My mother, whom my children call Moo, moved next door to me in December 1998, when Erin was a year and a half and Davis was almost eleven. I've fielded the question, "How can you stand to live next door to your mother?" and Walter has fielded the son-in-law version (frequently spoken with much more bite) hundreds of time. All I can say is that it was our blessing.
My mother doesn't look or act like a traditional grandmother. She's more likely to be in the kitchen whipping up a pot of shrimp gumbo or a batch of spicy party mix, than oatmeal cookies. When she stays with Erin so Walter and I can catch an evening out, I'll leave them playing and return to find them playing. Of course, it's never dolls or video games. Instead, it might be a lively game of witch, where my mom pretends she is just like The Witches in Ronald Dahl's book, with a bald head and square feet, and Erin pretends she has to figure out and foil the evil doer. They also got at it hammer and tong at poker, Shoot the Moon, and Scrabble. According to Davis, she's daft about tomatoes and taught him to eat them with gusto. She's always up for a walk, whether it is at night with flashlights, just down the road for a quick look around, or all the way round the lake to check on the Monarch caterpillars in the milkweed by the dam or to look for deer tracks in the picnic area. What other grandmother do you know who would do ACL surgery on her knee at 60+, so that she would have a strong enough stride to pull Erin down the road in the wagon all those times during treatment when she wanted a walk, but needed a ride? Though active to an extreme (she could turn the home-to-second-to-home double play as a fast-pitch second baseman well into her forties), she reads more and more widely than anyone I know, and is always willing to talk books.
Most importantly, she is a living model to my children and me on three things she considers crucial: living a balanced life, as suggested by the Aristotelian mean, finding harmony in life, and living a genuine life (such as Polonius advised Laertes in Act I, Scene 3 of Hamlet "This above all – to thine own self be true.").
She carries out these three things in everything she says and does. Doing so has put her ahead of her time much of her life. Her main passions are nature and environmentalism. She drove a high gas mileage car long before it became de rigeur among celebrities. She opposed the war from the start, because it implied that oil was more important that human life. She made choices that showed how she valued life on this planet. As Davis told the world in a tongue-tied KEOS public service announcement last year, she is a Nasty Maturalist (what he meant was that she was a Master Naturalist, trained and committed to understanding and making the most of our natural world).
When people ask me how I can stand to live next door to my mother, I say, "Who wouldn't want my mother for a neighbor? The world would be a much better place if she was everybody's neighbor."
Happy Mother's Day, mom. I Love You.