Happy Birthday, Renice Konik

My beautiful mother, Renice Konik, turns 65 today. She’s now officially a senior citizen.

I would suggest, however, that if you didn’t have access to her government-issued identification — or a Web page trumpeting the fact — you wouldn’t guess that this vibrant, vivacious lass is eligible for Social Security (and bargain matinees). My mom continues to teach elementary school, where, far from being considered “Old Lady Konik, the Dour Ogre,” she’s lauded as the most inventive and creative pedant in the building. Her classroom, which has as many animals in it as books and inspiring epigrams, radiates the spirit of curiosity, and her students can’t be bored no matter how hard they try. There’s just too much to do and process and question. Plus, the youngsters must take care not to let their guards down. Fair and balanced be damned: Mrs. Konik does her best to brainwash their susceptible minds, turning her young charges into egalitarian, unprejudiced, critical thinking humanists with a penchant for social justice.

Mommy Ren is also a grandmother, a role she was born to play. Lily, Luke, and Karly seem to view her as both an overgrown playmate and an oracular fount of wisdom. She’s a great granny. But look at her: hoop earrings, gypsy skirts, Native American jewelry, leather boots. This is no dowager; this is a hippie with membership in AARP.

My mom has always been my biggest fan and harshest critic. Everything I write or say, everything I do must pass the Mom test. It must be fair-minded and kind, free of tendentiousness and cruelty, cognizant of the short- and long-terms. It must be decent. At 65, Renice has learned enough to know that we can all make this world an incrementally better place, just by being what she simply terms “a good person.” And she’s the prime example.

At 65, Renice Konik has no intention of quitting on life. She’s got too much to learn, too many places to see, too many people to meet. Too many children and grandchildren and possibly great-grandchildren to enjoy. She’s in terrific health — she’s a vegetarian and a regular exerciser — and although her family history would suggest otherwise, she plans on living to at least 100. (Which is one reason she pesters me about my diet, etc. She expects all of us to be around for many years.) She brought me into this world young (she was only 24) so there’s a fine chance that we’ll both be “old” together. Except for one thing: No one ever thinks of Renice as old, not when she turned 40, or 50, or even now, at 65.

Happy birthday to a remarkable lady!

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2 Responses

  1. Barry says:

    Say hello to your Mom for me.
    We were friends in college
    Barry NewDelman

  2. Elyse Manning says:

    Hey! I came across this when Googling your mother on a lark… She was my 2nd and 3rd Grade teacher many many many many years ago, (I’m 38!) and made me the woman I am today In all of the ways you mentioned and more. I often cite her as one of the greatest influences in my life, right down to my fashion sense! I realize this post is 9 years old… but I thought I’d put this out there just in case. I hope she’s living well in her 70s! Send her my love and respect… I’d be surprised if she remembered me, but I will never ever forget her! xo
    Elyse Manning