She Chose Cheerfulness

This blog is reprinted from a blog I wrote for a contest several years ago — and won! The contest was titled: “What I Love About My Mom.”

Is the cup half empty or half full? My dear mother, Alice, came from a family that always toasted with a half-full cup. They are celebrators, people who always find a reason to say “Life is good!” even though, with nine siblings in the family, there have been plenty of times when resources were stretched pretty thin.

This optimistic approach to life made my mom delightful to be around. She literally whistled while she worked. She always found the bright side in things, even when the rest of us hung our heads or bickered about who was at fault for some silly mishap. When it rained on our camping trips, she invented games we could play in the tent. When the heat and humidity of a Wisconsin summer without air conditioning kept us tossing and turning at night, she suggested we all sleep in the living room and enjoy the lake breezes filtering through the screen door. Mom made life fun, adventurous, happy, even when finances were tight, and they were. Even when things got broken or lost. Even when we were unlovable and negative.

“It will work out,” she’d say in her calm, gentle way. “Life is good.”

I am not an optimist — at least not naturally. Like the other half of my genetic pool (Dad, I mean this lovingly), I sometimes lean toward melancholy, waking up each morning with a slight apprehension of what drudgery the day will bring, rather than what delights the day might hold. As a mother of four kids, ages 5-12, I struggle to be upbeat, to say “yes” rather than “no” to things that might be inconvenient or messy or expensive. Rather than whistle, I sigh while I work. Woe is me, why me…poor me.

But then, in my best moments, I remember my mother. I remember that I can choose cheerfulness. I can choose to be optimistic, to greet each moment with a “Yes, let’s do it!” even when that “yes” will create more work, or interrupt my schedule. I can raise a half-empty glass and celebrate that, lo and behold, it’s also half full.

I’m my mother’s daughter. Thank God for that. Thank you, mom, for that. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Here’s my toast to you.

Addendum: Since I wrote this blog, my dad was diagnosed with ALS and my mom became his caregiver. Every day, she helps him bathe, toilet, dress, move from wheelchair to armchair to car seat and back again. This machine, that doctor’s appointment. It is not the aging story she imagined, but she takes it day by day. And still, as this blog testifies, she chooses cheerfulness 9.9 times out of 10. Life is good.

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