STORIES

  • 13 kids and laughing

    This article appeared on the Today Show website in May 2015.

    She has experienced just about every form of human hardship and still manages to laugh at life.  Of all the lessons my mom has taught me, one of the most valuable is to find humor in all things.

    Today, the constant pain and swelling in her wrists doesn’t prevent her from sewing a torn seam for me.  This is a person who gave up 10 years of her life to pregnancy carrying 13 children to term. Then another 40+ years to teaching, feeding, cleaning, worrying about and listening to them.  Of all the voices that vied for her attention, somehow she managed to hear every one.

    When I call her with my own parenting problems, she will always listen intently.  And then, sometimes she’ll slip in a little perspective like, “That one year we had 11 cases of chickenpox in the house at the same time.” How is a person supposed to feel sorry for herself after a gem like that?

    My mom has changed approximately 50,000 diapers in her lifetime. Many were washed and wrung out by hand before disposables were invented.   Let’s not even talk about the hours of sleep she missed while waking up to crying babies and simultaneously waiting for teenagers to arrive home at all hours. 

    Someone once said that my mom had 13 ‘only children.’  That’s how she made us feel: singular, important, smart and infinitely capable.  And we acted accordingly (for better and for worse). 

    For a child who grew up bobbing above and below the poverty line, I felt I could still do absolutely anything in the world.  I carry that philosophy with me now, in every area of my life including my parenting.  

    My mom was and is the ultimate co-conspirator. Back then, she would sneak us out at night to buy junk food when my dad, who had suffered an incapacitating heart attack, instituted a household-wide raw food diet. 

    These days, we turn into a bunch of stooges when we have to push her in a wheelchair because she can’t walk long distances. These are not traditionally funny situations.  But they are when she’s involved. 

    At 82, she remains the funniest and most interesting person I know.  She gave me about 5 minutes to take these pictures and it wasn't easy because she was talking, blinking and laughing most of the time.