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Tammy Swift: Mom was no fool; she was cool

Tammy Swift, columnist

My mother turned 80 on May Day.

We ushered in her octogenarian years with a surprise party featuring all the things she loves: friends, family and food.

Part of the event included a videotape tribute that allowed nieces, nephews and friends from far away to share their memories of what they most loved about her. My cousin Tracy's video was particularly touching, as she reminisced about the childhood adventures on our farm, Mom's kindness toward my cousins and her creative spirit. And then she said something that had never occurred to us before: My mother was "cool."

My mother, cool? How was this possible from a Midwestern mother of five who loved to listen to Norwegian Cowboy Bjøro Haͦland at the Norsk Hostfest?

But when I really thought about it, Mom was ahead of her time. She had somehow broken out of the constricting expectations placed on women of her generation, and dared to take the road less traveled. She did so decades before it was common or popular to do so.

She was not called an entrepreneur, even though she started a successful art studio/supply shop in the late '70s, followed by a successful bed-and-breakfast (still operating today) in the mid-'90s.

She was not called a DIY-er, although she became a popular landscape artist who also learned how to do everything from glass-painting to cake-decorating, macramé, palette-knife painting and framing.

She was not a philanthropist, although she quietly did things like send money to my cousin when she learned she needed it or wrapped up Christmas presents for a neighbor family after their mother died too young.

She was not a whole foods advocate, although she ground our wheat into flour so she could make whole-wheat flour and signed up for a food co-op so she could buy her family healthy, fresh foods. (Ugh. You never know suffering until you've eaten carob chip cookies.)

She had never heard the term sandwich generation, although she balanced caring for my grandmother and her own family for years.

She was not Danika Patrick, although we gave her industrial-strength "fuzzbusters" for Christmas and she became known by all the Highway Patrolmen in the tri-county area for breaking the sound barrier with a 1967 Bel Air station wagon.

She was not a professional organizer, although she somehow balanced a home, a large family,

​her children's many activities and a business without forgetting our graduations, suffering a nervous breakdown or accidentally packing our lunches with mayonnaise packets and Milk of Magnesia.

She was not a feminist, although the actions and independence she modeled to her daughters demonstrated that a woman could accomplish anything if she insisted and persisted.

As a result, she managed to raise four strong, independent daughters and a son who respected women and was, in all ways, a good man.

So, yes, Tracy was right.

Thanks, Mom, for being cool.

Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at