My mother passed away a year ago today.  It was really for the best; she’d been suffering in the hospital for many weeks with internal bleeding, and every time she’d improve a bit, she was met with two setbacks.  I’m just glad I got to see her several times in those weeks.

I really couldn’t have asked for a better mom.  She was loving to everyone, but especially to her family.  She was a great cook, she had a wonderful sense of humor, she attended all of my many school events, she’d help anyone in any way she could, she single-handedly got me grants for college tuition, and all my friends really liked her.  And she could play guitar and piano.

But, best of all, she always encouraged me in whatever I wanted to do.  She was my biggest fan.

I was pretty precocious as a youngster. I was avidly reading and writing before Kindergarten, and I would ask her how to spell or pronounce words about a dozen times a day.  It must’ve driven her nuts, but she always took a break from whatever household chore she was involved with to answer me.

I wrote a lot of (very short) illustrated books.  I always showed them to her before anybody else.  She would inevitably laugh, or at least get a big smile, and say, “that’s very good.  I like that.”  Later, when I learned guitar and started writing songs, she’d give me the same reaction.

But I really want to relate the story I remember most from my very early childhood.  It was the first time I remember mom getting angry with me.

My sister was just an infant, so I was probably a few months into my fourth year.  We lived in a small house in the tiny town of Hudson, IL.

Mom had a little sewing space in the corner of the basement.  She spent quite a bit of time sewing – in fact, she made a lot of the family’s clothes.  She was busy sewing one day.  Dad was at work.

Up above, on the first floor, I was in my bedroom writing or drawing or something.  My baby sister, in her crib a bedroom away, started crying loudly.

I tried to ignore it.  But it continued.  I tried even harder to ignore it.  She bellowed on.  I was trying to create art, dammit, and a whiny baby was distracting me.

I yelled, “Mom!  Mommm!  Baby’s crying!”  But I guess she couldn’t hear me, one floor above, over the loud chugging of the sewing machine.

So I decided to take matters into my own hands. I went to my sister’s bedroom, climbed up to the railings of the crib, and, with no small effort, picked her up.  The little turd didn’t stop crying.

I rocked her in my arms a bit, and even sang a little.  Still with the crying.

I concluded that the best solution was to take her downstairs to mom.  Surely mom could make her shut up.

So I walked, a four-year-old, with a wailing infant in his arms, to the basement steps.  I confidently started to descend.

Just as I came below the floor section of the first floor, about 8 steps down, the sewing machine stopped as the loud crying continued.

Mom looked toward the stairs.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen, or ever will see, such an expression of sheer shock, panic, and disbelief.

She gasped, “What are you doing?!”

I said, “She’s crying. I can’t get her to be quiet.”

She dashed from her chair, ran up the stairs, and snatched my sister from my grasp.  She snapped, “Don’t ever do that again!”

I was hurt.  I was just trying to get the baby to be quiet.

She recognized this, softened, and said, “It’s okay.  You were just concerned about your sister.  Just tell me first next time she cries, okay?”

And then we were cool.  I didn’t pick sis up again until she was about two.

In conclusion, ma, you were great.  I owe all my creativity and musical ability – and self-confidence in both — to you.  And those are really the only things on which I can always rely to make me happy.

P.S. I’d like to mention my mother’s middle name, but I can’t.  When I found out what it was as a kid, I poked a little fun at her about it.  She sternly told me to never say that name to her or anyone else ever again.