Maybe it is all about music, after all.
I mean, I've been trying to figure out what the best things I remember about my mom are, what she gave me that will live on in my life. It isn't an easy job; as adults we never developed the mother-daughter friendship that I would have liked. We weren't enemies, we just were not as close as I would have liked to be. And that's just the way it was.
I'm trying to remember what she did for herself, if she had anything she was passionate about. I realize I'm probably a much more passionate person than she was. And that's just the way it is.
Her biggest priority was whatever my older brother and I were interested in. She was Cub Scout den mother, Girl Scout leader, Mom's Taxi to Little League, flute lessons, 4-H meetings, and whatever else we were involved in. She worked as a school cook so she would only have to work a few hours on school days, so she could be there for us the rest of the time. She taught me to sew, to cook, to put my best into whatever it was I was doing, whether it be birding, rocks, photography, cheerleading (although I wish she would have counseled me against that one!), or cross country skiing.
But did she have any interests of her own? Anything she really, really wanted to do, that she might have done once I left for college had she not come down with MS?
Then I remember. The guitar. She told me more than once how she loved the sound of the guitar, that she wanted to learn how to play it, or at least wanted me to. I think she may have been a secret Joan Baez fan. At any rate, for my ninth birthday she bought me a secondhand guitar, a Stella classroom model, and we took lessons together, she playing her brother's old guitar. The lessons were free at a local church, group instruction, and probably only lasted about eight weeks. But in that time I learned the basic chords, learned to strum a few songs, and to sing along. She bought me a couple folk song books and a John Denver song book, which I still use.
Unfortunately, when I became a teenager, a few things got in the way of my guitar playing. Angst about all the things teenagers feel angst about, the desire to listen to the "right" music and be popular, and, ironically, the school band program which required I play their instrument, their way. I was good at flute, and I still enjoy it, but there was no place for a John Denver-playing guitar girl.
It was almost seventeen years from when I first started playing guitar that I found the kind of music that made me passionate enough to play guitar again. Leo Kottke was the beginning, and I can never hope to play like him, but I could teach myself fingerstyle and play John Prine and Kate Wolf and Greg Brown. ("Early" was one of the first songs I learned to sing and play.)
So if it wasn't for my mom, I may not have learned how to play guitar. If it wasn't for her encouragement of my interests, I may not have stuck with it long enough to be good, or even convinced myself that I ever could be good. The best I can do is to keep playing, enjoy it, and keep trying to do my best and better. And, I will try to pass some of that on to my own kids. Thank you, Mom.