sense of social justice, too: my mom always stood up for what was right. She was one of the champions right here in Rockville of a project to bring access to the town’s center to residents of a predominantly black neighborhood on the “wrong side of the tracks.”
I got a pretty good sense of humor—we were neither of us ones for telling jokes but we did enjoy them, and we both tried to appreciate the ones life played on us. When something set us off no one could reduce me to tears of laughter the way Mom could.
I got an excellent grounding in how to be a good friend by watching my mom be one as I grew up. And I’m a better mother for having been parented by her. Mom always strove to do the best for her children, even as we became older adults, and she loved Jeff and me ferociously.
I got an artistic sensibility though not as much as Mom had. We were all surprised and thrilled when while doing her Associate’s degree at Montgomery College she turned out to be a talented painter. And she had her hand in all kinds of handiwork and other artistic endeavors with her church crafter’s group.
I got a penchant for sociability and sharing other people’s stories from Mom, too. Turns out she was quite the writer, as she proved in the writing group she attended here at the church. And her sociability was evidenced in things like her zipping around her beloved Fresh Market on her scooter (a gift from her cousin Annetta) talking to all the department managers about their respective days.
I got a sense of civic responsibility from her from the time I was in elementary school stuffing envelopes for political campaigns and hanging out the back of our station wagon stumping for candidates. Mom ran many political campaigns back in Holliston, Massachusetts where Jeff and I grew up, and was highly respected in political circles there.
I got a lot of strength and resilience from Mom, who weathered many a storm.
These are just a few things I got from my mother. I also got imperfections and foibles, and a tendency to anxiety I could do without. But in balance I wouldn’t have wanted to be anyone else’s daughter other than Suzanne Marie Kullgren’s.