Happy Birthday, Mom!

Lily is one of those female names that is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. I’ve met many little Lilies the last couple of years, tiny girls who epitomize the graceful and mellifluous name. And my mother is one of the originals. Yesterday she turned 79, and despite the frailties of age and a less-than-robust heart, the Lily I know is still lovely, graceful, and a proud standard-bearer for the name.
Creative from childhood, she has excelled at every artistic medium from sculpture to painting to quilt-making. Generous with her time and her exuberant talent, when my sisters and I were growing up our mother taught art classes and instilled in many of our community’s children an appreciation for art and the many ways to see beauty in the most mundane things around them, as well as a realization that they, too, could explore their own creative impulses and make beautiful images.

Always sensitive to color and balance and proportion, our mom made each of our homes over the years beautiful and welcoming even though she had no formal decorating training. To this day, when I go home to visit I find myself looking around my parents’ living room and admiring the placement of furniture, her choice of art and accessories, and the seeming casual ease with which it all comes together to create a unified feeling of comfort and visual pleasure. I grew up strong because of the countless times I pushed and coaxed my bedroom furniture across the room to try new arrangements that were inspired by Mom’s efforts. We girls were allowed to choose a new paint color for our rooms once every few years, and it was only after much agonizing that those choices were made because Mom’s exquisite taste established such a high bar. She’d set us up with water colors at the kitchen table and praise us extravagantly for our efforts. Visits to museums were always part of our childhood, and to this day (oh, so many, many years later) we still make a point of visiting the museums in any city to which our travels take us.

Our mom is a reader and a Scrabble player, and she instilled those passions in her three daughters. When we were children, our inviolable Saturday morning ritual was to pile into the family station wagon and head to the public library. There, we would spend a solid hour in that hushed, high-ceilinged space, choosing books for the week – and until I left home for college, it was routine for me to read two or three novels or biographies every week in addition to any reading I had to do for school. It wasn’t that we discussed our reading with each other around the dinner table. It was simply that reading for pleasure was such an important part of our lives, and Mom did such a good job of conveying her belief that reading opened up new worlds to anyone willing to step into books.

And Scrabble. Well, we still play whenever I visit my parents. It wasn’t until I reached adulthood and began to play with unrelated friends that I learned some of my mother’s rules were a little loosey-goosey. Pick up three of the same letter? Well, put one back, silly, and choose a new tile! And I thought it was legal to replace a blank tile with the letter for which it was a stand-in. Mom taught me that sometimes it was worth forfeiting the point value of that letter in order to make use of the repurposed blank tile in the next turn. Not real, official rules, readers. But what did I know?

Mom is even now possessed of a sense of style that is perhaps the result of all those fashion design courses she took in college. Like many little girls we loved to watch her get dressed for an evening out with Dad. She’s so elegant, with her arching eyebrows, wavy black hair, and simple jewelry. Though the hair is now gray, the elegance remains. We love her, and appreciate her, and always look forward to spending time with her.

Happy birthday, Lily!

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