family

Happy birthday, Mom!

Today is a big birthday for my mother. Maybe it’s rude to say on the internet how big the birthday is? Let’s just say when she was born, Harry Truman was president and Mickey Mantle was five months shy of his Yankee debut. Goodness, that makes it sound worse. Mom is 70. Happy birthday, Mom! Here are some things I love about Carol Anderson.

It’s pretty safe to say that I’m a mama’s boy.

When I was born, she took a break from teaching so she could stay home with me. We formed a pretty great bond from the start, I guess. Dad worked long hours at his stereo shop at that time, so I was with mom the majority of the time. She went back to work when I was in the first grade. Two years later, I was able to transfer to the school where she taught, Red Oak Elementary. That made things easy, because before and after school I could just hang out in her classroom.

Mom always had a ton of books, and I loved reading them. She inspired a love of reading that was the most important factor for me excelling in school – all the way through OU Law.

Christmas Eve in the 80s.

It felt pretty great to have mom so close all the time (although I never actually had her as my teacher), but it also made me kind of a de facto teacher’s pet for every class I was in. One time that power went to my head a little too much. I was acting up for a substitute, whom I informed that she couldn’t do anything about it “because my mom works here.” Ugh.

Mom’s support for my educational endeavors of course continued as I went on to college and law school. I could always count on mom to be there for me when I needed, financially or emotionally.

Mom was very much the spiritual leader of our family.

She took my sister and me to Antioch Christian Church pretty much every time the doors were open. She also taught Sunday school classes and worked at VBS. That influence is such a huge part of who I was growing up. In high school, my main group of friends was either in my church youth group, or, in the case of Matt and Kevin, members of a “sister church,” Draper Park. I went on almost all the youth trips, the annual highlight being the Christ in Youth conference in the Colorado mountains. I cannot overstate what a great thing this was for me, because it provided good role models and kept me out of trouble. For that I’m grateful to mom.

My baseball fanaticism can be traced to mom.

Cal Ripken, Jr. was always one of mom’s favorite players.

Mom really loves baseball. She worked for the baseball team when she attended Phillips University. So it was only natural that she passed the love of the game to her firstborn. She gave me my first baseball tee at age 5, one day after school. Soon she put me on a t-ball team and I was hooked for life. She and Dad were always in the stands and very supportive when I played. Mom took me to baseball card stores and even a few card conventions. She didn’t throw out the cards even when I had moved out and they were mostly worthless. We took many vacations that were centered around catching Major League Baseball games. While my dad certainly enjoys a good ballgame, it was usually mom who allowed and encouraged this to happen. These days they are much more devoted to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and that’s cool. But back in the day it was all about the National Pastime.

Music as well!

Waiting for McCartney to take the stage in 2008.

Mom has pretty good taste in music. Her favorites are James Taylor and Neil Diamond, both of which she has seen live multiple times. She saw Elvis toward the end. But the musical connection between me and mom really centers around the Beatles, Paul Simon, and folksy artists like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I started raiding mom’s collection in the latter part of high school. My tastes have expanded in a dozen different directions, but I’m still quite partial to rock music from the 60s and 70s, thanks to mom.

I’ve been fortunate to accompany mom to see James Taylor, Neil Diamond, Paul Simon, and … best one of all … Paul McCartney in Tulsa. Aunt Cindy joined us for that one, too. It makes me pretty emotional to think about how generations were brought together that night through great tunes. It’s still the best concert I’ve ever attended.

Oh yes, photography, too.

It’s hard to find photos of mom from the 80s and 90s because she was always the photographer. She always had a good camera for stills, and she was also an early adopter of the camcorder in the mid-80s, which means we have lots more home movies than the typical family of that era. She picked up the photo bug from her father, and certainly passed it on to my sister and me, although it took longer for me to really get into it. At least now there are selfies so I can be in some of the photos, too.

“Mom” becomes “Gigi”

With all four grandkids.

“Gigi” is her grandma name. It didn’t start out that way. We have a book she gave Everly that she signed “Grandma.” But when the first grandchild starts to talk, the name can be changed, and that’s what happened with my nephew Callen. “Gigi” was easier for him to say.

Mom had to wait a little longer to become Gigi than most, because the generations are spread out a bit in our family. But I think she’d say now that it was worth the wait, because she is really in her element as a grandparent. Gigi and Pop take care of Callen and his brother, Clayton, almost every day, so their bond is very close. They don’t get to see my girls, Everly and Ophelia, nearly as often, but the love is still just as strong. During the Covid-19 pandemic, when everyone was staying at home for long periods, Gigi took to reading books to the grandkids, which she would upload to YouTube.

She’s always there for family.

I could provide a ton of examples of what a giving person my mom is, and she does it with no expectation of what she might receive in return. She has been very welcoming of my wife, Aften, to our family, and she put in money and hard work to ensure we had an awesome rehearsal dinner and wedding six years ago.

But the most recent and most poignant example is the care she gave her parents in their final years. E.W. and Harriett both passed away in 2019. They both struggled with mental and physical ailments as can be expected of anybody in their 90s. Mom would drop everything to be there for them when they needed it. Many times the calls came in the middle of the night. She handled their finances. She stayed on top of assisted living centers when things weren’t done right. She took them to doctors appointments and she handled and sorted all of their medication. The best entertainment her parents had during this time was spending moments with great-grandbabies, when mom would bring them over. Much of the time, mom didn’t get the thanks she deserved for all of this work because my grandparents simply weren’t capable of giving it. But we all saw what happened and we are so grateful for what she did.

Some other things I’ll never forget.

  • One time we were eating lunch at home when a wasp went down mom’s shirt. She freaked the bleep out, stripped to her unmentionables, and ran madly from the room. Sorry mom. It will never stop being funny.
  • We were shopping at the mall in the 80s and mom started screaming “Patty! Patty! Patty! Patty!” She had seen her old friend, you guessed it … Patty … across the store. They grew up on the same street but hadn’t seen each other in years. To this day, if there’s a reference to Patty, we all have to say her name multiple times and with great enthusiasm.
  • Mom long had a tradition of giving me money any time I was leaving on a trip. Yes this continued even into my 30s. I always protested but eventually gave in, because who doesn’t need some extra trip money? It started with cash slipped into my hand, progressed to bank transfers, and I think venmo has even been used a time or two. Many times she said there was no need for my dad to know about it.

Mahalo, Gigi!

Earlier this year, we took mom and dad to Hawaii. It was a longtime dream for mom to go to the islands, and Aften had a conference in Maui so we invited them along. I hope it was everything she ever wanted. For me, it was an unforgettable time. We spent time on the beach and enjoyed delicious meals. And what perfect timing, because a few weeks later, the entire country was on pandemic lockdown. I really couldn’t have asked for better parents and I’m glad they could join us for a week in paradise. Love you, Mom, and thanks for always being there for me. Happy happy birthday!

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