Happy Birthday, Mary Tyler Moore

I remember watching Mary Tyler Moore in my family room on Schubert Avenue cuddled up in my yellow bean bag with my chips and soda.  I don’t remember any particular episode but I do remember loving the opening music and the scene where she tosses her beret into the sky.  I don’t know why that scene stuck with me when I was ten but in looking back all those years ago, I have to guess it was the joy of becoming an adult.  Being free of the chains of parents and school.  Living in a big city, buying your own groceries, working, and walking through the park all by yourself.  All of the promise and joy ahead for my ten-year old self. 

I watched a clip of the beginning of the show and I get teary-eyed.  Why?  Numerous reasons, I guess.  Thinking of my

Maria will make it after all, too - I know it.

heartache and confusion as a pre-teen.  Thinking of the innocence and playfulness I possessed at that age.  Thinking of Maria growing up with Barbie and Bratz and hoping that she sees enough strong women in her life to turn into one.  Thinking of Mario and hoping he marries one.  Thinking of how short this life is; disbelieving that MTM is 75 years old today (http://entertainment.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/12/28/9774970-happy-75th-birthday-mary-tyler-moore).  Wasn’t it just yesterday I sat in that bean bag chair and watched her show?  How has thirty years passed in a toss of a hat? 

I attended an event probably five years ago on behalf of the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio.  Mary Tyler Moore was the keynote speaker.  She amazed me without even saying a word; just seeing her in person awed me.  She discussed her life with the audience of mostly women.  We all listened intently.  She described her battle with Type 1 diabetes, her role in Ordinary People, her times on the MTM show, and her revelation that life can be rough but you simply need to lift your chin and forge your own path.   

She acted as a role model for me without me even noticing for years.  It was not until I sat in that chair at the Ohio Theatre and listened to her speak that I realized what a profound effect she had on me starting at age ten.  Here I was a professional, charismatic, independent, passionate woman just like Ms. Moore.  I guess I made it after all….

Gloria would be proud

Sleeping over at Maggie's!

I picked up Maria and Mario from Cousin Maggie’s apartment at 9:00 am.  Maggie had offered a sleep-over for them last night and they jumped with joy at the prospect.  A night filled with pizza, play-doh, fire in a real fireplace, muffin-baking and movies.  She had them asleep at 9:45 pm, too (I swear, my cousins Laura and her need to write a book!).  When I picked them up, they interrogated me about whether St. Nick had come to the house last night.  When I grew up, I always remember St. Nick coming on December 6 (which I believe is truly St. Nick’s Day).  I typically got candy and maybe some small toy but I just remember the thrill of feeling something in my stocking when I came down the stairs in the morning.  I have kept that tradition up with M&M but instead of doing it on December 6, I do it on the weekend so we aren’t rushed with school. 

When the kids and I home, they ran straight to their stockings.  They plunged their little hands in the stockings and big smiles emerged (in addition to other little things, Maria got earmuffs she had been wanting and Mario got a transformer).  We all sat in the living room together, which we rarely do because the family room has the recliner chairs, the tv, the Wii.  But it was so nice to be in the living room with the natural light that can’t help but perk you up. 

After the kids reviewed all of their presents, Maria looked at me.  Earlier on the ride home, I had told the kids how excited I used to get for St. Nick.  Maria had asked if he brought me anything.  I told her that usually St. Nick just brings kids toys.  After she looked at me for a minute, she got up and rushed out of the room.  I knew what she was doing – trying to gather some “gifts” for me.  She has got such a kind soul.  She came back five minutes later with a bag full of my things – shoes, old barbie, clock.  “Here, mom, St. Nick brought you some things, too!”  Mario caught on how impressed I was with Maria’s thoughtfulness, and immediately ran out of the room.  He ran back ten seconds later with a frog ornament and presented it to me saying “Here mom, this is from St. Nick, too!”  I told him how happy I was to have him and Maria and he responded “did I give you a better gift than Maria?”  He always wants to be number 1 – he is going to be brutal on the court or field. 

We played around , cleaned up, and at 2:00 pm, left for the Pump-It-Up gym for a birthday party.  On the way to the party, the kids asked to watch Power Rangers. I put it on for them and I heard them in the back talking about the different Rangers.  Mario told Maria that she could be the blue power ranger and she agreed.  I blurted out from the front “there is a blue power ranger who is a girl?”  Maria immediately hit the back of my seat and scolded me. 

