April 29, 2010

All the Positive Mothering Skills I Possess Were Learned in West Point

If it's Thursday, that means it's time for another rousing set of prompts from Mama Kat and her Writer's Workshop! Do join in on the fun!

I chose prompt #2 this week:

Who have you forgotten about until right now? Think hard and list five people from your past that you really should have written something about by now but haven’t. Circle the name of the person who stands out the strongest. Write a description or brief memoir of that person.

As I've posted several times, I had a rather difficult childhood. Had my mother not taken the same parenting classes as Joan Crawford, things may have been different for me. But you get the parents you get, and that's that (unless Child Protective Services has something to say about it).

Anyway, even as a little girl, I always wanted to be a mommy. I knew that I needed to find other positive parental influences to help shape my future mommy skills.

That's where Mrs. Hayden comes in. Ahhh, Mrs. Hayden. Ann, if you were on a first name basis with her (and I was not). This was in the day when you didn't refer to adults by their first name.

I was lucky enough to be in a class with Debbie Hayden, and to have Mrs. Hayden as our homeroom mother for most of my elementary school years. Debbie and I became friends, and I was ushered into the inner sanctum of the Hayden household...and I fell in love. I had my first mommy crush...on Mrs. Hayden.

Mrs. Hayden was practically perfect, in every way (forget that Mary Poppins gal). She was everything MY mom was not - she stayed at home, she was kind, she baked and cooked and cleaned and genuinely had affection for Debbie and her little brother, Johnny. Mrs. Hayden had a wonderful laugh (of course, I knew she was laughing WITH me and not AT me...she'd never be mean like that).

I loved going to Debbie's house, and not just for a glimpse at Mrs. Hayden. Debbie was a great friend. We played well together, we didn't argue. I would NEVER argue at the Hayden house - that just wouldn't be right. I'd have felt like I was cursing in a church or something.

I was an angel at Debbie's house, lest I not be asked back. I VOLUNTARILY made the bunk bed I slept in. I put my toys away. I was polite. And I watched how Mrs. Hayden interacted with her children, filing away little kindnesses that I would one day bestow upon my own children.

I even allowed Mrs. Hayden to call me by a nickname that I would raise a fuss about if anyone else called me by that name. It was the least I could do...and you know, it didn't sound half bad when she said it. She taught me about the importance of listening, of consistency, of being there for your children. I learned all those lessons in West Point, our subdivision (not the US military academy in NY).

I had my first daughter when I was 19, and I had to show her off to Mrs. Hayden. Debbie was in college, so I didn't get to see her. But I'd periodically stop by to see Mrs. Hayden. It seemed odd, with no little children in her home. Shannon and I were welcomed, just as I had been as a child. She was still very close to her children. She was the one who picked Debbie up from college for weekends home.

When my daughter Shannon was old enough to dress up in a Halloween costume (as a toddler, resplendent in her Raggedy Ann getup), we drove to the Hayden house. As always, we were welcomed warmly. Though our visit was short, as there were other houses to stop at, I promised to stop by during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, when Debbie would be home from college.

I never made that visit. A week after Halloween, on a trip back to college, Debbie and Mrs. Hayden were hit head on by a semi, killing both of them.

I went to their viewing at the funeral home. They still looked so much alike. And although they left Mr. Hayden and 13-year old Johnny behind, I think they would have wanted to go together.

It's such a shame that Debbie never married her fiance and had her own babies. She had a wonderful example to follow...and I'm sure Mrs. Hayden would have been the ideal grandmother.


  1. OMG! I was so not expecting that ending!!!

    Aww, well it's a good thing she was in your life. And that you have such fond memories of her!

    And you never know, someone might have mommy crushed on your while your kids were growing up, I can only hope that one of my boys friends will see me as THAT mom!

  2. Boy, I'm with Erin...did not see that one coming. How tragic indeed. But wonderful that you had such a loving, impactful influence in your life!

  3. Wow, I guess your story is proof that bad things do happen to good people. What a sad ending. I wonder if Mrs. Hayden ever knew the positive effect she was having on you throughout your childhood. If only all kids with unhappy homes could have someone like her in their lives to show them there are better ways to be.

  4. That was definitely not an ending I was expecting. It's too tragic an ending for someone who had so much positive influence over you.

    I'm glad that you had her to look up to growing up though. I think you pay her the best compliment by following in her example and becoming a fantastic mom :)

    Thanks for remembering someone so great and sharing your memories of her with us :)

  5. Oh. That is so sad. My heart breaks for that family. I am so sorry that happened. What a blessing that you had a beautiful love like that in your life as a child though. So sweet.

  6. Saddest thing I've read all year. Sorry it turned out that way. They seemed like really good people.

  7. That is so sad. For me I think about my two girls gone off the path and I worry that something will happen to them and they won't experience the things that can truely make you happy. Glad you had a positive role model in your young life to balance out the negative.

  8. That is so sad. For me I think about my two girls gone off the path and I worry that something will happen to them and they won't experience the things that can truely make you happy. Glad you had a positive role model in your young life to balance out the negative.

  9. I'm sorry for your loss...but glad you got to have such a warm presence in your life all those years.

  10. man, i am all choked up with tears streaming. what an amazing woman and example she was.

    that was a beautiful tribute to her and her family. thank you for inspiring us and sharing with us.

  11. How sweet AND sad. What a touching tribute to an obviously wonderful woman. I lost my best friend from high school when we were 28 to a brain tumor. I miss her terribly! We had always said we were gonna have babies the same age and they would all be best friends. But, that was not meant to be.

    wonderful post. Stopping by from Mama Kat's.

  12. Oh that was so sad :( At the same time I'm really happy that you got to have them in your life.

  13. Oh my. They sounded like a wonderful duo. Sorry they had such a tragic ending - but glad you have such grand memories:)

  14. That was a surprise ending. That's sad. At least she had a positive influence that you can still carry on with your children.

  15. Wow ... didn't expect that ending! I feel terrible. Mrs. Hayden and her daughter deserved better ... but it's nice you still think of her from time to time.

  16. What a wonderful story. You remind me a lot of my best childhood friend. Although your histories are different, it seems like you have the same warm heart as she.

    Thank you for sharing. (Thanks for linking on Mama Kat's)

  17. So beautiful that you had a positive influence in your life, even if it was tragically cut short

  18. You literally made me fall in love with that woman just as you had. I didn't expect the post to end that way. What a blessing for you to have known their family though - you might have never known what a loving family could be like!

  19. What a tragic story. I didn't see that coming. I can't imagine what a shock it was to love your second mom and your friend that way. It makes my heart sad that you had to your own mother wasn't the best ... if nothing else, I wish that all children had a mother who could love them and treat them well.


Thanks for stopping by. I love your comments...I get all warm inside just reading them!