1) The Right Medicine
When I was 15 or so, I had a nasty bicycle accident. My right hand was sacrificed to save my body and head as I fell, and ended up with tiny gravel bits embedded in the skinned off upper palm and middle fingers. The derailer of the bicycle chewed through my sock, skin, and top layers of tissue at the back of my ankle. This was after school while my Mom was at work. Thankfully the bike trail I was on had an arrangement with the stores that bordered it, and so the store manager had a number to call to report my accident and issues. I was taken to the hospital (no urgent cares back then!), and the hospital called my Mom. The staff took care of my hand and stitched up the back of my ankle before my Mom was able to arrive. When she got there, I was reclined sitting in one of the hospital beds just trying to not be in pain. My Mom BURST through the privacy curtains around me, threw both her arms out, looked back and forth urgently for the doctor as she called out “DOCTOR! Will she be able to play the piano?!?” I was very confused by her question, because I did not know how to play the piano. My face matched my emotion. The doctor nonchalantly walked over to sooth what he presumed was an unnecessarily frantic parent, and said “Well, her middle finger will need to be in a splint for a week or two, but after it heals, yes, she should be able to play the piano.” My Mom broke into a big smile, let out a big sigh of relief, and said, “Oh thank goodness, because she couldn’t before!” To which I started laughing! It was so funny! Mom knew just what I needed. My nurse who was nearby did NOT think that was a funny joke, and she scowled at my Mom. Which only made it more funny to me! I still love that moment.
#2) No One Shows Pride Like Mom
As a Junior in High School looking at Engineering, I planned on applying to MIT, Harvey Mudd College, and University of Michigan. My high school counselor said we each needed to have colleges we were applying to, PLUS 1 “safety” school we applied to knowing we would be accepted to it, and 1 “reach” school we applied to as our fantasy. Well, I knew I was going to University of Michigan, so that was my safety school. I was planning to apply to MIT and HM as the best Engineering schools in the country, hopeful to get into one of them. So for a reach school… I guess Harvard? It was the best school in the country, sounded like what my counselor meant by “reach school”. But, we were not yet well entrenched in middle class in my high school years (Mom had risen up out of poor public-defender lawyer to there’s about enough money for her and 2 children in a rented house public-defender lawyer). We didn’t have money for me to be applying to a dozen schools, or even 4 schools for that matter. My high school covered the cost of 1 college application. So I decided to apply early admission to Harvard as the 1. That way I would hear back from Harvard before applying to any other schools, and in the best case scenario we wouldn’t have to pay for any of my applications to college!
So in December of my Junior year of high school, I applied early admission to my “reach” school: Harvard University. On the Monday of the week the university released its decisions about early admissions applicants, during first period, a church friend and classmate of mine bopped into class super happy and announced she had just been accepted into Harvard! Surprised, because we weren’t supposed to get letters of acceptance until the middle to end of that week, I asked her how she knew? She said there was a phone number we could call into to get the results of our applications, and she gave me the number. So right at the end of first period I took the change from my lunch money and scooted over to the pay phone by the main office. I called the number all nervous. A women answered. I said I was calling about my early admission application. The woman started asking me question after question after question. My name, my birth date, my social security number, my phone number, my address, my high school, my SAT score, my last year’s net worth – I don’t know! It got to the point she was rapid firing questions and I was rote answering. The bell rang for start of second period. I had almost forgotten why I had called when in the same flat intonation and with the same speed she had been asking the questions she said simply “Congratulations, you have been accepted into the class of 2000.” Initially I was confused as to how to answer that question. Then I realized it wasn’t a question. THEN what she said actually hit me! I flutter-fumbled out a Thank You! and hung up. A different classmate was meandering by late to class and saw how surprised I looked hanging up the phone. I think she asked if I was okay. I responded incredulously “I just got in to Harvard,” but to myself I didn’t sound convincing. She congratulated me and walked off. I just stood there for a moment as the realization sunk in. Then I turned back to the pay phone and called my Mom at her law office at which she was the “Attorney-In-Charge” (that was her official title!). “Mom, it’s Jennifer,” I said excitedly, and before she could get out “what’s going on?” I told her “I got in to Harvard!” My Mom dropped the phone and started screaming with joy. I heard her yelling out “My daughter got into Harvard!” over and over again as she ran out her personal office door down the hall, around the back of the larger office, then up the other hall, and back into her office. I know that’s the path she took because I heard her the whole time on the phone, first super loud, then growing quieter, then a constant quiet for a couple seconds, then growing louder. She picked up the phone and said to me, “Say it again!” I replied, half laughing, “I got into Harvard!” We both rejoiced. When she got home that evening she presented me with a Harvard sweatshirt in my size. My Mom always was the Queen Master of shopping.
For the rest of her life, my Mom would tell people how at 16 years old I was accepted to Harvard University and it was the only college I applied to. She never qualified those true statements with how it came about I only applied to one college, why it was Harvard, and why I was 16 instead of 17. Those details were irrelevant to an utterly proud Mother! She WANTED it to sound like I was such a genius that Harvard had been a given for me!
3) Saving Children
When I was in college my Mom landed her dream job of becoming a Juvenile Court Judge. She loved helping children, making sure they were in safe homes, helping them get the mental or medical care they needed instead of sending them to jail like other people wanted to do, and starting a literature parole program for teenagers where they could shorten their jail sentence by completing the national Changing Lives Through Literature program. Mom especially loved running adoption day each year!
I remember a particularly tragic case where an older brother with a condition that left him with low IQ wanted to play hide and seek with his new baby sibling, and so put the baby in a laundry basket and covered the baby with towels, accidentally smothering it. The boy was brought to Mom’s court on charges of murder. The case was being heavily covered by the local media. Knowing people where going to be angry with her verdict of mental care instead of jail, and having had dealings with the press forcibly getting TOO involved inside the courthouse, my Mom arranged for an ambulance to arrive at the main doors of the courthouse with lights on to pick up the child and court security officers present to hold back the crowd. While that spectacle was unfolding, she had also arranged for a private car to come to the courthouse’s Judge’s office back door to pick up the child and safely deliver him to the local children’s hospital before anyone else knew what had happened! But I digress.
At 23 years old, 2.5 years out of college, 2.5 years into my first professional job, I (and 10% of the company) was suddenly laid off one morning. This came without warning as the Summer just previous the company’s CEO said “we’ve never laid off anyone in our 10 year history and we’re not going to start now.” I guess we all should have known better when the CEO was replaced by a board of directors that immediate Fall. I had never experienced such a moment before. I was overwhelmed, shattered, and scared. I didn’t know what to do, other than I had to leave but I couldn’t get myself home in this state. I called my Mom’s office, told the Judge’s assistant that I needed to speak to her now even if she was on the bench. They put me through and Mom answered in a hushed voice, “What’s wrong?” I NEVER had my Mom pulled out of a session when I called and she was on the bench, so she automatically knew something had happened. I told her while trying to choke back tears that I had just lost my job and I needed her to come pick me up at my office. Mom immediately stood up mid-whatever courtly was going on, announced “I’m tired of saving other people’s children. I’m going to go save my own.” Slammed her gavel down and declared “Court Dismissed!” She was to me within 20 minutes.