I learned about living from the two most significant women in my life, my birth mother and my auntie mom. These women, sisters-in-law and best friends from childhood were the antithesis of each other yet shared a common philosophy, the importance of being selfish. It involved the ME list, simple pleasures and wild dreams. They loosely based their belief on a quote from Hillel, a 1st century teacher and philosopher, “If I am not for myself then who will be for me.” This I believe.
Birth Mom was petite, smelled of Ivory Soap, wore little makeup and had neatly trimmed fingernails. Auntie Mom’s fragrance, French and flowery, preceded her. Her Max Factor face screamed perfection. She wore ravishing red polish on long, flawlessly manicured nails.
Auntie Mom slept until noon, never did laundry or cooked a meal. She dressed in designer clothes fashioned in luscious blues, blush pinks and pasionate purples. She was glamour personified, unusually tall — a stunner who starred in films.
Birth Mom was no nonsense. She awoke early, hung wash on a clothes line — summer and winter, and took great pride in cooking and baking meals from scratch. Her practical tailored clothes were always black and white. She raised three children and was a successful caterer.
On my twelfth birthday they gave me a red leather book with blank pages. I expected a black patent dance bag with a mirror on the inside lid, large enough to carry my leotards, tutu’s, ballet and toe shoes. I lived and breathed ballet, took dance lessons every day and dreamed of playing Odette, the prima ballerina in Swan Lake. The book was a disappointment.
“Wen we were your age we started our ME lists,” Auntie said. “It was a dream list, ten selfish thing we wanted to do during our lives. Some were smiple and doable, like going to the circus, swimming every summer day,and silly things such as eating ice cream for breakfast and being shot out of the cannon at that circus.”
“At the top of Auntie’s list was ‘be a famous actress’. She believed it was possible, even though we laughed till we cried when she practiced her Oscar acceptance speech. The idea was, we knew if we put it on the list it was feasible,” Birth Mom said, “but if we never wrote it down, it would never happen.”
When your Mom won a baking contest she scratched off ‘win baking contest’ and added another goal. We always keep ten on the list, even now.”
Auntie handed the bland red book to me. My life lessons began with wild freams, #1 I want to be a ballerina, #2 speak French, #3 travel and live around the world, and #4, be a great mom like my two moms were to me.
The first four I crossed off. I am working on #5, being shot out of the circus cannon.
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