Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What We Learned From Our Parents, by Jane Danner Sustar

Sometimes Nonie will call me mama. Then, very thoughtfully, she corrects herself and says "Miss Jane" or "LifeWays Mama." All the children have done this at one time or another. I do not take it very seriously. But I remind the children that Mama is a very special name for a very special person in their lives. Then I smile. It always brings a warm smile to my lips when they slip up. I feel like I am doing my job.
*My father died two years ago and my mother is slowly following him. They were good people. Our house was a very tradtional home. My mom was a math teacher but gave up her teaching to become a stay at home mom. My father was a university professor. I used to think that it was very odd how little I learned from my parents considering they were both teachers. Now that I am at LifeWays, I think differently. My mom woke up every morning, and we had oatmeal, two pieces of toast, two eggs, two pieces of bacon and a glass of orange juice, unless it was Saturday or Sunday. On Saturday, we had waffles or pancakes. On Sunday we had donuts, and what my father called "sugar sh-tties", or Captain Crunch to the rest of the world. I spent most of my young life in our backyard or downstairs in our basement where our playroom was. We spent days down there putting on plays, building forts, fighting, laughing until *******our mom called us up for lunch. We then rested for an hour, then went *******downstairs to the basement for the rest of the afternoon. When
*****Dad got home, I would go with him to take the dog for a walk adn then I set the
*****table for dinner. When I got older, I had to make dessert. According to my dad,
*****a meal wasn't worth eating if there wasn't dessert. At nine o'clock, we all went
*****up to bed. Dad read us a story and tucked us in.
******Thursday was the day we went to Treasure Island, a huge grocery store
*****on HIghway 100. My mom would leae us in the toy section while did all of her
*****grocery shopping for the week. Friday was bread baking day. She would bake
*****seven loaves of bread, one for each day of the week, but we could not eat it hot ******out of the oven because "warm bread causes cancer!" my mom would say.
*****Lately, Anjuli has been quoting my mother because, of course, I tell her the same thing my mother told me, "You must knead the bread until it is as soft as a baby's butt." Saturday was always cleaning day. The big kids, my four older brothers and sisters, cleaned the bedrooms. The three little kids, myself and my younger brother and sister, cleaned the basement. Sunday was church and yard work day. Late in the afternoon, my father would pack up all the kids and the dog in the station wagon while mom prepared dinner. We would drive out to some little secluded area of wilderness and go for a walk. We would gather flowers or mushrooms or tree leaves in our pockets and when we got home my dad would look them all up in his little pocket field guides. He had at least of dozen of them.
*One of my favorite memories of my father is when he stopped us during one of our wintery Sunday walks. It was dusk and it had just started to snow. Whispering, he said, "Do you hear that?" We all shook our heads solemnly for there wasn't a sound in the woods: no birds, no squirrels, no chipmunks. A soft smile spread over his lips, "snow," he said. Sure enough, it was so quiet you could hear the snow hitting the ground. I was reminded of that last week one morning when it was snowing. The Robin's Nest Suite were the first ones out into the play yard and Anjuli stopped us, Otto, Isabel, Orion and I, and whispered, "It's beautiful!" We all smiled and nodded.
*What did you learn from your parents in your first six years of life? I doubt there is any brain research that can quantify it all. My parents gave me a daily rhythm and a weekly rhythm, good food, plenty of outside play, warmth, and regular bedtimes. I learned how to bake, to cook, to clean, ot set the table, to rake and shovel, to care for our animals, to grow and prepare food, to get along with my brothers and sisters, to be repsectful of others, and to be grateful for what we had. Those are the things I can point to. Somehoe I also learned that the world was a good place and that when I fell, someone whould help me up and kiss my boo-boos, that I was a good person. My parents never formally sat down to teach me anything, except maybe math in eighth grade -- but that is another story completely. And yet I have learned small subtle things that I have carried with me all of my life. I was somehow ready for school but perhaps more importantly, I was ready for the adventure of life.
*Everything I do at LifeWays is a tribute to my parents, in a way. My task as a caregiver to your children is to partner with you and try to create a home away from home. Whenever your children slip up and call me Mama, I think maybe I am close.

Miss Jane

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