International Women’s Day, Title IX and a Nod to my Norwegian-American Mom

The unsung hero in my life story is my mom, a woman ahead of her time. While I was defying society with my dream to play sports at a time in American history when little girls were supposed to play house, cut paper dolls and dress up like princesses, my mom let me be a tomboy. Instead of coveting Easy Bake Ovens, Barbie campers and Tammy dolls, when I wanted a basketball, pop rifle and cowboy hat for Christmas, Mom made sure Santa heard my wishes.

Mom never made me wear hair ribbons instead she cut my bangs short and let me march to the beat of my own drummer. When I slid into home plate, swished hoops, and tackled the “man” with the ball in the backyard with the neighborhood boys, she grinned and waved from the kitchen window.

When I fell off bicycles and out of trees, she straightened the handlebars and brushed off the grass and said, “Off you go!”

sharing moments when reunited

sharing moments when reunited

In college as she watched me compete on the basketball court, she may have worried about my lean frame bashing bigger bodies in the tough league, but she never told me. As she nursed my sprained ankle, separated rib, black eye, broken finger, and another concussion, she may have shuddered inside, but I only saw the smile.

When I hit the wall diving for a loose ball, or got slammed on a rebound, she may have cringed inwardly, but outwardly she remained calm. I only heard her shout of encouragement every time I got up and back in the game.

In childhood, she kissed my skinned knees, patched up my favorite blue jeans, and sent me back outside. In adulthood, she honored my uniqueness and urged me to follow my own star.

Instinctively my mom knew that from the time I could tie my own shoes, I was footloose and fancy-free and the world belonged to me.

When I threw my passport in the bin after being cut from the national team trials, she pulled it back out and patted my hand. “Put this somewhere safe. You may need it someday.”

When I fell in love with a Frenchman and made my life abroad, she started French lessons, wrote long airmail letters and opened her heart to a “foreign” son-in-law.

UWSP greatest fans

UWSP greatest fans

When her first grandchild was born in Paris, she sewed clothes with extra long sleeves for my fast-growing child. When that Franco-American granddaughter returned to the USA, mom made the 8-hour round trips to the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point to watch her play basketball. Later, when that granddaughter took the Hippocratic Oath at the graduation ceremony, my mom stood in for me, and applauded for both of us.

Mom made sacrifices to help me reach my goals. She drove me an hour away to take horseback riding lessons as an 8-year-old and she exchanged S&H Green Stamps for goods to help save for summer camps. No matter what the cost, she never held me back.

She never insisted I marry the neighbor boy and stay in town, and never complained when I spent more time practicing my jump shot than cleaning my room.

My mom, a smart, soft-spoken Chicago girl from a modest family of Norwegian immigrants, worked her way through college earning a teaching degree. She raised 4 children 5 years apart and when the last one started kindergarten, she started her teaching career.

first doctor in the family

first doctor in the family

Two generations later, her granddaughter born and raised abroad, followed her own dreams, back to America to become the first doctor in the family. My mom beamed. The family had come full circle.

Title IX presented the door, but my mom pushed it open and let me go.

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43 Comments

  1. I can’t tell you how much I loved reading this. Your mom is quite a special lady, and you and your daughter are blessed to have her. Our moms do so much for us, yet we don’t recognize it until we get older. How lucky that you wrote such a beautiful tribute to her now!

  2. Pat, what a wonderful testament to your mother. Your family never ceases to amaze me! I had no idea that your daughter left home to study in the states or that she was a doctor!

    What an inspiring story for anyone who marches to the beat of their own drummer!

  3. Pat, What a “slam-dunk” tribute to your amazing mom who nurtured your free spirit and helped you to be all you wanted and needed to be then passed it all on to your daughter. Beautiful story which taps into a universal story of how important Moms are. I loved it!

    • Thanks Kathy. Good moms are so good at what they do and so selfless in their efforts, that often times they go unnoticed, but the impact Moms and Grandmoms have on shaping future generations matches no other.

  4. Pat, a great tribute to your Mom. Your Mom and Dad are both very special people and have been such great friends to my folks. You, your brother and sisters are very blessed. Keep writing, I do enjoy reading your journals.

  5. I loved reading this. I have always thought your mom was amazing. I still remember your parents coming to every ISU game. We were lucky enough to be included in a celebration dinner after games. You have a special mom who has a special daughter. XO

  6. How nice that you said what all of we daughters have thought for all these years! And thanks for letting all others know what we all experienced on East 19th Street because although she is your biological mom she was and will always be our neighborhood mom.

  7. I love this story, Pat. Every child should be so blessed as to have a mom who loves them unconditionally, has their best interests at heart, and is able and willing to do what it takes for them to succeed on their own terms!

