Posted by: deadmousediaries | September 11, 2010

My OctoMom – Superhero of the New Millenium – birthday wishes from Mitchell Kyd

She’s an OctoMom now. My mother noted her 80th birthday earlier this week. To say she celebrated it would be a lie. Celebrations are what she plans for other people but never tolerates for herself.  After 80 years of doing all the things that wives and mothers of the 1950s were expected to do, she finds her own life unremarkable. Although she has her health, her husband, her home, and a family who loves her, she still prefers that her birthday be just another calendar page to turn, another pot of potatoes to be peeled, one more set of sheets to be pinned to the clothesline. Like so many women of her generation, she has never seen her story as important.

Maybe that explains why her only child just can’t seem to shut up and stop the flow of stories she thinks are important. For instance, Mom would never let a dirty spaghetti pot sit in the sink much less turn it into lawn art. (Spaghetti Pot Wars, January 2010). Because she rules her kitchen with a Teflon fist and always knows her inventory, Mom will never have an unidentifiable gelatinous mass buried in the back of her fridge (Badger Meatloaf, September, 2009). Would you ever find my mom making any reference to s-e-x in public, definitely not! But her Kyd?  There are soooo many story choices! ( I Wish You Many Years of Continued Sex, April, 2010; Oh, Those Summer Nights, June 2010; Because the Second Wife Always Has New Shoes, June 2009; etc. etc. etc.).

Although none of these topics would ever creep into my mother’s storytelling, when I spill the beans, my central theme is still nearly always my glorious, happy life that’s been filled with all the good stuff, thanks in no small part to her.  What I remember when I think of my mom continues to be remarkable.

Somewhere in her 30s, she stepped up as a woman entrepreneur and created her own small business. At 45, she went back to school to add to her skills as a medical office assistant; she went to class with women half her age and aced her pharmacology classes. At 75, she accepted a job as a church organist.

I never knew what my friends meant by babysitter when I was growing up. Mom did have an occasional part-time job, but she always wrangled mid-day hours. The only time I even remember being sent to stay with a neighbor was the day a glass canning jar shattered in the sink and she was whisked away to the emergency room. I remember catching a glimpse of her bloodied hands even though she tried to keep that from me. (Now that I think of it, that might have been the day that I realized that housework is dangerous business and should be avoided at all costs.)

Despite those part-time gigs, she rarely got a vacation from her real work site. She saw her most important job as homemaker and she had that down to a science. I think it is definitely time for a woman to be president, especially if she runs the country as she runs her home. My mother clearly knew what it meant to be a home economist and there was never the slightest chance she was managing with an eye to a bail-out.

Here’s how it worked at my house: If you buy a broccoli bunch but the grocery clerk rings it up as pricey broccoli crowns, you ask her to reprice it. You close the drapes in summer to keep the house cool and in winter, you turn the thermostat back at bedtime. You rotate sofa cushions to make your furniture last longer and if you keep old bed sheets for spills and cleaning, you cut out the expense of paper towels. Use it up; wear it out. Make it do or do without.  The best budget managers are always vigilant.

What her years of work produced were meatloaf, crisp shirts and clean underwear. What she gave me as a result was comfort, confidence, roots and wings. When I paid attention, I saw that clean laundry and home-cooked meals are expressions of love as pure and genuine as an off-to-school hug.

I’m sure she saw it as her same old daily routine: cooking, baking, dusting, sweeping, scrubbing, ironing and folding: But I was watching and learned some things I’m sure she wanted to teach me. Take pride in your work. Value what you have. Make life easier for the people you love. (Unfortunately, the desire to complete those exact homemaking rituals seems to have skipped a generation.  Like Roseanne Barr, I refuse to vacuum until they invent one you can ride on and I have already confessed that my favorite thing to make for dinner is a reservation. Sorry, Mom. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate your talents.)

She taught me about giving back to my community when she thought she was only helping out at the food stand or church supper. On Tuesday nights, she put on her green hat and trim, pressed uniform and reported as a Girl Scout leader. On Wednesday nights, she went to choir practice and on Sundays, she slid back onto the organ bench for morning services. She handled playground duty and chaperoned school bus trips. She volunteered in classrooms into her 50s and at 70, she was serving as an AARP club officer.

It’s impossible to imagine your own mom as a high school girl who flirted with your father but I have seen the pictures. I do have my own clear images of her as a young mom and wife, her beautiful long brown hair pulled back in her signature basket weave. In all these years, she has never outgrown a size 8. She and my dad took dance lessons at the YMCA and at night when I was supposed to sleeping, they would put on a Lombardo album, or play her Artie Shaw favorite, Begin the Beguine. I could hear them practice their cha-cha and the fox trot up and down the darkened hallway outside my room. After 60 years of marriage, they still stand together to do the dishes and I am reminded of the many evenings at home when my dad sidled up to her at the kitchen sink to close in a for a quick kiss. Even now she sometimes lays her head over on his shoulder when they’re standing side by side and it reminds me of Sally going ga-ga over Linus in the Charlie Brown Christmas special.  I always feel she is still thinking: Isn’t he the cutest thing?

There’ll never be any hoopla for my mom’s birthday if she has her way. No amount of coaxing or enticing, bargaining or pleading will change that. My mom didn’t need a regulatory agency to make sure she did her job and she never had to cook the books to show she reinvested every cent she made in the people she held stock in I think maybe it is time that we start honoring the real heroes of the new millenium, people like our moms who make our lives extraordinary by gluing the ordinary days together. They are the people who save enough to put their kids through college dollar by dollar, living modestly within their means, washing and reusing aluminum foil. They do it without an agent or a contract, no million dollar signing bonus or the promise of residuals. There are no juicy talk shows waiting, no magazine covers dangling as incentives, no bobble-heads being created in their honor. That our moms will do that job for years on end and be happy with their life’s work is more than a remarkable accomplishment; it’s a story worth the telling. Happy birthday, Mom. I love you.

Copyright 2010. Mitchell Kyd. All rights reserved.


  1. Unfortunately I think they’ve broken that mold! What will our fifty-something daughters (or sons) be writing about us?

    • That’s a great question but in my case, it’s oo scary to think about!!

  2. Does it make Flat Stanley a creep that this loving tribute to a great woman inspires a perverse curiosity about how outwardly perfect, inwardly-dying mothers felt about their roles?


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