I’ve posted today over at Rosa Say’s wonderful blog, Talking Story. She kindly and generously – obvious qualities of who Rosa is even though I’ve never met her in person– invited members of her Ho’ohana community to write a post related to this month’s topic of life-long learning. Click here to check out my post – and thank you, Mahalo, Rosa.
As I wrote my piece for Rosa’s blog, I realized I had another whole subject for the topic of learning that would be relevant for today: my first teacher, my Mom, Anne Bouldin Lightfoot Cooper. Today would have been my Mom’s 65th birthday – Happy Birthday, Mom.
My mom was a true life-long learner – always curious, always
searching. One of my mom’s greatest gifts to me was curiosity. She
by people and how they worked, interesting uses of words, and
welcomed a breadth of people, cultures and foods into her life – all
passions I share.
She was the daughter of an English and Latin teacher, worked as a
librarian herself, and was a voracious reader. Consequently, she had
an incredible vocabulary that I could never stump. Growing up with her
was like living with a talking dictionary. I remember vividly as a
teenager arguing with her about the meaning of a word, and my great
frustration in being wrong!
At age 55, after her lung cancer diagnosis, she became interested in
meditation for stress-relief. Since to her thinking there was never a
problem a good book couldn’t fix, she found and then introduced me to
Thich Nhat Hahn and Jon Kabat-Zinn’s writings. You’ll see that I have
their books posted here the sidebar, as they have had significant
impact on my thinking.
As a mother myself now, as I think about how and what I’m teaching
my two kids, I often wonder how my Mom taught me as a child, and what
was important to her to impart to me. Graciousness, generosity,
forgiveness, love – some my best (and my worst) parts of myself come
from what I learned from my Mom.
My Mom was all about possibility and options, the best of what
learning can bring you. When we cleaned out my Mom’s house after she
died, I found a tiny painting with these words beautifully written out
in calligraphy over a pale green background:
Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.
the midst of my grief, finding this in my Mom’s house was like finding
a little bit of her, saved for me. It was as if she was reminding me:
make your heart a beautiful, nourishing, welcoming place, and who knows
what joy and delight await you.
It hangs in my office, and reminds me of my Mom, her life, and my commitment to stay true to my own path of learning.
Susanne Nyrop says
I started reading your lifelong learning chapter over at Rosa’s place, then found my way over here. Oh dear, how your bird was singing beautifully in my tree of heart!
Not long ago I was telling the story of my mom’s life to a friend. I believe our moms would get on well, as their backgrounds in many ways would be similar, and they would have a lot to talk about.
Parents with a curious mind and allround knowledge of the librarian make great inspiration to a child, but also sometimes a bit irritating when you’re told to look up everything, just anything that would perhaps be found in the dictionary. She taoght me a love for books, and she taught me never to grow up so much that you forget to play. But most of all, I learned about loving care and nursing of little siblings.
My mom was only 47 when she left us. I was expecting my second baby, so they grew up without a granny who would have loved to follow them.
Now, today, I am one myself; I’ve got three grandchildren, preschool age and the most wonderful lively presence. Their preferred word last weekend was Fan-tas-tic! used for tiny details and pleasant surprises, such as a new playground with a large labyrinth.
And with the voice of the five year old, the word fantastic is now resonating in my mind; life is truly fantastic if you’re open for the unexpected and the little details. A ladybird, a snail or a nice shining stone you could put in your pocket!
Hanna Cooper says
Thanks for making your way over here, and for your beautiful story about your Mom. She sounds like a wonderful spirit. Fan-tas-tic!
From what you wrote, I agree – I think our Moms would have enjoyed each other. Perhaps they are having a coffee together now, beaming proudly at their lovely daughters, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. You’ve warmed my heart – thank you.
Your lovely post has me thinking about my mom. I don’t recall her reading much, but she was always humming, whistling or harmonizing with a song on the radio. Music was her connection to joy, I think. One favorite memory is an evening when I was about 7 years old with my mom and aunt–one at the piano, the other playing guitar and both singing some country western song and then giggling with delight as they finished.
Mom loved to dance too and was often the best dancer in the room. Not ballroom or tango, but just plain moving to the music and having a ball doing it!
My brother, sister and I all inherited her love of music. Our family recently enjoyed an outdoor music concert together, and my niece who was seated between me and my brother looked at me grinning and explained: “It’s like stereo sitting between you and Dad–you’re both harmonizing!” I’m sure Mom looked down at us and enjoyed every moment with us.
Thanks, Mom, for sharing your love of music. And thanks, Hanna, for triggering these sweet memories.
Hanna Cooper says
And Dee, thanks for honoring us all with your memories of your mom’s legacy of music!
What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your mother with all of us, her impact continues to be felt in the world.