Vicki Wentz: Lectures, laughter and love for 85 years and counting

Mar. 07, 2013 @ 01:55 PM

Yesterday, my mother turned 85! I wasn’t going to write a column about her, because I’ve done a couple and, really, what more is there to say? And, then it started coming to me…all the “more there is to say.” Like:

My mom is the laughter I hear in the night as I fall asleep, down in the living room with my Dad, usually talking about us kids; she’s the wave I look for as I leave for school; she’s the proud smile I cling to as I mount the steps to the stage for my piano recital; and, she’s the implacable voice of censure when I’ve done something stupid. Which, honestly, I did a lot.

My mom is the lecture when I’m tired, whiny and feeling sorry for myself, and all I want to do is mope and wallow - but which takes me to a movie instead.

My mom is the incentive when I don’t want to work out or even take the dogs for a walk - which makes me get up and put one foot in front of the other.

My mom is the sound of disapproval when I contemplate drinking too much, or eating too much, or lying, cheating, stealing...not that I ever contemplate those things...or, worst of all, taking myself too seriously - which pulls me up short and makes me laugh at myself.

My mother is the pursed-lip veto of too-tight pants, revealing blouses, and short-skirted dresses at my age...okay, at any age - which, infuriatingly, forces me to go back and change just as I’m about to leave; and, my mother is the absolute racket in my head if I even consider wearing shorts out for dinner, no make-up to the grocery store, jeans to church, or sweatpants ANYWHERE!

My mom is the cooking disaster hotline, the spot-removing guru, the decorating mentor, and the dinner party authority. She’s also the passion in my voice when I argue politics and religion...and possibly my refusal to go down without a fight.

My mother is the cool hand on my burning forehead in the middle of the night; the one with all the answers for French homework; the one who knew which girls were going to be good, solid friends, and which ones weren’t worth the trouble.

When I became a mother, mom became the Buddha of breast-feeding, the swami of spit-up, the tutor of teething, the Dalai Lama of diapering, and the pundit of potty-training. And she answered my constant questions without laughing or making me feel like an idiot...well, most of the time.

My mother’s voice sounded in my ears whenever I punished my children...and whenever I told them how proud I was of them; every time I worried about them...and embarrassed them...and caused them to swear blood oaths that they would “NEVER do something like that” to their children.

My mom is the tears that flowed when my children screamed, “I hate you!”... or whispered, “I love you!”

My mom loved Erma Bombeck. If you did, too, then maybe you’ll remember this:

“When the Good Lord was creating mothers, He said to the angel, "Have you read the specs on this order? She must have 180 moveable parts. Run on black coffee and leftovers. Have a kiss that cures anything from a broken leg to a broken heart. And six pairs of hands."

The angel shook her head slowly.

“But, it's the three pairs of eyes that are the problem."

“Three pairs of eyes?"

God nodded. “One pair that sees through closed doors when she asks, 'What are you kids doing in there?'. Another in the back of her head that sees what she’s not supposed to, and of course the ones in front that can look at a child when he goofs up, and say 'I still love you' without a word."

“Get some rest," said the angel.

“I can't," said God, "I'm so close. Already, I have one who heals herself when she’s sick...can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger...and can get a nine year old to stand under a shower. She’s soft, but tough! Imagine what this mother can endure."

The angel circled the model, then ran her finger across the cheek.

“There's a leak," she pronounced.

“That's not a leak," said the Lord, "It's a tear."

“What for?"

God smiled. “It’s for joy, sadness, disappointment, loneliness, and pride."

“You are a genius,” said the angel.

Somberly, God answered, "I didn't put it there.”

So, that’s my mom. Our family has been so bottomlessly blessed to have had her - and her three pairs of eyes - around for 85 years. Do without her? Please. I’d rather wear sweatpants to my wedding!

Happy Birthday, Mom.


Vicki Wentz is a local writer, teacher and speaker. Readers may contact her at, or visit her website,