LESLIE CRISS: Mom’s love of art, music passed on to duo of daughters

By Leslie Criss/NEMS Daily Journal

“Your mother is possibly the best friend you will ever have. She loves you when you love her back, she loves you when you don’t. She loves you when you cry and when you laugh. She loves you when you are wrong and when you are right. She loves you because you are her child, forever and a day. If you want to catch a glimpse of what the love of God looks like, look at your mother.”
– Ryan Crowe
Today is Mother’s Day, the first one I will spend without my mother. She died Nov. 7, after a long and valiant battle with congestive heart failure, Alzheimer’s and, later, a malignant brain tumor that took Mom before she forgot those of us she loved.
Not a single day has dawned that I have not thought of her, or missed her. I’m told that will continue until I, too, leave this earth.
But there are memories. And though they often bring bits of sadness, they also bring solace and sweetness.
My Arizona-born mother traded in her western ways when she fell in love with a handsome Mississippi flyboy and agreed to become his wife and live in the Deep South, many miles away from her own parents.
She had me, the first of her two daughters, in the old Grenada Hospital, back in the day when no one held your hand through labor or even kept you company from a cot overnight.
All of that – the marriage, the relocation of her life, the birth of her first child – took an inordinate amount of courage.
She was an artist, though she never thought she was any good. I disagree. So would you if you saw some of her paintings.
When I was a kid, my mom taught a summer art class. Since some of my friends signed up, I tagged along with the teacher. I learned quickly I’d inherited not even a modicum of Mom’s artistic ability, and my peers giggled at my messy acrylic attempts and told me I must have been adopted.
Mom loved me anyway.
She was a musician – she had a beautiful voice and, unlike me, had paid attention during piano lessons. She’d often play and sing my sister and me to sleep with a tune or two from her piano. Mom chose Broadway over Brahms, and we’d drift off to “I Could Have Danced All Night” from “My Fair Lady.”
A month or so before her death, Mom, my sister Beth and I piled into my king-size bed. The only time during her final days that our mother expressed fear was at night. It was as if she did not want to let go of each day. So, Beth and I were trying to calm her so she might sleep.
For an hour, Beth and I sang showtunes for our mother – in their entirety when we could, and snippets when we couldn’t. When Mom remembered the lyrics, she’d try to sing along. Even in her silence, she smiled, and maybe for a short bit of time, we helped allay her fears, just as she’d done for us so often in our childhoods.
Our mother didn’t care one whit whether my sister or I could paint a sunset like she could. Nor was she disappointed that neither of us became a piano prodigy.
That she instilled in her daughters a great appreciation for all things aesthetic was good enough for her.
And an amazing gift to us.
Happy Mother’s Day.

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