    And having that kind of mom yourself, it’s no wonder you were able to successfully imitate her mothering style with your own daughter — congrats on having a doctor in the family!

    Wouldn’t the world be a sorry place if we were all alike?!!

    • Thanks, Debbie. When my daughter left Switzerland to study and live 4,000 miles away from home, my friends here asked, “how could you let her go?” I said just as my mom once told me, “a child is a gift on loan from God.” She was never mine to keep; she belonged to the world. However, we remain forever connected by the heartstrings of love. And the reunions are oh so sweet!

  8. Absolutely beautiful, Pat. A great tribute to a great woman whom I also admire greatly. She is always so poised and gracious and you inherited so much of her grace. Can’t wait to see her and the rest of your clan this summer!

  9. I really enjoyed this about your wonderful mom. I have truly enjoyed your mom over the years when we were here in Wisconsin!

  10. Pat: What a wonderful tribute to your Mom and my friend, Lenore. We started
    kindergarten in 1939 and graduated High School in 1951 together and remain
    close friends today. She truly is a wonderful person and we so enjoy seeing

  11. Pat: What a wonderful tribute to your Mom, my friend, Lenore. We started
    kindergarten together in 1939 and graduated High School together in 1951
    and remain good friends today. In fact, she and your Dad try to keep Bob and
    me on the straight and narrow, but it’s a tough job. Thank you for this
    wonderful story – we really enjoyed it. Carolee

    • Thanks Carolee…it is truly remarkable that you have remained in contact over so many years. That is surely a testimony of the strength of your friendship.

  12. You are indeed BLESSED with a compassionate, supportive, mother who shines with God’s love in all she does! Mom McKinzie has a special place in my heart!

  13. Sis,
    I LOVE OUR MOM! Sis, this is a beautiful tribute to our special “Benore”! Thank you!
    Yep, Mom sure loved all her children, whether they be biological, neighborhood related, classroom, sports team or family friends. And she accepted us fully, “thorns and prickly moments” just the same. I can only pray that I am half as loving, forgiving, accepting and encouraging to my own kids and those I educate in the classroom! S & H green stamps and horseback riding…LOL of the memories you stir up in your writings. We are truly blessed with our Mama! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  14. What a beautiful, heartfelt tribute! She is also gutsy – hiding her fears and preferences in order to allow you all to soar. What a woman!

  15. What can I add that hasn’t already been expressed? We have been blessed
    beyond measure to have been raised by such an extraordinary mom whose love, support, guidance, and open-mindedness helped shaped us into the adults we are today. The greatest tribute we can give to Mom and Dad to show our gratitude is to pay it forward…and I believe that we all are doing just that…each in our ways.

  16. What a beautiful tribute to a marvelous woman. She was brave and strong because she must have encountered some disapproval for allowing her daughter to march to that different drummer’s beat. Good for her, and for you, and for your beautiful daughter. Congratulations to her on her achievement.

    • Thanks Chloe. If my mom encountered disapproval, which I am sure she did, she never ever let on. It was as if her faith in me was so strong that she understood I must follow the light of my own star. In turn I hope I instilled that same believe in my own daughter. Even though, get this, I am afraid of the white coats and have hospital phobia, she became a doctor.

  17. Hooray for Mothers! Such a heartfelt tribute, Pat. Your mom sounds like a swell mom:)

    Continued cherished moments…

  18. Your mother sounds like a progressive, open-minded and most of all smart woman. You are so lucky to have had her in your corner~ I too have been fortunate to have a mother who has always been my biggest fan.

    • Sharon, we have both been blessed to have our mom’s backing. That unconditional love makes a great foundation for everything that follows including our own mothering skills.

  19. Hi Pat, I will try again.
    What a nice tribute to you great mom. She has been a special friend to me for many years. You are fortunate to have such a special family, all so close together, maybe not in miles but in love. I remember you were always the one we rushed to the doctor when we were having coffee.
    LATE HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Sounds like it was a delicious one.
    Love, Shirley DeJarnatt

    • Thanks Shirley! I know my mom feels the same about you. I was the one always interrupting your coffee hour with some medical emergency or another. Now I know where my white coat phobia came from…how ironical that I should be so afraid of hospitals and Nat went on to become a doctor.

  20. Sorry to get here late, but I just had to add my ‘such a lovely tribute’ to the rest of the comments. Of course, now I’m missing both my mom (South Africa) and daughter (Ireland)…in a good way, though 🙂

    • Thanks Belinda…oh yes, I am sure you can appreciate the bittersweet ache of missing both your mom & daughter due to physical distance, yet feeling like they are never more than a heartbeat away.

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