It wasn’t until I was about 20 years old, having lived 2 years away from home, that the thought struck me like a jolt of lightning that my mom was more than just my mom. She was an adult woman, a person with agency who made purposeful life decisions that led her down her own path; I had finally realized her status as a true trailblazer. I wondered about her growth as a woman from being a young girl just as I was trying to decide what kind of woman I’d like to be.
My mom grew up in humble circumstances and lived with my grandmother in a dirt-floor one-room house on a ranch with my grandfather’s relatives in a community called “Red Gate” not terribly far north from the current southern border to Mexico. She was a stranger in the strange land of South Texas, who had lost her father at a young age to a car accident. She grew up speaking Spanish only at home and quickly discovered that if she decided to go to school, she would only be able to speak English there. As daunting as that must have been, she embraced school and valued education higher than almost anything in her life. She was one of the first women in her family to have a Bachelors degree and she chose the field of education.
I can’t imagine that it was easy to grow up as a young woman in traditional family and to pursue such a lofty and “impractical” goal such as graduating from high school. In a traditional (Mexican) family, a woman usually lives with her parents before she is married. Once she is married, she usually buys a house within the same neighborhood. Often when her parents are older, they move back in with her so that she can take care of them. A woman is not expected to pursue higher education, let alone want to pursue it outside of her duties at home. Her life is 100% dedicated to her family. Most of my older female relatives who lived on a ranch never made it past the 3rd or 4th grade.
When her mom moved them to San Antonio, she decided to stay with her aunt and uncle in order to complete her education. She knew my father from the neighborhood and our families became friends with many other families in the parish near their houses. My father tried to woo her into dating and marrying him. She refused to consider any kind of proposal until she earned her first degree. It is possible that her early school experiences of being forced to learn a different language when she had no support to learn it led her to become a bilingual kindergarten teacher. Her legacy is apparent to me when I see 40-year-old men in the grocery store refer to her as “Mrs. Mechler, one of their favorite teachers ever”. It’s illuminating to see the smiles on their faces as they are transported back to their 5-year-old selves.
Inquisitiveness is something that was always encouraged in my family growing up. My parents both became teachers. They scrounged and saved to give my brother and I the best education that they could afford. My mom has a always told us that we could “do anything we set our minds to” and we have both pursued careers that speak to our hearts and our minds. My brother is the artist in the family (as an licensed architect and real estate agent) and I’m the writer (as a librarian and archivist). All of that penny pinching meant that we shopped at the thrift store before it was cool and this is how I find out that my mom has a wicked sense of style and a good eye for quality. She is shrewd about getting serious bang for her buck and looking unique and fashionable to boot. My most complimented clothing pieces are ones she has helped me hunt down. We get inspiration from each other.
Thankfully, it was not all serious in our household, my mom also has a super goofy sense of humor, a love of dancing and singing and a generosity of spirit that I’ve found to be quite rare in the world. I’m so glad that I realized all of these things about her so that we can spend the rest of our days together enjoying each other and laughing and have a grand ole time. Thank you for being a great example of the kind of woman I hope that I can be.
I love you, mom. Happy Mother’s Day.