For those of you who don’t know, my mom was a saint. If you ask anyone who knew Kathryn Shoemaker or had her as a teacher they will say the same. I have never met a person my mother taught that didn’t say she touched them deeply and had a positive effect on their lives. If I’ve been lucky enough to have had that same effect on a student, they can thank my mom. She’s the reason I became a teacher.
You know how many times I’ve screwed up in my lifetime? I mean really screwed up? Made some damn poor life decisions that hurt people I love? Do you know the one person who stood by me, loved me unconditionally, and believed in me no matter how big of an idiot I was?
My mother believed I could do literally anything, which in turn has always made me believe that, damn it, maybe I could. It’s amazing what you can do when one person totally and completely believes in you. It makes you want to prove them right.
And it makes you want to never, ever let them down.
My mom taught me many things, not the least of which was independence. Let me tell you a story about the day I entered first grade. We lived across from Twin School in Bourneville, and my sisters and I were to walk to school from there, a short jaunt of perhaps 50 yards or so. I don’t remember what I wore, but I remember carrying a lunch pail that was yellow and in the shape of a school bus. I was very excited to go to my first-ever day of school.
Anyway, Mom was staying at home at the time and she’d sent us off, probably enjoying the thought that summer was over and she wouldn’t have the three of us in her hair all day.
I should probably add here that my sisters are older than me — Karen by eight years and Sara by four years. So, at the time I was entering first grade, Sara was entering fifth and Karen the ninth. Their job? Walk their innocent little brother to his first day of school.
And that they did until I got about halfway there. At that point I got cold feet and hightailed it back home. My sisters, loving siblings that they were, waited about half a second and continued on to school without me.
Note: My sisters claim no memory of this, but I’d probably block it from my mind too had I performed such a heinous act.
But anyway, I didn’t care, I was heading back to Mom and the safety of my home. Screw this school stuff, I’d made the decision. Even if I hadn’t even started yet, it wasn’t for me. Mom would understand. With all this in mind I got back home, walked up the steps and opened the front door, or tried to.
But hey, I knew Mom was in there because I’d just left three minutes ago.
After a few minutes of knocking, yelling and getting no response, I did the only thing I could do. I walked back to school, by myself.
I don’t know what happened when I finally walked in, but I survived. The point is Mom knew that it wouldn’t help me to hold my hand and walk me to school. I’d learn more quickly and get over my fear by doing it myself.
One summer my mom took me aside and said she had something important to ask me. She then proceeded to tell me she’d been offered the fifth grade teaching position, a class of which I was to be a part. How would I feel about this?
Are you kidding? Having my mom as my teacher? Su-weet! This would be like having a year off! Let’s do this!
She paddled me the third week of school. I mean really paddled me. I’m pretty sure it was three whacks. I begged her not to do it, to wait until we got home, to please not humiliate me in front of the class.
No go. She walloped the living heck of me. Did I mention it was three whacks?
In retrospect, I know exactly what she was doing. Number one, I was being an idiot, thinking I could take advantage of the situation. I deserved it. Number two, she was proving a point to the rest of the class — everyone will be treated equally.
Those are stories of my mother in a nutshell. She never jumped in to rescue me from adversity because she knew that letting me get through it by myself is what would build my self-esteem and confidence.
Why is that so hard of a concept for some parents to understand?
There are a thousand other stories I could tell about my mom, Kathryn Shoemaker. She was honest to a fault, just ask my sisters. I distinctly remember Mom opening up a Christmas present one of my sisters had given her. I don’t remember what it was, but I remember her opening it, taking a look and saying “What am I going to do with that?”
Of course, since I was her favorite she liked everything I got her.
Mom passed away a couple years ago but I still think of her several times a day and how she smiled every single time she saw me. Mom was always happy to see me.
So if you have a mom you love like I loved mine, appreciate every moment you have with her. If you’re driving by her house and think of stopping but you’re in a hurry to go somewhere else, stop anyway. If you’re thinking of calling but don’t really have the time, call her.
Because one day she’ll be gone, and that’s when you’ll realize what she truly meant to you.
Dave Shoemaker is a retired teacher, athletic director and basketball coach with most of his professional years spent at Paint Valley. He also served as the national basketball coach for the island country of Montserrat in the British West Indies. He lives in Southern Ohio with his best friends and companions, his dogs Sweet Lilly and Hank. He can be reached at https://shoeuntied.wordpress.com/.