My mom was a delightfully unique person. I’m not exactly sure when I realized this, but it was probably after spending time at friends’ houses. I discovered that my mother did not do the typical things that other mothers did.
I was the only one of my friends who grew up with a goat as a pet. Also, I don’t know of any other mothers who studied Russian during the cold war to try to advance world peace. She regularly served us strange “yeast drinks” in the morning. And we were repeatedly taken to the Youth Science Institute to look at lizards - and clean their cages. We had four different exchange students - from Japan and France - live with us growing up: Takeshi, Akikazu, Megumi and Matthias.
But now, in retrospect, I can see that my mom’s quirkiness reflected a commitment to live life focused on things that really matter. She raised her kids to value the beauty of the natural world, education, books, fitness, international travel, good food, music, and family.
Mom had a remarkable and sometimes surprising breadth of interests. She was a former kindergarten teacher who loved Margaret Thatcher and read all the biographies about her life.
Mom did not seem like much of a rebel when you first met her. But she was a true free-spirited California girl at heart. She would quietly rebel against authority figures or when others would try to tell her what to do. She and I would talk about politics a lot and she would make me laugh with her leftist positions on issues. Sometimes I felt like I was more conservative than my own mother… I think the main dating advice she gave to all of her kids was “Don’t wait too long to kiss your special someone.”
Mom loved to dream and plan and have something to look forward to. She enthusiastically pursued a master’s degree in theology and enjoyed telling me - with a mischievous smile - how she wanted to tell her seminary professors to support ordaining women and to care more about protecting the planet.
When she passed away, she was working on her second book. I love that it reflected her varied, eclectic interests and the things she valued most: it’s about a female history professor who travels back in time to research Joan of Arc, somehow encounters a unicorn, and finds true love. Her notes and reference books show that she was planning on including Christian theology, French medieval history, and Greek philosophy.
I believe my mom’s greatest gift to us - her legacy to family and friends - was her example of relentless, unconditional kindness. She was an amazingly positive, optimistic person throughout her entire life. She modeled to us how to be gentle and generous to all.