On November 22, 1963, JFK was murdered and the whole world was saddened and shocked.
And my mom got her picture taken that evening.
It was some type of professional engagement portrait, or maybe a college graduation portrait — something along those lines, I don't remember the story exactly. All I know is it was the kind of thing that was scheduled weeks in advance, and although rescheduling such things was not unheard of, Mom and Dad both decided they should get the photos taken despite all the turmoil in the world.
And so they did. And when you get your photo taken, it is recommended you smile. I'm sure it was hard to smile that day.
Mom was a big fan of President Kennedy. Young, super-smart, war hero. Vibrant. Made for TV. Not like other Presidents. He was a person who talked directly to the young people of the nation and attempted to inspire them.
Kennedy said, “Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans, born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today, at home and around the world."
Mom was one of the new generation of Americans. She was getting the torch passed to her, and like so many others her age, she was going to make a difference in the world.
So it had to be hard to smile.
I remember those portraits hanging in our home all my years growing up. Mom managed a smile, and so did Dad. And although Dad looked kind of dorky in his picture, Mom was one good-looking young woman, easy on the eyes.
Mother’s Day is coming up on Sunday, and it’s also National Teacher Appreciation Week. Mom was both a mother and a teacher. In fact, she still is.
She was born in 1942, right smack in the middle of World War II, and she was named Lois. Lois was a good name — Superman's girlfriend was named Lois. And although Superman always saved Lois Lane from certain death, she was never some helpless damsel in distress. She needed saving because she always burst right smack into the middle of injustice and corruption and tried to expose, disrupt and eradicate it.
Lois Lane was a strong, professional, hard-working and hard-fighting woman — and those are not easy things for a woman to be, then or now — although I imagine they're a little easier when Superman is your boyfriend.
As for Mom, this is her 50th Mother's Day. And I sometimes wonder, had she not been a mother — had I never been born — what would she have done with that torch that JFK passed to her? If she hadn't spent all of her time chasing me and my little sister around all those years, would she have helped put a stop to the undoing of human rights everywhere? Would she have led her generation into a better century, like Mr. Kennedy had asked her to do? Would she have exposed and eradicated injustice and corruption, like her namesake in the comic books?
Instead, she taught me how to read, long before I stepped into a kindergarten classroom, and taught me how to write. And she took me to ball games and parks, and was my biggest fan. She fixed skinned knees and gave bullies who messed with me hell. She showed me how not to take any crap from anyone, while still getting along with everyone. When I needed love and support, she gave it to me. And when I was out of line, she smacked my behind.
And she still has the best laugh I've ever heard. Always loved hearing that laugh.
She read good stories, she told great stories. She taught lessons. I don't know where the lessons came from. Her mom? Her dad? Books? She read a lot of books, and still does. Always there were little lessons. Instinctive teachable moments from Mom. Usually about love and loyalty.
Her best lesson?
When you don't have much of anything, but you have a little bit of everything, you make soup.
Good soup, too. JFK would have liked it. He and Superman would have both asked for seconds.
Mom hasn't gotten around to saving the world. Not yet, anyway. But she's been a good mom, and a good grandma, and isn’t that enough?
Maybe you don't save the world all at once.
Maybe you save the world one pot of soup at a time.