On this day in 1955, my mother was born. She was raised on a plot of land just outside Vermillion, South Dakota, in a farmhouse built by her grandparents.
In many ways, 1955 was not that long ago, but, when you really think about it, it blows your mind. The farm where she grew up was homesteaded by her ancestors in the late 1800s, when the West was still wild, and when no one knew for sure how this whole United States thing would turn out. (See the show Deadwood for an idea of what it might have been like.) Even in the 1960s, my mom went to a one-room schoolhouse, where she was one of the only students in her grade, all the way until high school.
The youngest of five children, she came into this world at a generational turning point, the middle of a century, the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. Her father was born in 1902, and was, by all accounts, as much a product of the 19th Century as I am a product of the 20th.
When she came of age in the 70s, my mom was a bit of an outcast. She describes this in a self-deprecating way, but to me, it sounds like she was just awesome. She wore bell-bottomed checkered pants and pea coats, and her hair down to her ass, and made friends with people in the American Indian Movement. Then she joined a commune and became a premmie (a follower of Guru Maharaji), and met and married my dad.
After my folks were de-programmed and realized that Guru Maharaji was not the savior, but was just taking their money to buy Rolls Royces, they pretty much steered clear of organized religion. The closest we got was the non-denominational church that my mom started going to when I was about 15. They talked about Christ, but only in the way of like, There-Once-Was-This-Dude-Who-Did-Some-Cool-Stuff.
So, imagine my surprise a few years ago, when my mom became a born-again Christian. I mean, this is the same woman who, when I had a problem, used to advise me to consult a crystal or pendulum. Suddenly, she was spouting bible verses. Everything was “Jesus this” and “Jesus that.” I finally got to the point where I was like:
“Hey, Mom, next time you think of something to tell me about Jesus, just say it quietly in your head, okay?”
To be honest, it kind of freaked me out. But then I started listening to her. Really listening. And I realized that she absolutely believes. In God. In seeing the best in people. In the power of prayer. And in the generosity of heart, of mind, and of spirit. Above all, she absolutely believes in miracles. And that is beautiful.
She has helped me to see that, even though I haven’t accepted Christ as my “savior,” I still appreciate the impulse, and I honestly, truly believe in the fundamental ideas of Christianity (and most other major religions): Compassion. Forgiveness. Love.
I made her this video for her birthday. She got a kick out of it, and I hope you will too.