Today marks 10 years since my father passed away. It doesn’t seem possible that it has been a full decade when so many memories of that difficult time feel as recent as last week. But that’s how time works.
Over the past several months, I have been doing a lot of introspection on the role that Montessori has played in my life, how it still pertains to my life, and how it can impact my future. My father had a large role in that. So today, I want to pay tribute to him for that.
When I was barely three years old, my younger sister was born and my parents had just recently opened their furniture store. I was the precocious child who learned how to read at the age of 2. And because we lived in an apartment attached to the store, I was always in there, following everyone around and asking a million questions. They knew they needed to get me into a program of sorts.
Following a tip from one of my mother’s friends, my father visited the Montessori school that was just a few miles away. He always told me that as soon as he walked in the door, he felt right at home and knew I needed to be there. I stayed all the way through sixth grade.
I think my father felt at home because it was just so natural and similar to how they were raising us. We naturally learned skills for running a business because we often had to help out in the store. We went on deliveries. I remember people used to get weirded out by my sister putting together their cribs in their nurseries. She always looked young for her age, but could do it better and faster than our hired help a lot of the time.
Dad was a gardener. He did all of our landscaping. I always wanted to help, so he found ways of breaking down the tasks so that I could participate.
He was also an artist. The store did take up a lot of his time, as did having me as an infant and then my sister. He put his art on pause for 20 years from when I was born until his older years. But his paintings hung all over our house and he would readily answer our questions about it. He encouraged our artistic explorations. I even remember him telling me that while he didn’t care for the style of painting I did in a college course, he appreciated the effort I had put into it and that we simply had different styles. Before I moved out of state, he paid for me to take an oil painting class with him. Our final Daddy-Daughter Date was a trip to the museum, followed by dinner and the symphony.
Dad always encouraged our desire for learning and made sure we had the resources we needed. He even let me have his college French textbooks for self-study as well as the math textbooks he used when teaching junior high math.
Speaking of French, he and my mother also made sure to find a way to send me to France for three school trips. He was with me on two of them, which were through the Montessori school. Some of my favorite memories are from those trips. In fact, here’s a picture of us celebrating my birthday there:
Dad also helped out a lot with the school we attended. They helped with using the truck to transport things between the school and the auditorium for our annual singalong. They would loan items from the store. They even bought a Christmas tree that my class decorated and used it as the store display for as long as it was still open.
My parents also believed in natural consequences. We would talk about them following various situations I’d get myself into.
And my parents were very good at explaining history to us, even if it was difficult. Dad especially would say, “This was considered okay back then, but not we know it isn’t.” So much talking. [10 years later, I still reach for the phone to talk.]
When I decided to become a Montessori teacher, my parents fully supported this, even though they knew I wouldn’t make as much money. [Yes, they caught crap for that.] They always encouraged us to follow our hearts. When my mother became increasingly difficult at home because of her Alzheimer’s, my father told me to stay put and not move home because I was doing what I was meant to do and where I needed to be.
They never tired of me sharing my stories. I remember once they came out to visit us in NY and came to school with me. I had a particularly busy group that year. My dad was overwhelmed by the activity, even though it was controlled chaos. So he went into the teacher room and charmed everyone while he laminated and cut out materials for me to use. People still talk about that visit.
Dad supported my Montessori career so much that he avidly read my old articles and blogs [which will eventually be reprinted here]. He also went out in search of items I could treasure, such as an authentic Maria Montessori signature that he had framed and first editions of English translations of her books.
And finally, my parents taught us empathy. Dad was in AA and sponsored several young men over the years. If anyone ever needed a place to stay, our small home was open to them. I had one friend who lived with us for most of a year. And if you had nowhere to go on a holiday, an extra place setting had your name on it.
I could probably come up with hundreds of examples of the things my parents taught me. But I won’t. I just remember as I was going through my training, I realized how naturally Montessorian they were.
Now, they were by no means perfect. And there was a period of time where I did not get along with my father, of course. But I choose to focus on those positives and hold onto that light. And I am forever grateful to them for my Montessori life.