Sunday, June 23, 2013

Up a Family Tree

I first discovered Teresa Bloomingdale as a middle schooler.  I stumbled across this book, Up a Family Tree on my mother's bookshelves, which were always a source of great book exploration.  At the time, I just thought she was hilarious.  Her tales of raising 10 kids in the Midwest were exceptionally well-written, and she was just so funny!  I (ahem) "borrowed" my mother's copy when I moved away to college, and I took it with me on subsequent moves.  It now sits on my shelf...maybe someday I'll "remember" to take it back.  (Sorry Mom!)

When I became a mother myself, however, Teresa was no longer just a funny storyteller.  She was a lifeline.  With her book, I was able to reach across space and time and cling to a woman I had never met in that timeless bond that connects mothers.  Mothers everywhere speak the same language, I don't care what culture or country or time period you are from.  Much changes, but much stays the same.  The fact that Teresa had her babies in the 1950s and 1960s made no difference.  I discovered within her pages that we shared the same struggles, the same fears, and the same "I-can't-believe-that-just-happened" moments. 

Teresa had 10 children in a 12 year span.  I was not quite that ambitious, but I did have three children be the time I celebrated my fifth anniversary.  My second children arrived a scant 18 months after my first.  Therefore, in her I found a kindred spirit in the exhaustion - physical, mental and emotional - that happens to a mother of multiple tiny children.  On those days when I didn't think I could do one more moment of this, I would grab her book from my nightstand and flip open to any given page and find solace.  The time Lee played "doctor" with his brothers and the pill cabinet and everyone had to go to the ER to have their stomachs emptied.  The time Mike (age 5) painted the side of the house and took his little brother John (age 4) with him to hold the paint can.   The time a child decided to run away - but the houses was so chaotic that no one realized it, thus creating in Teresa an obsession with doing multiple headcounts every night after they all went to bed.  The hundreds of notes needed for school, change for school and church offerings, shoes that needed buying, convincing a toddler that wearing two different mittens was really on because "Captain Kangaroo wears two different mittens" - all the kinds of stories I could identify with.  They still made me laugh - but they also made me cry.  With relief.  And joy. 

Teresa also gave me permission.  She gave me permission to have a cluttered house.  She gave me permission to be behind on the laundry.  She gave me permission to allow the baby more freedom in the house  She gave me permission to keep basketballs in the bathroom.  But most of all, she gave me permission to laugh.  Teresa Bloomingdale taught me that the best way to manage it all is to just keep laughing.  She helped me see the joy in all of my kids' adventures - and she taught me there is great therapy and relief in writing these stories down.  She was, in fact, the inspiration behind one of my other blogs - Tales From Mommyhood.  That blog has become popular among my friends, but I started it as an outlet for my own stressors as a mother.   In the spirit of Teresa Bloomingdale, I began chronicling my own stories of ridiculousness, such as my List of Things I'd Never Thought I'd Do, or my daughter's belief that Jesus wants her to shake her booty, or what I learned while taking my kids to swimming lessons.  I learned the power of writing my fears and exhaustion away - and the joy that comes with seeing the funny in my children's lives.

Teresa Bloomingdale passed away in the year 2000.  I never met her or any of her family.  But she has changed my life and been close to my heart.  I only hope to meet this lovely woman in heaven today so we can go out for coffee (yes, there is coffee in heaven) and I can tell her just how much she has meant to me over all these years. 

Mrs. Bloomingdale, you have my eternal gratitude for teaching my the joy of motherhood.  Bless you and bless your family. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
What's up next: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Top Five TBR:
1. Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick
2. The Royal Stuarts: A History of the Family that Shaped Britain by Allan Massie
3. Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert
4. The Story of Britain by Rebecca Fraser
5.  Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman

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