Saturday, May 2, 2009

Things my mother taught me

I will be out of town for Mother's Day -- spending it with my mom! Yay! She's 86 years old, still living on her own - cooking, cleaning, shopping, driving. She's one of the Steel Magnolias.

My friend jo loves lists, and Facebook has me thinking in groups of 5, so here's a list of 5 of the most important things that my mom has taught me:

1. Not just how to cook, but how to enjoy cooking. She isn't a gourmet cook with fancy sauces and 100 ingredients, but she's inspired me from a very sound foundation: throwing together a yummy and nutritious dinner in no time flat, and often with limited resources, is a skill my whole family appreciates. I just wish I could master her cornbread. It's unequaled and continues to hover just out of my grasp.

2. How to be patient.
"Patience is a virtue." This one was repeated like a mantra throughout my life -- in fact it still echoes in my head when needed. Helps me in my life, in my work and even in the kinds of hobbies I've grown to love. Just stopping to breathe, count to ten before responding, the power of the pause. All these things harken back to simply having patience.

3. How to sew.
Mom made a lot of my clothes growing up. Mostly out of necessity -- Dad was a teacher and she was a SAHM (like most of the era), so we lived quite frugally (another lesson for another list). and for a while - blissfully brief, in the grand scheme of things - I made many of my own clothes. And it's some comfort to know that if it ever came to it, I could again. When I was a little girl I had, as most little girls of that and subsequent eras have, a Barbie doll. But we didn't have the resources for all the accoutrement like the Dream House or the wardrobe. Not to buy them, anyway. But my Barbie had a designer wardrobe, and I was the designer - even down to the wedding dress. And she had quite the 'apartment' too. Sure, it may have looked like an orange crate from the outside, but it was painted and furnished with great elan (again, from the House of Me). I still think that I've fared far better in life from having to exercise my imagination and develop those crafting skills than I would have benefitted by frequent trips to ToysRUs to buy the latest and greatest.

4. How to love.
Mom and Dad had been married for almost 60 years when Dad died. Their marriage survived the kinds of things that marriages everywhere, financial challenges, differences of opinion, illness, death...they just dealt with it and kept going. To the very last, even when sitting in their living room watching TV, they'd be holding hands. I never had to doubt that my parents were deeply in love with each other, and always loved us. When my father died, I opened the eulogy with "The best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother. This my father did, in abundance." And mom loved him right back...and still does.

5. How to keep going.
I'm a firm believer in the premise that life doesn't hand us anything that we don't have the resources to handle. I've learned this from watching her. It may be a struggle to martial those resources sometimes, but you do it and you soldier through. Mom occasionally has surprised me with her perserverance, and sometimes to some it may look a little like martyrdom, but if you really know her you know that it comes from an abiding committment to never giving up. No matter what.

She's taught me a billion additional little life lessons in my 58 years, and God willing has many more to offer, but these 5 speak most to the core of who I am and how I live.

What has your mom taught you?


  1. I dont have a list handy in my head at the moment but I just LOVE this post, Pearl! It made my whole day!!

  2. hmmmmm... I love my mom, but a lot of what she taught me was what I wanted to do differently with my life.

    On the positive side, she made time to spend individually with each of us, which I have modeled with my own children. She took me to swimming lessons and riding lessons. She always had everything organized well for our three-week vacations out west to the national parks. She made sure we ate our veggies. She was just a typical, 60s/70s style devoted mom. I never doubted how completely and unconditionally she loved me.

    Where I've departed from her model is by modeling to my kids that being a mom isn't the only thing in my life. I make time to do things just for me. My career is important to me and I work hard to strike a balance between their needs and my responsibilities to my job. There are lots of times when I put aside what I want in favor of what they want, but not all the time. I think my mom should have stood up for herself more.

    I hope you have a wonderful visit with your mother, pearl!

  3. Those are great and one day (hopefully still a ways away), should be part of her eulogy.

    does anyone else have this problem? I have the hardest time buying a mother's day card each year because my mom did not do the things that other moms did. So i have to find sort of funny ones that have no message, just a joke.

    I learned from my mother by doing the opposite except that i am not always successful because like her, i often times, lack tact.

  4. Your Barbie house sounds great too, by the way!

  5. Mom passed away 25 years ago this past May 1.

    I was only 22 and needed her more than ever.

    I also learned more what not to do from her...she stayed with an abusive man because she couldn't support us. I knew I would never rely on a man just because it was financially more advantageous.

    She encouraged my love of books and libraries.

    She loved clothes and fashion. Until she hit her 50's she was a perfect size 6 (which would be a 4 now a days). I've never been smaller than an 8 no matter how I worked out or dieted.

    She was a wonderful cook and housekeeper. Considering she had emphysema that was a monumental task.

    She loved flowers..especially lilacs. I get misty eyed when I smell a lilac...

    I still miss her.