At the tender age of five, I can still remember my mother always telling me “never give up your dreams, not for anyone”. She repeated that phrase to me well over a thousand times through the years. As a small child I didn’t understand the depth behind her statement, but as a young woman, I have come to understand just how important it was to her that she instills in all of her children to never lose sight of goals and dreams. You see, my mother was an excellent singer, and she competed all over Missouri in various vocal competitions. She just recently opened her cedar chest to share with me all of her one-rated medals, and certificates that she received while competing. I knew my mom had a pretty voice, but that was only from singing along with the radio! At this time, she also shared with me her story.
My mother was the oldest of three children and grew up in a happy, middle-class family. The third generation of Italian immigrants on her mother’s side and hard-working railroad men on her father’s side, no one in the family had ever attended college, nor thought of saving for college. At the end of my mother’s senior year in high school, her teacher encouraged her to apply for several vocal-music scholarships. Excited at the thought of going to college and pursuing her dream to become a singer or music teacher, my mom sent several voice recordings into the Music departments, at various colleges in the surrounding states. She had several offers, but the one that really piqued her interest was the one that came from a school in Kansas.
As my mom told me her story, she told me that she had received a full tuition offer from the school, but my grandparents would have had to cover the cost of her room, board, and books. Even though she had received this fantastic offer, she was still not able to attend, because there was no money saved for college, and no one had ever attended college in the family, so when my grandparents told her “no, it just is not possible”, she accepted their decision. This was the beginning of some very hard years for my mother.
As the story unfolded she also told me about how she ended up enrolling at the local university and falling in love. She ended up leaving school after one semester because her heart was not in it. Shortly after that, the relationship that she thought was so wonderful, became physically abusive. She lived this way for almost three years. When she became pregnant, she decided to leave the situation and better her life. She had my oldest brother and returned to college to pursue an accounting degree. It was during this time that she met my father, and they were married. During her junior year of college, my brother was born. Juggling a full-time job and a family doesn’t leave much time for school, so again she left college. Three years later I was born.
When I was eight years old, my mother turned forty and decided to return to school to finally finish her degree. Now, she was forty and had three children at home that she was raising alone since the divorce from my father two years previous. She worked full-time, made sure that we had dinner, did our homework, and then would leave for night classes. She was always happy even though her life was not an easy one.
This year as I am about ready to enter the next chapter of my life, I finally understand what my mother has meant all of the times that she told us to “never give up on your dreams”. If she would have not given up at the word “no”, she might have ended up going to school on that scholarship, and living out her dream as a singer, or music teacher! She has instilled in my brothers and I the knowledge that “where there’s a will there’s a way”. Had she not listened to those around her that said, “you have a baby now, you cannot go to school”, or “you should be at home taking care of your family, not going to school”, she might have finished school long before she was in the middle of her life, but the one thing that stands out to me as even more important than “never give up on your dreams” is “don’t quit”. Even though not giving up has been taught to us by words for as long as I can remember, don’t quit has been taught to us through my mother’s actions.
My mother has been at every function that my siblings and I have ever been involved in. She is loved by all who know her. She loves every child and sees potential in everyone. She is always quick to ask what a person’s passion in life is and if they have a plan on how to get to where they want to be. “Knowledge is power,” she says, “without it, you may make some bad decisions, and other times not know about all the possibilities for your life”. My mother has used the wrong turns that she made in her life and turned them into lessons for her children and anyone that will listen to her speak. Many of my friends seek her out when they need advice. She loves to help others and wants to see others succeed. She has helped so many young people change their lives by sharing her own story with them. She told me that if you can help others learn from the mistake you have made, it becomes a lesson and it can also bring healing to a broken heart. She told me recently that her life was a very happy one, even though it turned out totally different than she originally planned for it to, she wouldn’t trade it for the world. She bought the house of her dreams two years ago on her own, with no one’s help. It might not be the house of everyone’s dreams, but it is the house of her dreams, and she accomplished a life-long goal, all because she never quit.
The number of people always gathered in our home whether it was 1300 square feet, or 2400 square feet, testifies to the positive energy that is emitted from this miracle of a lady. It is definitely not a reflection of the life that my mother has necessarily experienced, but a reflection of who she is on the inside and her outlook on life. She has taught us to dream, and have goals and to see the positive even when everyone else may see the negative. Life is definitely what you make it. My brother and I will be the first to graduate from college in our family, and we owe it largely in part to the mother that never quit, she is my hero and inspiration, and I don’t know what I would do without her.