My Second Mom

Marcia Born (My second mom)

I  grew up just two doors down from the Born’s, which in our neighborhood, meant that you were born into a connected family of neighbors. I had at least 3 or 4 mothers, countless brothers and sisters, and could never get away with crossing the street, unattended without a spanking.  Marcia, was just one of my many mothers, but the relationship we shared, the lessons I learned from her, are unique in many personal ways.

Marcia’s life was a testament to the love she had for so many people.  At the very core of the person she was lye the belief that it takes a village, a large interwoven community, to raise children and to really live a fulfilled life. The community she belonged to:  be it the town she was born in, the family members who raised her, the church to which she belonged, or the family she would one day create, was central to who she was as a person. Her life is not merely a tapestry of accomplishments, awards, and experiences…but instead a filmstrip of interpersonal relationships and connections—a movie of stern lectures, sweet giggles, and a few frustrated sighs.

It was the fall of 1944 when Marcia first made her appearance.  Her father, a pilot in World War II died in a plane crash, just 3 weeks before.  I can only imagine Marcia’s arrival brought a sense of hope to the two families dealing with such profound loss—and both sides of her family would unite to raise her. She became the glue that would bind these people together…providing a look towards the future.  Here, she first experienced the power and stability of growing up with so many people loving her, offering limitless possibilities to her life, and providing stability in a time cloaked in war and loss.

In those days, she spent her summers on a farm belonging to her father’s side of the family, a place where she could run and play, be outside and learn about her dad.  She told us how her grandfather would drive her into town each time she needed to use the bathroom…because Marcia refused to use the outhouse.  Her keen sense of properness and etiquette, most likely came from her mother’s side of the family—a tightly bound group of people who taught Marcia a sense of style, the belief in God, and the ability to trust.  Marcia’s mom owned a clothing store in DeKalb, and Marcia was quite happy she always had the latest styles within her reach.  Both her mom and her dad’s families provided a foundation of community support and togetherness that Marcia would come to both rely upon and provide throughout her entire life.

By the time Marcia graduated high school, she strung together quite a list of talents.  Both a cheerleader and a baton twirler, Marcia was known for her bright smile and eager spirit. An active, buoyant girl…Marcia was always participating in some activity. She loved to tell us about how fast she could run, and even bragged that no one could beat her in a foot race.  From her practices with the Marilyn Majorettes at the Sycamore Park, to swimming as a competitive swimmer, Marcia never tired of spending time with The Big Twelve baton team, her high school classmates who would later become known as the Lunch Bunch, or the family that was still guiding her.

College life for Marcia was spent at the University of Illinois—a place that would stay close to her heart her entire life. She was a proud member of the Delta Gamma sorority, and cherished the friendships that began in those years. While there, she had the unique opportunity to dance with Dick Butkiss. Legend has it that she put her feet upon his, and let him lead.  I find this somewhat hard to imagine, because Marcia was always the pilot of her own life. In those days, she spent some time dating a University of Illinois Football player, a fact fair to mention, because Rich would go on to beat him in an arm wrestling match AND win the girl–a fine accomplishment in deed.

It was July of 1971, while sitting on the shores of a lake during a moonlit summer night, that Rich would first tell Marcia he loved her.  Those words would go on to be shared between them countless times, but when Marcia first heard those words, she almost fell into a lake.  The romance moved quickly, and five months later, Rich decided to propose.  In perhaps the only romantic gesture of his life, Rich spent hours wrapping the engagement ring in 25 boxes, each box slightly larger than the one before.  On each box, there were 2-3 layers of wrapping paper.  I imagine Marcia sitting there, her expectations rising as she peeled those layers off, one by one, slowly unveiling the life she dreamed of and had waited for—the life where she could finally start to build her own village, her own family on the same foundation of common traditions, steadfast loyalty, and spiritual commitments.  This life would begin with a marriage to a man who would love and support her for the next 37 years. Someone who was strong enough to let her lead, but brave enough to never walk away…someone she could always find just a “RICH…” away.

In 1973, Rich and Marcia would embark on the most rewarding and perhaps frustrating journey of their lives. Gregory was born.

