A Retirement


It’s been a milestone year for almost everyone in my family.  One of those milestones is that my mother is retiring, which happens officially tomorrow.  We went to the party last week, at the patio of the Alumni house.  It was this gorgeous Spanish-style courtyard with bright tiles and stucco, plenty of pink bougainvillea, strings of bulb-lights overhead.  A 4-piece combo band played background music, the linens on the round tables were all school-colors, the flower arrangements were supernaturally gorgeous, and the food was divine.  There was even salt water taffy on the tables from Maine – a nod to where my mom plans to spend much of her retirement.  I think it was probably the best retirement party I’ve ever been to.  Certainly the most fashionable.  It felt like a wedding reception; the classy kind.

My sister and I were asked to give a speech.  “We know your mom’s career now, but you’ve seen the whole thing,” her assistant told me on the phone.  So she and I got together and wrote one (Cody, below).  I’m gonna publish it here, because my mom really is great and that should probably be big news.

She’s leaving me soon to go spend most of her summer and fall in Maine (tear).  But she’ll be back before Baby arrives – I’ve told her that’s non-negotiable.

Also, I borrowed the picture above from my mom’s Facebook page, so I’m happy to give credit where credit is due – except I have no idea who took this thing…

Here’s the speech:

Cody: Writing this speech was really hard for us. Because what do you say about a mother who is as great as ours? We had an idyllic childhood, and a lot of that was because she stayed home and made it that way.

Casey: “Don’t you remember that summer feeling?” My husband Brian asked me one day. “You know, where you’re bored out of your mind and there’s nothing to do, and you’re just restless?” I had to tell him No. Kathy made sure we were never bored like that.

Cody: Summers were the best times in our house, pulling out the latest dollhouse and working on it as a family, waking up to the smell of bacon and biscuits cooking on the stove, Simon and Garfunkel playing on the radio as mum puttered. Gardening together, riding around on our bikes.

Casey: And then there was the month in Maine, running on the beach with our cousins and competing to see which of the three of us could get browner. The only year I won was the year I had a head-start at Sea Camp, Kathy was always the champ.

Cody: Hard work was always a value of Mum’s. She taught trombone lessons most of our childhood, and Casey and I would hibernate in the back room until the honking was done. When finances were tight, she taught Music for Young Children classes, wearing silly earrings with faces for the kids and bringing home French horns made of hoses and funnels. Sometimes we would garage-sale for furniture and refinish it together on the weekends. We were always busy, and it was always fun.

Casey: I was in sixth grade when she officially took a “mom job” to get us all health insurance. An 8-3, 9-month position doing the books for Baxter Medical Center, she was home when we were, holidays and summers included. When we were in Junior High, we used to walk to her office after school and play solitaire for 15 minutes or so on her computer until it was time to leave. We were the mascots of the office, and I was thrilled to be able to tell all the nurses about my 9-minute mile in PE Class.

Cody: They loved her as much as we did, and the promotions came rolling in. She was second only to the director by the time she decided to pursue her MBA and a bigger career in the field. We were in high school then, and all three of us did our homework in the evenings, together but separate. Her graduation was in a huge arena in Los Angeles. We cheered loudly when they called her name, and an image of her shaking the president’s hand flashed onto the jumbotron. By this time, she was a single mom. We had both witnessed how hard she worked for her accomplishments, for us and our future, but also to fulfill herself.

Casey: In a lot of ways, she gave us the best of both worlds. Her time was so valuable when we were young. But the lessons she gave to us as we were older were just as important. “You CAN have it all,” she used to say. “Just maybe not all at the same time.”

Cody: Her hard work and ability to bring people together has been an inspiration. Who would have thought that her part-time mom job would end with her overseeing four departments as an Executive Director of Student Wellness? I don’t think any of us did. Which makes us all the prouder.

Casey: Through all of her responsibilities and hard work, she still finds time to support and care for us. I think we can all say that a long rest in Maine is well deserved. We know things will change as you enter this new chapter of your life, but your penchant for hard work and joy, and the love we have for you, never will.

Cody: Congratulations, Mom.

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