Armed with a fierce work ethic Mom decorated birthday cakes, cooked delicious meals from scratch, kept the sewing machine humming, clipped coupons, picked berries, gardened and always managed to preserve the year’s harvest in canning jars.” ~ Amy Laitinen, from “Recycle, Ruminate. Resourceful Classroom Practice.”
I enjoyed reading Amy’s post (see below) about her mom Karen’s resourcefulness, and how Karen’s work ethic and values have found their way into Amy’s classroom. Amy and I have so much in common, and we’ve often talked about how our moms have influenced us. We’ve sometimes joked, “I sounded just like my mom today!” Knowing Amy’s mom (and having devoured her pickles and dilly beans), I can see how Amy has acquired much of her mom’s culinary skills and cleverness. I remember the gorgeous white chair coverings that she made for Amy’s wedding reception, along with that beautiful dress. Looking at Amy’s pictures in her post reminds me of my own childhood and how my mom, too, has shaped me in various ways into the teacher I am.
My mom Sally (Store) Karttunen also is very resourceful. When I grew up, she often sewed our Halloween costumes and sometimes pulled them together from what she could find in the house and at the local thrift store. We never wore those costumes with the hard plastic mask that came in a cardboard box. My favorite costume that she sewed for me was Sylvester the Cat and my younger sister Nicole loved her Tweety Bird costume.
This year, my daughter Mikayla wanted to dress up as Tinker Bell. I spent $35 on a chintzy costume at Walmart, and wished she had a more durable (and warm) costume, like the ones my mom had made for us. When Mikayla took the costume out of the package for her school Halloween party, there was a big rip right down the front of it. Plus, the sleeve strap was twisted when it was sewed, so it kept scratching and pulling during the party. Mikayla decided she’s not going to wear the costume for trick-or-treating. I hope I never resort to buying a packaged Halloween costume again.
Today, October 31st, is my mom’s birthday. As you might expect, her birthday celebrations got neglected as a young mom because of her children’s trick-or-treating plans. Mom never let on to any disappointment, though. Halloween fun always came first. We couldn’t wait to dress up and use the heavy duty orange fabric bags that she made for us. They held a lot of candy!
Like Amy, I had a wonderful childhood. My favorite “toy” was actually a trunk that my mom filled with costumes from rummage sales. We called it the “Old Lady Box.” Whenever our friends came over, we’d dig into the trunk and try on outfits. Birthday parties became dress-up days. When the cousins came over, we’d set a theme and parade around the neighborhood.
Students who were in my class during my first five years of teaching might remember that I had a costume closet, inspired by and stocked by mom, that we dug into for skits. The boys liked the wigs and often would ask if they could wear them the whole day. Oftentimes students came from other classes to see if they could find props. We dressed up for King Arthur tales, for Caesar reenactments, and for a Victorian tea party. It was a way to get the shy kids in front of the classroom without feeling embarrassed. After all, they could pretend to be someone else. One year, I decided to de-clutter and donated all the costumes to the Drama Department. Sometimes I think about restocking that closet. It’s fun to use our imaginations that way, even in high school.
When I was a child, my mom also took me to the library regularly. My dream wasn’t to be a teacher, but to be a librarian. One of the kind and helpful librarians in Ontonagon, by the way, was Mrs. Linda Wadman. She now lives in Minnesota and she’s a reader of this blog! My mom went to the Library Board one year to see if she could start a Music Hour for the children. Mom always has loved music. I didn’t pick up her talents in that area, although I enjoyed participating in the activities and spending that time she led with a crowd of kids. The library was my favorite place to go and I probably never left without an armful of books.
They say women become their mothers. Amy and I would agree that’s a good thing. However, I better watch out: Amy always gets me into these crazy ventures with her — the next time I turn around, she’s probably going to sign us up for sewing classes.
Happy birthday, Mom! Thanks for all you’ve done for me over the years!