By that time, the Born’s had taken permanent residence on Terrace Drive—a neighborhood of young families who were always outside, went camping together, protected each other’s children, and even bickered from time to time. Greg and Ryan and the other neighbor boys embarked in big wheel races while wearing firemen hats and were used to being scolded and lectured by each other’s mothers. Ryan would come home often in Greg’s clothing, because Marcia decided it was too cold outside for short sleeves.

Camping trips provided comic relief for the whole bunch, as women argued over who would pack what appliance and who would get to do the cooking. Marcia would pack skillets and other appliances with plugs. It was up to the men to figure out what would actually provide the electricity…but breakfast was not going to be altered. There was no doubt who would organize and plan these festivities…and they were always pulled off without a hitch. Marcia got a kick out of the connection she had with her neighbors, and when Greg would get angry and run away, she’d call my mom and with a sigh say, “Greg ran away again…and he’s headed your way.” She was too intelligent to get frazzled by it, but too protective to not call a friend…enlist the village, stay connected, ask for help.  These conversations would always end the same way, with her proclaiming that, “oh…I just know they switched Greg in the nursery.”

Looking back, it is hard to imagine who needed that village more, Greg or Marcia.   Greg undoubtedly needed the patience and unconditional love of a woman who knew when to take charge, and when to ask for help.  And Marcia, with Rich’s support, still needed the guidance of a group of women all experiencing the same confusing world of parenthood. It was a system, and it worked well.   They shared car pooling responsibilities, snacks at baseball games, and slumber party hosting. One particular time, it was Marcia who drew the short end of the straw and got the unique pleasure of picking up Greg and all his friends from a high school dance.  When the boys filtered into the minivan, all chewing Big Red gum, it didn’t take Marcia long to figure out the bad behavior they were trying to cover up.  One by one, she took each boy home, but not before providing a stern lecture on her disappointment…not just in Greg, but in all the boys in that van.  Then, one by one, she called each mother, delivered the unfortunate news…and demonstrated her love and connection to each of the boys in her car that night.  She was a loyal friend, who cared less about being a cool mom, and more about doing what is right.

Marcia provided guidance and loyalty to all of us kids, and I always considered myself partly hers. She was careful to include me for dinner with the boys and the large bushes in front of her house were my ace in the hole when I was finally old enough to play ditch with Greg and Ryan.  Later, when I was planning my own wedding, Marcia threw me a beautiful wedding shower. For those of you lucky enough to attend one of Marcia’s functions, you know that there are wedding showers…and then there are Marcia’s wedding showers.  She spared no expense; there were fancy white plates, tea cups with saucers, ribbon sandwiches and a crystal punch bowl. Food was served promptly and I remember that she even had Yankee candles made into flower arrangements for my grandmothers. Marcia knew etiquette, and the girl who couldn’t use an outhouse, certainly wasn’t going to serve food on a paper plate.  Her grace and elegance was on display always, and even as she lay on her hospital bed, I noticed her beautiful hands, soft skin, and of course…those gold earrings.

It is hard to imagine that a life so full of people could have more room to give. But, Marcia’s passion for love was limitless. Even in her career, she found the capacity to develop lifelong friendships and the admiration of others.  It isn’t surprising that Marcia was a teacher, coach, coordinator, and secretary throughout her working life. But it was at Sycamore High School as the Secretary to the Principal where she really found her stride.  Work was more than a job, it was her passion.  Her attention to detail and respect for tradition were noticeable to anyone who crossed her path. She was strict, and she had a system for everything—from the time of day she completed certain tasks, to where students stood when asking questions. But, she also brought her role as mother hen to the high school as well.  If a student needed lunch money, they knew Marcia was good for it.  She was particularly happy to look out for those neighborhood kids, who one by one made their way through the doors of the Sycamore High.  I was told that on Monday, the day that Marcia passed, a memo went out to each teacher and staff person at Sycamore High School, even though it has been over 10 years since she worked there. I think that would make her very proud.

In more recent years, each time I visited Marcia, she always talked about 3 things, The Lunch Bunch, Church, and her grandchildren.  The lunch bunch, as they affectionately call themselves, is a group of about 25 women who graduated from DeKalb High School in 1962. This group remained friends over the past 48 years, and brought Marcia so much joy.  The group, of course, always met at Marcia’s house. Most often, the ladies would bring their own sack lunches and Marcia would have cookies and drinks prepared.  I can only imagine the noise level in a room with 25 women, but I bet the stories of husbands and grandchildren, careers and activities were beautiful.  Marcia loved coordinating these events, and from time to time, would even provide the meals, with a little help from Rich of course.

