Brand building through storytelling

My Mother – Patricia M. Rayner

Patricia MRMy favorite photo of my mother is one I took when I was about 16. I no longer have it, but it is etched in my mind forever.

In the photo, Mom was saying goodnight to me. She was sitting on the edge of my bed, in her dressing gown, with her wig off and her thinning hair down. Why did she wear a wig? Well, it was just one sign of the toll that bearing (and raising) seven kids had taken on her health. Little did I know then that my mother would suffer a massive stroke just ten years later. With the loving support of my Dad, she made a good recovery but she would never be the dynamo that we took for granted growing up.

How I miss her. Mom was a remarkable woman. As a young woman growing up in the 1940’s, she learned to fly and earned her pilot’s license. She could have achieved anything, but she chose to devote herself to being a wife and mother.

Growing up, we had our conflicts and battles. But now that I am middle-aged with children of my own, I look back with some astonishment at the good fortune I had in having her as my mother. She taught me so many things.

Mom taught me patience and perseverance. One small example is when I was 14 and she was teaching me to how to sew. I remember making a beautiful velvet skirt — when I realized to my horror that one side looked different than the other. What had I done wrong? All my hours of work wasted. I was in tears. My new skirt was ruined. Mom calmly explained that I’d sewn the skirt with the nap upside down. And then she stepped back. It was up to me to carefully pick the stitches out one by one, and sew it the right way. The skill to admit where I’ve goofed, and then sit down and patiently work away until it’s right, continues to help me today.

It was also in meeting challenges in her own life that Mom imprinted her values on me. My younger sister, Teresa, was born mentally handicapped with Down syndrome. The advice in that day was for kids with Down’s to be sent to an institution. But Mom would not hear of that. She was determined that Teresa would live at home and lead as normal a life as possible. When Teresa was only a few months old, Mom enrolled her in a gymnastics program because she believed that by training the body, she would train Teresa’s mind.

The phys ed teacher, Mrs. von Kleist, showed Teresa no mercy as she put her through grueling workouts. I remember sitting outside the gym door listening to her screams—but the exercise program was not halted because of her cries. Teresa was eventually able to climb a rope unassisted right up to the ceiling.

She taught me the basics of political savvy: the art of reading between the lines. I resisted. She would often say somewhat sternly, “Frances, you cannot take people at face value. You must learn to read between the lines. Ask yourself, ‘What is their motivation? What do they want?'” She would go on to say, “Many people pay lip service to something. Don’t listen to what they say. Look at what they do.”

But the biggest influence my mother had on me was to encourage me to be an artist and help me believe I could accomplish that dream. When I was in Kindergarten, my teacher gathered all of my drawings together and gave them to my mother saying that I had very promising artistic talent that must be developed. My mother took that teacher’s advice to heart. From that day on I was enrolled in a variety of art lessons. But it wasn’t just the extra classes that helped. Mom impressed on me that I had a special gift — and that it was my responsibility to develop it. She never questioned the financial viability of a career in the Arts. She simply believed (as I did) that I would find a way to support myself by doing what I love to do.

From my vantage point as an adult (who has earned a living as an artist for over 20 years) I can see how critical a role my mother played. She was my life coach. The message I’d love to share here is how influential parents can be in developing their children’s talents — in whatever area that might be. (Remarkably each of my siblings had their own unique talents, which she also found ways to encourage.)

Unfortunately, I know other artists who have talent equal to mine, but whose parents did not encourage them. In fact they actively discouraged them. They were told to “get a professional trade” and misdirected to studies and occupations that they were miserable at. It has taken them many years to overcome the negative influence of their parents and to find the true happiness that comes from using your talents to the fullest.

My mother provided the nurturing environment that allowed my talents to flower. And the remarkable thing is that it is something any intelligent and loving parent can do — if they will just ask themselves, “What is the special talent my child has — and how can I help them develop it?”

Encouraging me to develop my artistic talent and reach for my dreams is the best gift my mother gave me. I am so fortunate. Thanks, Mom!

Posted by Franke James

Leave a Reply

Stay up-to-date with Rona.

To see what’s on my mind these days, friend me on Facebook.

Miss my old site?

Visit the archive to find your favorite blog posts and Chatelaine editorials or browse my published articles. Sorry, I’m not blogging anymore.