"Hamburger Helper"? When I was growing up, we ate "Dirt Helper"!

Today is my mom’s 71st birthday – Happy Birthday Mom!!! In honor of the occasion, I will tell a couple stories…

My mom was a Depression-era child (in a family with 12 kids! …any other Irish Catholics in the house?? SAY HEY-YO in Latin), and she learned a lot during that experience that she then tried to impart to her four children. Things like how to stretch the food dollar (in our house we had the five-hour rule), how to do without the non-essentials (we had a black-and-white so long that when we first saw the Paul McCartney / Stevie Wonder duet “Ebony and Ivory” on MTV, we didn’t realize it was a metaphor), and how to eat properly (elbows up, head on a swivel and using a no-look shovel).

One of Mom’s most important lessons was about clothes – how to buy them, and how to make them last. For example, when I was in 7th grade, Mom bought me jeans (I think the brand name was “Lewi’s”), but these jeans were intended to last me until 12th grade. They fit OK in the waist, but they were (no lie) about ten inches too long. They were gonna fit great in high school, but in the meantime I had to cuff them at the bottom, with the top of the cuff coming half-way up to my knee. What Mom could not teach, unfortunately, was coordination or common sense.

So it really was sort of predictable when one day, while getting off the bus at school, I took a step, got the toe of one foot hung up in the cuff on the other leg, and fell head-first from the top stair on the bus to the sidewalk below, which at the time was crowded with pretty cheerleaders and bullies. Not that the incident is burned into my brain or anything…

Mom’s most important lesson, though, had nothing to do with food or televisions or ridiculously oversized jeans. When Mom was growing up, they didn’t have much money or much of anything else. But what they did have was each other.

So, to this day, Mom doesn’t value money or material things. She values family.

That lesson comes back to me every day when I read the headlines or contemplate the direction and velocity of the national debt. Family. Life isn’t always easy. But with family, it can always be good.

Thanks Mom. Happy birthday, and I love you..