Thursday, February 9, 2012

A tribute to my mom - Donna Campion on her 75th birthday

Hello Bloggers,

Today is my mother's 75th birthday and you know what that means - right?  You guessed it - a tribute.  So let me introduce you to my Mom - Donna Campion.

 She was born in Palmyra NY as the youngest of 5 girls to a farming family.  Don't you love the home perm???

And the glamour girl pose?  Hey, it was the 50's - think of their role models!
She loved music from a young age and received a precious gift of an accordion when she was a teenager.   She studied music - maybe it was music education at Potsdam state and has taught music and performed music every since I can remember.
Growing up I have vivid memories of my mom as a lively, beautiful, trendy woman full of life with a big, big smile.   I remember her having a very fashionable wardrobe and straight brown hair that was always stylish - short when it was in fashion and long when that was in fashion, but somehow she never looked dated!  She would dress up for dinner parties and events.   She has always been beautiful.

One memorable dress was a big bold print polyester halter maxi dress.  She was colorful and social and yes, it was the early 70's!  I wish I had a picture of it, but I don't, but the above (and below) photos show Donna in her fashionable finest.  That's me in the green dress below.

We had the BEST children's parties.  They were always at our house and my sister and I were always involved in planning them (well except for the one surprise party - but that's another story.)  When we were younger, a favorite thing my mom would do was called a peanut toss.  She would stand on the deck and toss peanuts in shells into the backyard.  We would all run around and collect as many peanuts as we could and shell them and eat them.   One year we had a 'George Washington's Birthday party.'  I was about 10.  All my friends came over and wore long fancy dresses.  We had tea and then hiked up the woods (it was February) to Peter Pratt's Inn - a historic inn where 'George Washington slept.'  We had a blast and got the hems of our long dresses dirty - but who cares.  My mom didn't worry about things like that.  I remember a really, really fun day.   We also had a carnival party one year.  We took over the garage and had a gypsy fortune teller (that would be my sister Kathie with a turban on) a bean bag toss and face painting.  We did all the set up and prep and it was all our ideas.  Halloween involved setting up a haunted house (on a chair with wheels and a scarf over the eyes) that went from the sewing room all the way to scary conclusion in the laundry room.   We had so much fun.  No party planner for the Leslie girls - no need.  My mom had lots of creative ideas and always found a way to pull them off!

Growing up there was often music playing in the house.  My mom loved the Beatles and I know most all the lyrics to their songs since they would be played over and over again.  We listened to mostly the Beatles, but also The Carpenters, John Denver and other 70's classics.

My mom taught music at a nearby town - Croton on the Hudson.  She was amazing.  She could teach anything and didn't shy away from much.  I remember one time she taught band and was instructing students on how to play instruments she didn't play herself.

As the music teacher - that meant she was in charge of the school musical productions.  She worked so hard at those productions - and it was always a little crazy the week before a show.   It was always fun to go to the performances and the cast parties afterwards.  I was always younger and loved hanging out with the older high school kids that were my mom's students.

A favorite Christmas tradition for me was going with my mom's student group on the bus to NYC's Lincoln Center and singing in the 'Messiah Sing in'  I didn't know how to read music, but I was familiar with the music and loved to sing along with thousands of others.  It was also fun getting dressed up and staying up way past my bedtime.  In the picture below that is my mom in the jeans and pig tails.  She always looked so young and here you can't tell her apart from her high school students.

My mom tried so hard to teach me music, but it didn't take.  She tried especially to get me to play the piano.  First she tried teaching me herself, then later sent me to various studios.  She tried for YEARS and I just never liked it, nor was good at it.  I can't play a thing on the piano, but my mom fills our home with music when she comes to visit and puts the piano we have in our home to use.

A favorite piano thing I remember so fondly was a fun music game called 'cat and mouse.'  The game went like this.  My mom would play a song  - I think it was 'dance of the sugarplum fairies' from the Nutcracker - if not it had a similar melody.  All us kids would run and hide at the beginning of the song.   When the song reached a specific point, we would start to creep out really slowly.  Then at another point during the crescendo, we would all run out and, I think, try to tag each other.  We would squeal with laughter and insist 'again' and make my mom play it over and over.  This game was BEST played with my cousins on the out of tune piano at the Lake House on Canandagua Lake, but we played it anywhere, anyhow.

I remember my mom going to night classes in CT to get a masters degree.  During that time she had a project that I remember vividly.  The project was teaching children to write poetry, so one summers day we had all the neighbors over to our backyard.  On the picnic table and blankets all us kids wrote Haiku poems.  We were so thrilled to be 'published' in her school paper.

My mom was a wonderful encourager.  She encouraged us to not be afraid and didn't respond with fear when things happened.  I remember one story about my older sister Kathie.  She fell down an entire flight of stairs as a little one.  When Kathie got to the bottom of the stairs and my mother rushed to her side, my mom said 'great job Kathie - you did that so well - you fell in a graceful way so you didn't land on your head.'  Kathie wasn't hurt, so she brushed herself off and went about.   She didn't cry or act fearful because my mom had responded so positively and enthusiastically.  My mom always let us try to solve our own problems and didn't meddle in our issues.  We were very independent girls because we were given the ability to try so many things on our own.  She is the same way with her grandchildren.  Here she is below with Baby Sarah (quite a few years ago!!)

My mom has a beautiful soprano singing voice.  She would often get hired to sing at weddings and church events.  I remember going with her (especially a church in Peekskill) to rehearse with the organist.  The church would be empty except for us and I would wander around the pews and have the sweet sound of Ave Maria (or another beautiful song) surrounding me.   She loves to perform and still performs several concerts or events each year.  That's her below with the accordion and her music group Talisker. 

One really awesome thing about my mom is that I don't ever remember her criticizing me.  Never.  I got disciplined (hairbrush or wooden spoon on my bottom.)  I got yelled at.  But never was I criticized.  I never felt my mom was disappointed in me or that I did not live up to her expectations.  She was (and is) always singing my praises - you are so beautiful, you are so wonderful...... of course she would say this in front of friends when I was a teenager or young adult and embarrass me to death, but what a great thing.  I meet so many people my age who say 'oh my mom is coming, I need to clean my house or color my hair or cook such and such because they fear the snide little comment by their mom about something...'  My mom never makes me feel bad about myself or that I 'could do better.' She is also so appreciative of things.  Like a few months ago, I called her on the phone on the way to work.  I do this pretty much every week and she was like 'thanks so much for calling me.  I appreciate it.'  I mean how nice is THAT?  Don't you wish everyone did that?

My mom is a special lady and I love her.  I'm so glad she was that colorful, full of life mom with the big smile.  She made me who I am today.  Thanks Mom - Enjoy your day!  You deserve it.


Anonymous said...

Linda. What a beautiful tribute. Your Mom is a very special woman & you are all lucky to have each other. I am glad you mentioned your Mom's beautiful smile. It is always the first thing about her that I think of. Happy Birthday Donna. joan monroe

Shelly N. said...

What a wonderful birthday gift it is for your mother to read how blessed you know you have been to be born as her daughter. I have never read a more glowing tribute to a mother than this one.