“Mom, you make it sound like a girl can’t wear blue.  You make it sound like a boy can only wear blue and a girl can only wear pink.  That should not be how it is.”

Yeah, I could have just eaten her up.  All of those years that I sang “Free to Be, You and Me” to her rubbed off.  She would make Gloria Steinem proud.  Earlier that day, I had tried to move our bed.  After realizing it was way too heavy, I stopped.  Maria approached me and shook her head.  “Girls never give up, mom. You can do it.”  

Maria sliding

Pump-It-Up was chaotic and tiring.  I can’t stand to just sit around like the other parents so I go through all of the exercises with the kids.  After 45 minutes, Maria and I were spent.  Maria kept asking when we would go to the other room and eat.  Mario just wanted to keep playing.  When we finally got to the room, Maria immediately sat down in front of a piece of pizza and cheese curls and went to town (I was jealous and wanted to sit right by her!).  Mario only wanted water.  These two could not be more different when it comes to food.  Maria is my healthy, ready to devour, eater.  Mario is my grazer, a bite here or there eater.  During the entire meal, Mario wanted the plastic crown and scepter that the two birthday kids got and he was going to every length to get them.  I had to keep telling him not to try to steal them but he kept trying to sneak ways to do it. I told Maria that we would have to leave.  She had a meltdown because we had not eaten the cake yet.  I guess along with teaching her how to be self-sufficient and not stereotypical, she also learned my love for sheet cake.  I could not bear the thought of disappointing her and not letting her eat cake.  So we stayed and I policed Mario a bit longer. 

Mario stopping!

On the way home, Mario reviewed his goodie bag.  He pulled out sunglasses and complained that they “weren’t cool.”  Maria schooled him:

“Mario, life is not about finding happiness in things.  If you have family and friends around you, that is all that matters to be happy.” 

And that sums up the beauty in our girl, Maria.  Mario is catching on, too, because instead of throwing the glasses at her like he may have a six months ago, he shook his head and acknowledged Maria’s insight. 

“You are right, Maria.  I will like them.” 


My blossoming feminist

Maria relaxing at the doctor's office waiting for her female doctor

We read a book tonight called “Baby Wanna Be”, which is geared towards little babies but Mario still enjoys reading it.  Actually, I think he just knows that I will read it even after I have said “no more books” because it is a short read and easy to understand (hence, not a trillion questions coming at me with every page).  We flipped past the Babby Wanna Be Firefighter and Policeman pages and moved onto Babby Wanna Be Doctor and Nurse pages.  The doctor was a boy baby and the nurse was a girl baby.  I asked what Maria and Mario wanted to be when they got older.  Mario ignored me (he was too busy twirling around like a spinning top and shouting craziness) but Maria answered.  “Why is the doctor a boy and the nurse a girl?  I want to act like the nurse is a doctor and I want to be her.” 

Having fun at school

There it is!  All my years of instilling that feminist spirit in her has paid off in droves.  I have talked with her for years about the Gloria Steinem autograph I got for her when she was a young girl, and what Gloria Steinem did for women’s rights.  I have made sure to point out that women can do anything men can do (and usually better) especially when a picture shows only men (typically seen in books about astronauts, cowboys, sports figures).  I have reinforced that she is brilliant and caring and feisty and strong.  Now, this must be balanced with the comment she made last night while at Panera.  She saw a newspaper advertisement for a strip club of a woman with huge breasts cupping her hands over them and wearing little rhinestone underwear (yes, I now have to monitor the newspaper basket at Panera).  She held it up giggling and commented “This girl’s boobs are really big, and I love her underwear!”  She appreciates working hard and being smart but also having fun, I guess….??!  Of course, Mario’s response was to yell throughout Panera “Ria, show me those boobs again!”  Thank goodness it was packed with twenty-something college kids who were rolling in their seats over these antics.  

So, there you have it.  A proud moment for a mama whose own mama and stepmom and mom-in-law and little sister have ingrained in her the importance of independence and strength and determination and self-empowerment.  It is flowing right along to the next generation, thank goodness.