Although Marcia received about 30 emails a day from her friends and family, the art of writing letters and sending personalized cards was never lost.  I imagine no one is more appreciative of her card writing than are the parishioners at Hillcrest Church who receive these special gifts during a time on need.  Marcia served as a Deacon for about six years, and in this service placed countless phone calls and sent out hundred of those cards. I can picture Marcia writing and designing these cards, one by one—each personal and relevant…and then, like clockwork, calling upon Rich to fill the printer with the right size paper.  A system that worked well over the years, because when each of us opened those cards, we knew they came from 2 loving hearts, not just one.   She did whatever was needed to provide comfort, advice, and care for her church family. She was careful to spread the word about a person in need, and in this way, kept that village operating…making sure no one was left behind, or was alone.

I’d like to think, that in this life, we eventually get what we give. In Marcia’s case, this is certainly true—because Rich, Greg, Stephanie, Kayla and Chelsea gave her more joy and pride than anyone could ever hope for.

In Rich, she found patience and understanding—a man who provided her a good life, full of ski trips and swimming pools. A man pragmatic enough to give her heart shaped pie tins, (which, it should be said, she never used), but secure enough to always let her drive.

In Greg, she found a spirited young man who would take time to mature, but would enjoy every moment of it. Thirsty for life, Greg provided laughter and reminded Marcia of how fun it could be to run fast and feel care free.  Now a Shriner, a husband, teacher and a father…Greg has come into his own, and I’m certain Marcia no longer thinks he was switched at birth.

In Stephanie, she finally found her daughter.  A woman who would love her son, stand by him, offering him support when Marcia couldn’t anymore.  Here, she also found a friend, someone she could vent to, lead, and give advice to.  Someone to call upon for help, who always answered her calls, who never turned her away.  And how could she? After all, it was Marcia who paid for Stephanie’s plane ticket, just 24 hours before a family function, just so Steph could meet the family. I’m sure Marcia saw something special in Stephanie, and knew she’d be around for awhile.

When Marcia had the good fortune to help plan Stephanie and Greg’s wedding, she was appalled to find the young couple had neglected to register for any crystal or china.  After sending them back to the store with a explicit instructions about what to choose, she was EVEN more appalled to discover that Greg had only added one piece of crystal to his selection—a ½ foot tall crystal golfer in mid swing.  A mortified Marcia rushed to the store to purchase it herself before any of her friends would see Greg’s extravagance.  She was pleased with herself, until their shower day…when Greg and Stephanie opened not one, but two Waterford Crystal Golfers.

As Marcia passed away, I sat quietly next to her bed, and listened to Stephanie whisper in her ear.  Steph told Marcia how much she loved her, how she had always been a good mother to her.  That she would take care of Greg.  In the village, love has no distinctions; we take love where we can find it. And if we are lucky, we have the chance to say thank you.

And then there are her granddaughters—two little girls who picked up right where Greg left off. Spirited and witty, fearless and beautiful.  In Chelsea and Kayla, Marcia found hope and more opportunities to teach tradition and extend family.  She cherished when the girls came swimming, and loved buying them clothes and toys.  In fact, Rich is a little concerned that quite a few catalog companies may now go out of business.  But those girls brought her so much joy, and of course, Kayla and Chelsea will always remember how funny grandma was. How she helped them with their homework, planned sleepovers, shared laughs.  They watched game shows together and made up their own games, where Marcia would time how quickly the girls could run from one place to another.

Weaving our way through the threads of Marcia’s life creates a picture of a community and a village all its own.  Her life was a ministry to those she loved, her home a chapel, where friends and family gathered to spend time with her.  Her hands soft reminders of unconditional love and her voice, sweet and nurturing.  It is no accident that when Marcia drew her last breaths, she was surrounded by her husband, her son, her daughter, and her best friend.  And it is no surprise, that on Sunday she kept repeating just 2 simple words, Stick Together.

In a life where friends are family and family are friends, it is hard to ever really feel alone.  And it should remind us all, that in end…Life isn’t necessarily how we choose to live it, but how we love during it. At its very core, living is about who and what we choose to love. And Marcia loved very well!

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