Susan Bannos with daughters Stephanie (who nominated her), and Valerie. Susan is a hard worker who has dedicated her time and personal life to support her daughters through college.
There are a lot of thing my Mom deserves that she doesn't have. At 60 years old and having worked labor-intensive jobs her whole life, you can only imagine that she thought things would have gotten easier with older age. Her father died when she was 16 and her younger brother was 7. At that point, her mother told her that there would only be enough money to send her brother to college. At 18 she moved out and went to Cosmetology school, which she funded through waitressing. Her twenties were spent working as a beautician and later owning a screen-printing T-shirt store. She lived a modest but independent life until age 28 when she married my father after an 8 month courtship. Together they opened a restaurant in Willowbrook, IL where she worked 7 days a week managing and waitressing for 17 years. It took 8 years and many miscarriages before her first daughter was born, and another few miscarriages before her second daughter was born at age 39. All the while, she never owned a passport, had flown on 2 flights (one for their honeymoon to Hawaii and another to Florida), and lived in a 2 bedroom/1 bathroom apartment.
At age 45 they sold the restaurant and Mom became a lunch-lady in our school district. I look back on those years regretting that twinge of embarrassment I would feel when she'd be substitute serving at my school. At age 55, they decided to open a new restaurant in Bolingbrook, which flourished for a few years but was smothered by the recession. In 2010 they were forced to close the doors and file for bankruptcy. Now, at age 60, my mom is currently the sole source of income in my parents’ home, relying on a waitressing / staff manager position at a sports bar in Plainfield. She works 6 days a week, on her feet, into the late hours of the Friday and Saturday night drinking crowds.
Meanwhile, both of her daughters have put themselves through college with her support and guidance, and both of us are very successful.
Mom has found a lot of reward in her life simply by being a mother. She is a beautiful, classy and sophisticated woman who deserves to experience some of the finer things in life. But at this point, the finest things she will enjoy are what my sister and I buy her for her birthday and Christmas.
She has no savings, she has no retirement fund, and she has no health insurance. It pains me to ask, “How was your week?” when I talk to her on the phone because I can hear that she’s hardly holding her emotions together. At her age and with how hard she has worked, it’s simply not fair that she can’t afford to have her hair cut and colored by a professional (she does her own) and that she can’t afford a fancy night out with dinner and drinks once per year. She’ll never take another vacation unless my husband and I bring them on a future trip with us. She texts me to call her so that she can conserve the minutes on her phone plan, and she turns down invitations to brunch because she’s embarrassed that she can’t be the one to treat us to a meal.
It’s difficult to explain the quality and elegance she possesses as a person. She would love to see other countries, but that’s surely something that never crosses her mind anymore. She would love to get together with friends for tea at a fine hotel, but after gas, parking and the expense of the seating, it’s something she’ll never do. She loves what is pleasing to the eye – no surprise having chosen the Cosmetology profession as a girl – but she limits her clothing spend to the necessities (pair of jeans, pair of gym shoes, winter coat) each year. When she runs out of make-up or lotion, she goes without until it fits the budget for a replacement, and she’s never owned a single designer cosmetic.
Sure these are luxuries that many can’t afford, but what saddens me while also creating a deep sense of appreciation, is that I can afford these things only because of the effort she put towards raising me, supporting me emotionally, cultivating my ambitions, and pushing me to have more than she had.
She often says that the only thing she’s proud of is that her children will have good lives. I believe she tries to live vicariously through us, but often the burdens she faces everyday make it difficult to appreciate the good fortune of others – even if those others are her daughters. I would love for her to have a full day where she can feel taken-care of. Where she can feel beautiful and not run-down. A day that she can look back on and cherish as a day where she lived the way she would love to live – the sights, smells, and sounds of a high-end salon -- where she is the customer.