This weekend is the memorial service for the mom of my friend Katie, who happens to be one my favorite people in the world. Katie and I transferred to the same high school in our junior years and although it was under polar opposite circumstances, somehow we became friends.

And while I adore Katie to this day, this blog post is about her mom Janet. Janet was unlike any other mom I had ever met. She was amazingly well-read, and wordly beyond what my simple redneck mind could comprehend. She talked directly to her children, had conversations that made it obvious that she respected them as people.

I learned a few things from Janet; here’s a list.

1. The well-being of your children is important. Where they live and what school they go to is a priority. Janet told me how when she needed to relocate she did research to find the town in America that had good schools, low crime, excellent community, etc. And when she found my little hometown in Michigan called Saugatuck she moved there, so her kids would be in the right place.

2. Kids should have summer reading lists. I had never heard of such a thing, but Janet gave her kids a reading list to work on over summer break. She wanted their minds stimulated and expanded. She wanted them to think and to use their imaginations.

3. Commuting 2 or 3 hours is no biggy. In order for her to live in Saugatuck and have her kids in the best school and community, Janet drove to her job on the OTHER side of Michigan. Then drove home each evening. Because living in the right place for the well-being of her family, and working hard to provide for them were two different subjects.

4. Wine and cheese can be paired perfectly and make a great accompaniment to stimulating conversations. Some evenings we would drive to the little wine store in Saugatuck, get a bottle or two of a red wine that I had never heard of, cheese that wasn’t Velveeta, crackers that were as light as air, and take them back to her home where we would drink, and snack, and talk about art history. She looked at me straight in the eye, asked my opinion like it was valuable, and used my name in conversation with me.

5. Janet taught her kids self-esteem. She taught them to think and explore. She treated me like an equal and made me feel normal. And while we completely lost touch after I moved away from there, I have thought about her often and hoped she was happy. She probably never knew how much she meant to me, how much she helped my self-esteem. She gave me hope that I could find others out there in the world that were kind, generous, and thoughtful.

RIP Janet. I’ll continue to miss you.

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