19: It’s Never Too Late

19: It’s Never Too Late

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

It’s Never Too Late

It’s never too late to be what you might have been.

~George Eliot

My mom sprinkles joy wherever she goes. Right now she is probably writing an encouraging note to a friend, complimenting someone she has encountered in the hallway, or reading the newspaper to an ailing resident in her retirement community. Or maybe she’s planning the next show by the Prime Life Follies, an entertainment group she started ten years ago for assisted living complexes and nursing homes.

Growing up, my mom thought about becoming a dancer, but she didn’t have the opportunity until after retirement. Then she joined her first group, The Hot Flashes. Once she donned the tap shoes, “Dancin’ Grammy” was born.

There seems to be no end to her energy as she tap-dances her way into people’s hearts, bringing smiles to sad places. But this is nothing new for my mom.

A lifetime educator, she was recognized in the 1980’s as her school district’s Teacher of the Year. I remember the evening phone calls to students’ homes when she took a break from grading papers. They were not the typical bad-news calls many parents would expect. Usually she was calling about something positive. She recognized students who made small steps forward and helped even the unruly ones reach their full potential, revealing gifts they often did not see.

I was the youngest of seven children and life wasn’t easy for my mother. I remember sitting on the back of her bike as she took me to a daycare center for low-income families on her way to Rosary College, where she was pursuing an education degree. At home she was tough because she had to be. It was not an easy childhood, but we learned from watching her. Her work ethic and determination trickled down to all of us.

I could write a book about my mom, and maybe I will someday. Better yet, we may write one together, as her dream to be a writer has not yet been fulfilled. But she got one step closer by attending the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Dayton, Ohio. We were a mother-daughter pair of newbies. Actually, we were known as virgins, officially “Erma Virgins.” My mom was a lifelong Erma fan and for years she had talked about writing a book, so I knew attending this workshop would be a perfect Christmas gift. The three-day conference was jam-packed with information and helped launch our writing careers.

Day one started with our decision to “divide and conquer,” a strategy designed to soak up more knowledge from concurrent sessions. But by the end of the day we had conquered not a thing except finding bathrooms and snack tables.

By day two we focused on companionship and together attended a workshop on the use of social media tools to build a digital brand. I peered over at Mom’s notes, knowing she had no idea what Facebook Live was on “The Facebook,” as she called it. Next, we found our way to lunch as the program began with the announcement of the conference king and queen. As the master of ceremonies spoke of a mother-daughter team she had met the previous day, I realized she was talking about us. I was overcome with emotion when we heard, “Will our new queen, Lori Mansell, please come forward with her daughter Julie?”

On the stage, the keynote speaker placed a bejeweled plastic crown on Mom’s head, and the new queen was offered a moment at the microphone. “I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and you’ve all inspired me,” she began. “This is a new beginning. I’m going to write a book. It’s never too late!”

With that, the Erma Virgin had become the Erma Queen, inspiring more than 350 attendees from all over the country. Throughout the afternoon, fellow writers greeted her with bows and hand kisses. Selfies with the royal family became commonplace. The queen perfected her regal wave.

And just before we departed for our Indianapolis castle — home — we had a divine hallway encounter with the Bombeck family. After a photo shoot with Erma’s children, we made our way to the car, and the Queen was on a cloud the entire drive home. The next day she sat down at her computer to draft her first story, “Queen for a Day,” typing away with the crown still proudly secured on her head.

From mother of seven to grandmother of eighteen, Dancin’ Grammy, now better known as the Erma Queen, continues to inspire everyone she meets. She has many titles, but my favorite is Mom. She has been a symbol of sacrifice, encouragement, perseverance, selflessness, and joy — all wrapped in bountiful, unconditional love.

May my mom’s zest for living create a ripple effect, serving as an empowering example of kindness and encouragement to all who cross her path as she continues to tap-dance her way through life. No doubt her book will one day become a bestseller. There’s nothing she can’t do — even now at the ripe young age of eighty-eight.

Indeed, it’s never too late!

~Julie Osborne

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