Sunday, May 8, 2011

My mom, Fran Richardson, the adventurer.

(my mom & me, 2008)

I had the best mom in the whole world and all the other moms were jealous of MY mom.  Ok, well in my mind thats how it was.  My mom passed away suddenly last year, on January 31, 2010.  I thought I'd share with you what kind of mom she was on this Mother's Day.

As a kid, my mom took me on adventures of her own making, spur of the moment, free adventures.  Trips all over Chicago.  We went to the Lincoln Park Zoo, the beach, walks through woods, teaching me about nature, hikes across Chicago, learning to look at the top of the buildings at the history and beautiful architecture in Chicago.  We would walk through cemeteries looking for headstones of famous Chicagoans, teaching me Chicago history.  Then there were trips to parks all over Chicago, bike rides, walks along the Chicago River, collecting boysenberries that we'd go home and make jelly with.

There were the occasional trips to the Chicago museums, the Planetarium, the Aquarium, movies and plays.  There were trips to Kiddyland, and even a family vacation to Disney World and a new puppy when my brother graduated 8th grade when I was 7 years old.  Our Halloween costumes were handmade by her and usually won the awards.

And thats just the tip of the iceberg of the kind of mom I was lucky enough to have.

In the late 1960's, my mom once heard a woman screaming in the hallway of our apartment building on Christiana & Sunnyside.  She had 3 small kids and a sleeping husband.  She went into the hallway and saw a man was attempting to rape/kill a woman.  My mom went back inside our apartment, took an old antique gun we had, with pieces missing, went into the hallway and scared the guy away.  When my mom got an award from the Chicago Police Department for bravery, my dad (who was sleeping when it happened and had no idea) was furious.  I was proud of her bravery.

In the 1970's, when Roosevelt High School didn't have money for the Soccer team to go to the state finals, and the football team didn't have a grass field to practice on, she had fund raisers and bake sales and went to local businesses asking for donations to earn the money for it.  The principal wrote a letter to her saying the Soccer teams ability to go was all made possible because of my mom's hard work.  And then, at the football banquet, they called her up, made a speech about how great she was, and gave her a special award and plaque they had engraved for her, with the football team and staff cheering her on!!!  She was just a mom, helping out her community in her opinion, and was embarrassed once again.  I was only 12 at the time, but I knew how proud I was of her once again.

In the hot Chicago summers she took all of the neighborhood kids of every race and color to the family swims at the local pool and said, "Yes, they're all my children" so all the kids could swim.

In the winter, she kept a sled in the trunk of her car in case the urge hit her.  She lived right by the big sledding hill in Springfield.  On January 28, 2010, it was a Thursday, she was driving by and saw all the kids sledding down the hill.  So she pulled over, got out her sled, climbed that hill numerous times and went sledding with all of them.  She was 72 years old with as much spunk as them.  She died suddenly of a heart attack, 3 days later on Sunday, January 31, 2010.

My mom was also an award winning Girl Scout leader for over 20 years.  Some Tuesday nights, my older sister and I hated the fact that our mom was one of the leaders and therefore, there was no way out of Girl Scouts on any Tuesday night, ever, for any reason for us.  Its only now, as an adult that I realize what a gift it was.  Thats the reason I have great childhood vacation memories.  Because of the fund-raising we did, we got to go on trips.  It was a way for my mom to give her girls vacations that would otherwise be impossible at our meager income.

Girl Scouts was an escape for me from the reality of being a poor kid in a big, urban city like Chicago.  And the core values of the Girl Scouts were the same as my mom taught us in our home. When there was an earthquake in Guatemala, we had a bake sale and sent them money, things like that.

In the winter there was Juniper Knoll Girl Scout Camp in Wisconsin and in the summer it was Butternut Springs camp in Indiana, (I think those were the names, it was long ago).   But my favorite camp of all, my favorite vacations with my mom, forever and always, will always be the ones at:

It was heaven on earth for me.

