I asked my 86 year old mom - we call her Yai Yai - to be the subject of my #TalkToMe Facebook Live interview. Yai Yai said, "Yes. Of course!" and I am 100% sure that she has no idea what a hashtag or Facebook Live is. That kind of sums her up.
Yai can be a worrywart. She worries about me and my brother and sisters and our kids, almost as a required activity. However, at her core, she is fearless. When we were little, she would pack the five of us in the station wagon, with Tammy, our dachshund, and a few random extra kids, and we traveled the country. We crisscrossed the land, to see the sights - "Hole in the Wall" "The Diving Horse on Steele Pier" "Hefner's Bunny Ranch". No seatbelts. The priorities: Fun and laughter. We grew up best friends with her best friends' and sister's kids. Our cousins share the same genius gene for humor and we are still thick as thieves. Our beloved matriarch, Yai will laugh until the tears roll. As she did, along with the rest of us, when she "dirty danced" to Flo Rida in the epic family Dance-Off of 2010.
Yai Yai is fun. And smart. She got married at 18, had her kids lickety-split. And when we all left the nest, she went to college, graduating summa cum laude with a double major in English and Sociology. She studied post-graduate at Cambridge in England. She has read all of Melville's books, including Omoo and Typee. Do a Sunday NY Times crossword puzzle with Yai and prepare to get your butt handed to you.
Yai has impeccable taste. She turned us on to theater and art and great books. She taught us we were worthwhile, and deserving of nice things. "If it's on sale, and no one else wants it, why would we want it?" The velvet rope didn't keep us out. It identified where we should go in. Technically, we were a middle class family. Yai made us feel like royalty.
Yai is game. When my dad announced he was leaving his good job to buy a business in Utah, Yai replied, "I'll go." Then she looked up Utah on the US map, and noted the distance from their Philadelphia home. So she added, "Just so you know, the kids and I will be spending summers on the Jersey Shore." She joined, and ran, every group...from the PTA to the Girl Scout Cookie drive to the Ladies Auxiliary of the Associated Equipment Distributors. She just says, "Yes!" At one of my training events, I watched her participate in a "trust fall" from a four-foot wall. This was right after being dragged through a "cheese grater" of side-by-side car tires. She was 78 years old at the time.
It wasn't all fun and games. On dark days, we learned perspective from Yai. "This too shall pass." "There is more to life than this one." "Bring an envelope for the monsignor.'
I've learned so much from Yai Yai. Managing our household, she taught us a lot about business. Some things are worth going to the wall about. Other things, well, just let it go. She knows how to rally the troops, and will take charge when required.
Yai is the best when it comes to babies. Nobody can get a child to sleep like Yai Yai. Every one of her grandkids and great grandkids adore her. She also taught us that bedtime was non-negotiable and adults get to have a life, too. She is the center of our wonderful, noisy, loving, fun and funny family.
This little video is like the preview of a really great film. Yai is so much bigger than what I've shared here. Still, this interview reminded me that the things I appreciate most about myself, are the characteristics I see in my mom. What a gift. I think I'll continue this conversation.