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Elaine Altman: I am eternally grateful for all of Mom’s lessons

This is the time of year to pause and reflect on the positives in our lives. 2015 is especially meaningful because our family celebrated Mom’s 90th birthday on Nov. 27. So, Mom, this is for you.

You are the youngest daughter of two immigrants who came to the United States in their teens to escape the atrocities of Europe. Your mother came to this country at age 16 with only love of family in her heart, and yet created a legacy of love that reigns strong today. Her character and determination gave you and your sisters incredible strength and purpose.

You became a teacher and, three months into my imminent birth, told your principal you were “with child.” The response: “I thought there was something wrong with you. Today is your last day, but you must still attend parent conferences tonight. And please do not tell your students you are leaving. We do not want them to know there is something wrong with you.” Mom, thank you for demonstrating the importance of not giving up.

You continued to work as a substitute teacher between our births. I watched as you were laid off and anxiously waited to learn if you were hired again. Our family needed your income, but the angst did not deter you. While business manager for Dad’s business, you returned to school for your master’s degree.

You prepared homemade cookies and delicious food. Thanks for our love of vegetables. Thanks for insisting no one eats a candy bar without sharing. I deeply regret thinking store-bought cookies were better than those you made from scratch. I think we felt store-bought versions gave us bragging rights at school about what our family could afford. I recognized how wrong that was, but truthfully your cookies were too good to share.

Mom, thank you for sharing sayings that stalled bad behavior and evoked fear. “You made your bed; now lie in it.” As a youngster, this was motivation for elevating bed-making into an art form. As a woman, I realized this expression was more about how I wished to be perceived, and how my actions would reflect my presence in the world. I learned to be responsible, stand up for my beliefs and never give up.

Thank you for demonstrating the importance of loving relationships. Your marriage to Dad for 64 years touched us deeply. We are keenly aware of the loving bond you shared and are grateful for the affection you both gave us.

Mom, you continue to be an inspiration and to evoke fear. You lovingly give guilt like no other human being. You continue to educate yourself through book groups, volunteerism at our synagogue and your weekly bridge game. We have always been thankful for how you found time and modeled the importance of surrounding yourself with good friends.

Mom, thank you for being beautiful inside and out. Thank you for my siblings, whom I adore and treasure every day of my life. You and Dad taught us that family is the only place where we would receive unconditional love and acceptance. Those feelings are embedded in your four children and passed on to their spouses and significant others.

Your legacy of strength, love and devotion is shared by your 18 grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and countless friends. All of us have come to appreciate how lucky we are to have had such a wonderful mother in our lives. This December we honor you by being with you. How lucky is that? We love you, Mom.