happy birthday, mom

That's a picture of my mom, taken in 1968, shortly after she got married and moved to Cleveland from Chicago (where she grew up). I'm not going to say how old she is today, but I will say she is young at heart, and wise beyond her years.

Growing up, she made sure we all sat down as a family to a home-cooked meal, prepared more or less from scratch, every night...even though she worked full-time. She was a den mother for Cub Scout Den 3, Pack 7, and held the meetings every Tuesday afternoon in the dining room of the house. She was what you'd call a Power Mom...and all of her time and energy -- and Dad's for that matter -- went into making sure her kids were healthy, happy, well-fed, well-educated, exposed to fine art and music, and loved.

She also could have written Miss Manners' column...any time I am in some sort of tight social situation, I always think to myself, "How would Mom handle this?" It always turns out to be the right decision. She was loving, but also firm, almost always fair, and has extremely high standards. "Good enough" is not good enough for her. She always demanded The Very Best out of my sisters and me, and also herself (she's her own worst critic...and people wonder why I'm like that).

Speaking of columns...she's the editor of Focus Magazine, a publication that is mailed quarterly to every household and business in the City of Cleveland Heights. Most of the content of that magazine, and also clevelandheights.com, is her handiwork...her classy, smooth, and polished writing style is recognizable immediately. When I was a kid, I once told her anytime you read anything she wrote out loud, you had to move your mouth around a lot. Let's just say she knows a lot of big words, and was never afraid to use them around her kids.

Her beef stroganoff, meat loaf, beef stew, pepper steak, stir-fry, cream of carrot soup, Thai chicken coconut soup (yes, she makes a mean tom ka gai), baked chicken, and from-scratch mashed potatoes are the best I've ever had. I can't tell you how many chilly fall Monday evenings when I'd come home from CCD (it's a Catholic thing) and the aroma of whatever she was cooking would greet me -- along with an affectionate Dalmatian -- as soon as I walked in the back door. She also has eyes in the back of her head...she'd leave a bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough on the counter, and even if she was upstairs, she'd know when I was about to stick my hands in the bowl because she'd always yell "Get away from the cookie dough!"

I have no idea how she did that. I could never get away with anything. She's just too damn smart and clever, and she can smell bullshit from a mile away...and she doesn't tolerate it, either.

I guess you could say I'm pretty damn lucky.

Happy birthday, Mom. I love you.

(Mom, Easter 1967, Chicago, Illinois)

© 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 by Chad Fox. All rights reserved.