All my life I’ve been lucky with women, from the woman who gave birth to me, then on to my wife, and now my four daughters. As long as I can remember I’ve been constantly surrounded by good women. Man, talk about good karma!
I want to tell you about the woman who started this lucky streak: my mom. She’s an oak of a woman, a tough survivor, yet she appears fragile and weak. She’s been tortured her entire life by the demons of self-doubt, fear and the darkness of depression, and yet weathered it all.
Mom had a hard life growing up. She came from a dirt poor family, poor not only in money, but in emotion and human warmth. A childhood of few smiles, little laughter. But she survived. This beginning set the tone for the first half of her life. She sleep-walked through her first 40 years, like someone trapped in a dismal dream. She survived a failed marriage to a deeply disturbed man (my father), who ultimately tried to kill her, but this frail woman fought her way out with the instincts of a street fighter.
Anxious for a new start, she came to Southern California with her child (me) in 1962. She remembers coming south and getting on Foothill Boulevard, out in Sylmar, and heading toward Pasadena. As she passed through the Foothill communities, her intuition told her to stop in La Crescenta. It seemed warm, friendly and charming (it still seems that way to me!). She stopped at the first real estate office she found, on the corner of Ocean View and Mira Vista. She bought a ramshackle old frame house on Raymond Avenue, later claimed by the freeway, and almost across the street from where I live today. And she tried her hardest to give me what she never had – a childhood of many smiles and much laughter, rich in emotion and warmth.
Through the following years she pulled herself slowly out of the doldrums she’d been living in the first half of her life. She remarried, traveled (particularly to New Zealand – her favorite), took flying lessons, produced a monthly travel newsletter. She grieved the death of her second husband, and rebounded. She produced four “romance novels,” never got published, but kept on writing.
And here again with my luck, I’ve been lucky enough to have her live next door to me for over 30 years now, during which time she’s been there to share the growing up years of all my daughters. She’s been their Barbie playmate, and she dedicated an entire room of her house in which to stage the elaborate Barbie fantasies she weaved with each granddaughter. As my daughters went through their phases of sports and the arts – music and dance – she made sure she was there for every event or game, even the rehearsals and practices.
Now she’s 87 and uses a walker. She has given up driving which, with my wife and I serving as her chauffer, gives us more time to talk with her. Each weekend I take her shopping, and most weekends we manage to squeeze in a leisurely drive around the side streets of Crescenta Valley, La Cañada and Tujunga. It’s our chance to reflect on our lives together, and how much we’ve meant to each other.
Just lately our talks have often brought us back to that drive down Foothill Boulevard, and how fortunate it was that she listened to her intuition that day. La Crescenta has been a great place to grow up and to grow old, for both her and me.
So now on Mother’s Day, I’d like to offer my deepest gratitude for all that my mom has given me. For giving me more than she ever had. For giving me the blueprint for a happy stable family life, even though she never had one herself.
Thanks for all this, and thanks for being there.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!
Mike Lawler is the president of the Historical Society of the
He can be reached at