Daily Archives: May 12, 2012

What I Learned from My Mom

No gift to your mother can ever equal her gift to you – life. ~Anonymous

In many ways, I am my father’s daughter. Stubborn, strong, creative, sensitive, intelligent, introverted, pensive, easily irritated and hurt, critical, and funny, (what some might call a “smart ass”). I offer you these two pictures as some measure of proof.

Both of us are lucky enough to have my mom, to love us, to take care of us, and to forgive us when we need it.

I have been thinking about those without a mother, whether their mother has died or is simply absent or ineffective, and about what a sad thing that is, to have to become your own mother. For my entire life, I’ve had a mother who loves me, who wanted me, who took care of me and still does, when I let her. She has been and is a constant, loving presence in my life. I am so lucky.

What I’ve learned from my mom:

  1. Kindness. This is my mom’s most fundamental quality. She is kind to everyone she meets, even the ones that don’t necessarily deserve it. I learned from her that you lose nothing by being kind, gentle, friendly, nice, and more importantly, that by doing so you might ease someone else’s suffering.
  2. Generosity. My mom is giving and compassionate, to every one, especially those who need it most or have the least. She taught me the importance of service, charity, helping, pitching in, sharing the load, and that “many hands make light work.”
  3. Love of books, music, and film. My mom read to me, encouraged me to read, showed me the wonder of stories and books, gifted me that constant and abiding joy, so central to my life. There was always music in our house, and singing, another pleasure that infuses my life, so much so it feels as essential as eating or breathing or sleep. Some of my favorite memories are of snuggling up on the couch and watching movies like “Funny Girl” together. Even now, one of our favorite things to do together is to rent three or four movies and spend the whole day watching.
  4. How to make a home. She taught me to sew, to mend, to garden, to cook, to bake, to clean, to do laundry, to make a bed, to mow a lawn, to throw a party. She showed me the value of hard work and handmade, the ways to make peace. She taught me to take care of myself, to be independent, but also to nurture others, to create a home filled with love and comfort.

    Mom with my cousin Brian, who was asking her “these weeds?”

  5. Joy and Gratitude. These are so closely linked, I don’t know how to write about them separately. For my mom, the moment there is joy, the gratitude for whatever conditions enabled that joy will immediately follow. “I’m so happy” and “I’m so thankful” are almost the same thought. My mom shares her joy, is funny, and not in the mean, snide way I can sometimes be funny, but in the sweetest, silliest way. She makes me laugh, but also reminds me to notice how beautiful the world around us is, how lucky we are. She’ll say, “oh look!” and point out something I would have walked right past. In the worst of moments, she puts her heart and effort into cheering up, raising spirits, hoping for and looking towards that better day she is certain will come.
  6. Humility. My mom has a modest view of her own importance, her own worth. She won’t take full credit for the work she does, the impact she makes, but would rather share the wealth. She doesn’t do to be known or praised, but rather because the doing needs done, and she has love to give.
  7. Hard work. My mom is not a big woman, but I have seen her do backbreaking, hard labor. She grew up on a farm, the second oldest of 12 children, and she knows how to work, and never shies away from it. She rolls up her sleeves and gets to it. I dare you to invite her to dinner and try to keep her from helping to clean up, from doing the dishes–better men than you have tried and failed.
  8. Patience. She’s not going to let you get to her. She has the capacity to accept, to tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset, to remain cool, calm, steady–she’ll simply try another approach, another way, even if that means ignoring or denying the trouble altogether. She hardly ever gets irritated, (it happens, but it’s rare), flustered maybe, but she’s almost never angry.

    my brother Chris, me, and Mom at Disneyland

  9. Faith. We no longer share the exact same faith or set of practices, but my mom taught me the value of trusting, believing in something sacred. She taught me that there is love, that we are loved, and that we can be love, that love is worth practicing, devoutly. Also, that it doesn’t matter who or what we pray to, there is power in prayer.
  10. Not to worry.This is the only thing on this list where she taught me something by doing it in a way I don’t want to model, by being a bad example. She worries too much, can’t seem to help herself, especially when it comes to her family. If something hurts us, is hard for us, it hurts her too, and when she can’t directly fix it or make it better, she worries. It makes me sad to see it, how sad and upset she makes herself, and helps remind me that worrying doesn’t help.

    Mom with her first granddaughter, baby Jessamy

  11. Family and friends. This is what is most important to my mom, always has been. If she is your friend, you are so lucky. If she’s your mom, well…even better.
  12. Love + forgiveness + hard work = marriage.My parents have been married for 45+ years. What they’ve taught me is that sometimes it’s hard, you fight, drive each other crazy, but sometimes it’s really good, you laugh until your face and stomach hurt, you help each other make it through the tough stuff, and through all of it you love each other, are a family, and all the other stuff, you find a way to forgive. It’s no mystery why I got out of a bad first marriage and have such a successful second one–I know what I want and how to make it work (so far, knock on wood, fingers crossed).

    my 8th grade graduation

  13. Education. My mom valued our education, and did what she could to help us with it. She went on almost every field trip, volunteered in our classrooms and at school events, and was even the chairman of our school board for awhile. When I was 13, she started a career as an office manager at a middle school. All the kids and staff and parents loved her. Even after she retired, she volunteered at my old grade school for a few years, helping kids with their reading. She taught me that the path to everything I wanted, to success and being able to take care of myself, was through my education. She believed in school as a safe place for all kids but especially the ones who didn’t have that at home, a way kids could gain confidence and power. She knew an education would enable them to help themselves and to then maybe, hopefully go on to help others, and she did what she could to assist them.
  14. The joy of walking, of talking. I have a lot of pictures of my mom on the phone, partly because she’d never let my dad take her picture otherwise, but also because she actually spent time talking to people, (she still writes letters too). And she loves a good walk, first thing in the morning, or before or after dinner. I have walked many miles next to her, talking about nothing and everything, and hope to walk many more.
  15. How to be a good mom. More than likely, at this point I won’t literally be anyone’s mom, other than my dogs, but if I were to be, I know I’d be awesome at it, because I had such a good role model.

Oddly enough, this post has been kind of hard to write. You’d think that it would make me happy, that I’d feel nothing but good doing it. But to think in depth about all the things I love so much about my mom makes me profoundly sad. We live 1200 miles away from each other, and only get to spend physical time together once a year, and I miss her.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love and miss you, and I’ll see you soon!