Leimkuhler: A break from fitness to honor my mom

When I realized this column would be published on Mother’s Day, I tabled my column-in-progress on post-workout meals to bring you this column instead; a column written with love and gratitude to my mother for the amazing woman and mom she is, and always has been, to me.

Motherhood has meant many different things to me over the years. As a child, Mother’s Day was about celebrating and honoring my mom. If someone were to ask me to create a list of words to describe my mother, “mom” would likely be the first word I’d choose. In fact, if you look up the word “mom” in the dictionary, you might even find her picture there.


To me, my mother represents everything it means to be a mom: unconditional love, self-sacrifice, nurturing, caring, supportive, encouraging, protective, reliable. I knew my mom always had my back. And, not only is she the best mom a girl could ever wish for, but she is an amazing, fun-loving grandmother to her six grandkids.

After I was born, my mother — who was only 19 when she had me — attempted to return to work. A few babysitting disasters later, combined with my mother’s misery at being separated from me, that effort was brought to a quick halt, and I enjoyed the benefits of being raised by a stay-at-home mom until my brother, who is almost four years younger than me, started kindergarten.

My mother was not an expert baker or gardener or particularly crafty. In fact, I am completely confident that if she were mothering in this day and age, she would not subscribe to Pinterest or watch any cooking or home and garden shows. In this way, the apple did not fall far from the tree.

She did, however, tune in daily to watch “The Young and the Restless” — her “story” — which aired, conveniently, during nap time. Otherwise, there was not a lot of television or “screen time” in our house, save for Sunday football and the weekly airing of “Little House on the Prairie” that we all watched together — though I do also have fond memories of coming home from half-day kindergarten, after I’d graduated from napping, and eating yogurt while watching “The Price is Right,” my mother folding laundry beside me as my brother slept.

Though my mom was not an enthusiastic costume maker or home decorator, she was young and energetic, with a certain joie de vivre that was uniquely her own. She loved amusement parks, roller coasters, carnivals, the circus, the zoo and the beach. She listened to rock music, sang and danced in the house, laughed and played games, chaperoned field trips and loved to take my brother and I — and even our friends, as many as we could pile into the station wagon — outside to play at the local parks and playgrounds.

She’d bring waxed paper so we could zoom down the tall metal slides (surely dangerous by today’s standards) and pack a delicious picnic lunch. When I was little, she read to me daily, took me for walks in the stroller and would push me for hours on the swings if I wanted her to.

I’m certain my mom didn’t relish house cleaning, grocery shopping or doing laundry (which she hung on the clothesline outside to dry), but I never heard her complain, and our family had fresh sheets on the bed every Saturday and enjoyed a home-cooked dinner together every night. My mom was happy being a mom. She excelled at it.

My memory is hazy on the specifics of how my brother and I used to celebrate and honor her on Mother’s Day. There were probably flowers involved, delivered with homemade gifts and handwritten cards.

Hopefully she took the day off from cleaning and cooking. Maybe we cooked something for her, picked up take-out from our favorite local sandwich shop, or ordered steamed crabs if we could get a good price for them.

When my brother and I were older, I remember a few brunch and dinner outings, our grandmothers sometimes in attendance as well.

By the time I was in my late teens and 20s, I had moved out-of-state for college and probably mailed a card and called my mom on Mother’s Day. Eventually, my brother went away to college, too, and I know those were hard, lonely years for my mother. I didn’t really understand what it was like for her then — I couldn’t relate. But I have a feeling that may be about to change.

Editor’s note: This column is the first in a two-part series about motherhood.