White Pines Dude Ranch with my mom, a ranch just for kids:
The ranch was incredible to me.  Nothing a kid like me from Chicago could ever imagine.  I'm the baby of the family, my sister was already to old for Girl Scouts and so this is a special memory of  vacations of just me and my mom (and about 50 other girl scouts, and 5 other leaders).  I didn't know why I loved it so much.  I was a poor, inner city kid from Chicago, but I loved everything about the ranch.  

On your first day there, you got to go down to the horse barn and choose a horse and that would be your horse  for the entire week.  We learned how to groom, feed and saddle our horses, and we were responsible for doing our chores for our horse for the entire week.  We got to horseback ride, like twice a day, on trials through the beautiful hills and countryside, You could choose to do different activities, say, if you didn't like horses.  I, obviously, don't remember much about anything else except that I loved horses and did every horse activity I could with my mom.  All because of my mom and Girl Scouts.  They were such great adventures.

After my mom passed away last year, I found out that my Grandmother lived on the family farm in North Dakota and rode a horse to a one room school house with her siblings.  I also found out she WALKED across the Grand Canyon to see her grandmother, my great grandmother. Maybe that's where our love of outdoor life & adventure came from.  (see my story, My Grandmother, Ethel Litchfield, The Adventurer.)

As I got to be a teenager and dropped out of Girl Scouts, my mom still tried to find adventures for us to do together.  I thought I was too old to go on adventures with her, I thought I had outgrown them.  Sometimes she would pick me up from school and say, "you're kidnapped."  I would protest, I wanted to go home and watch T.V.  But she drove me and my dog to the woods, we'd get out and just hike and talk, and before long, laugh and relax and enjoy nature.  Or she would drive to an apple orchard in Wisconsin to go apple picking, out of nowhere.

One time she booked a weekend trip for just me and her to the breweries in Wisconsin.  At the end of the tour they give you a small sample of their fresh, cold beer.  It was Wisconsin.  As long as you were a teenager with a parent, it was OK to have a beer.  And my mom let me!!!  She adapted to the fact that I was a teen and still thought up fun adventures she thought I'd like.

My mom was an incredible Grandma to mine & my sisters children.  She was the grandma you always wanted.  She would often kidnap my kids for adventures.  She also planned major vacations with them, a way for my kids to go on vacations that I could never give them.  In 2005, she took my daughter by train to the Grand Canyon for a week.  In 2008, she took my son by train to Washington D.C. to explore the capital for a week.

My mom was an active member of her church, went to aerobics twice weekly, and walked to work almost every day.  She never smoked a day in her life, was a volunteer at the nature center teaching kids about nature.  And she was the #1 Chicago Cubs baseball fan.

Below is the link to the slide show from my moms memorial service. Its full of pictures of my mom with friends and family that were special to her.  There are many pictures of my mom and dad, they were married for 45 years before he passed away suddenly in 2000.  There are many pictures of her with her best friend Bobbie, whom she traveled with on many adventures.  There are pictures of her with my 2 children, who are the younger of her 4 grandchildren.  There's one of them on the lawn of the State Capital on the 4th of July and another on a boat together, I love both of those pictures.

My favorite pictures in this slideshow below are the one my son took of her on their adventure to D.C., 3 years ago, when he was only 14.  Its of her looking out of the train window, her beautiful reflection looking up.  And my other favorite one is of her and my daughter at the top of the Grand Canyon.  My mom was walking  in the footsteps of her parents, where they met and fell in love 70+ years earlier (see my story, My Grandmother, the Adventurer at

Thought I'd share to honor my Mom on Mothers Day.   
Happy Mothers Day to the spirit of my mom and to all the mothers of the world.

The slideshow below is from her memorial, so it is a LONG slideshow.
Slideshow link, Fran Richardson 1937-2010

(Christmas time, 2009, a few weeks before she passed away)


No comments:

Post a Comment