All that I am I owe to my motherGeorge Washington
It’s Mother’s Day, and my thoughts turn to the mothers who have taught and loved me. In honor of those who are no longer here, and in appreciation for those who continue to inspire me daily, I share some of what I’ve learned from these ladies-and from my friends who are mothers.
Cheers to all of you for your resilience, unconditional love, and generosity of spirit. To my friends who were born to these wonderful mothers, I also know and love, and thank you for sharing your moms with me. It is so rewarding to witness the seeds of the life lessons we learned from “our” mothers now growing and thriving in your own children. Enjoy your day, and enjoy your families!
Be a parent first and in the end, you will be their best friend.
My friend from first grade and I were having a discussion the other day about motherhood, and we reminisced about her mother. Her mom had passed away before she was able to meet her own daughter. The greatest lessons learned from her mother were how to love, how to love selflessly, and how to communicate with love. These practices in love have contributed to a friendship between her and her 17-year old daughter. The friendship is work, though it is the most precious gift she has from being a mother.
Hearing that I was writing this post, my friend’s 17-year-old daughter reached out to me. She had this to say about her shared love and friendship with her mother: “I love her more than words can describe. My mom is my best friend, and I am so happy to share that bond with her, along with the mother-daughter bond. I love our endless laughs, walks, and talks, along with all of our adventures to see family and friends. As an only child, I would have to say that my fondest memory of my mom would be growing with her. I know it’s not specific, but she has made me who I am today, and she has grown with me while doing it. The little random moments that occur throughout my day with her will always have a special place in my heart.” How poignant it is for me, a friend, to see this life lesson handed down to the third generation.
Explore the world.
My mother always encouraged me to explore the world. We didn’t have extra money growing up, though somehow she scrimped and saved and made it possible for me to whet my appetite for travel as early as my high school years. It was important to her that I experience different cultures, see what life looked like elsewhere, be transfixed by the monuments made famous in magazines, and understand what makes our country so great. My adventures are varied and vast, and as I’ve gotten older, I’m even more appreciative of all that I’ve seen and experienced. They’re very personal stories and ones that I’ll cherish forever with immense gratitude to my mother.
Generosity isn’t exclusive to having a lot of money to give to people. Rather, it means sharing and taking an interest the life of others. Growing up an only child, and child of a single parent, some of my fondest memories still are of the generosity of spirit from the families of friends.
In junior high, through a friendship of my mother’s, I was adopted by a family who I still call family today. This lady opened her home to me during a sad time in my life and filled me with warmth and compassion. At her home, I learned how to swim, how to write a business letter, how important education is, and how to enjoy the pleasantries of quiet and thoughtful conversations over a cup of hot tea. With my mother, she and I had so many excursions near and far: long, lingering lunches, theater and cultural outings, and exciting USC football games all across the country, The most endearing of memories are the simple storytelling between her and now-deceased husband (who was like a father) where we solved the world’s dilemmas in the quiet of the den, the romantics of courtship in the 50s and how true love between two persons can be effortless. She’s 92 now, and I still enjoy and learn from our near daily discussions.
On the day I moved to college, my roommate’s family was the first group I met, and our friendship is still meaningful to me to this day. Their family home was the one where all of the kids wanted to hang out for its lively spirit, infectious laughter, and casual environment. Her mother (and father’s) genuine interest and care in others fostered this atmosphere where I, and so many of her children’s friends, would just come and sit and share the high’s and low’s of their day, introduce their boyfriends/girlfriends, play board games or just share a TV show together. She just made you feel always welcome and loved. With her genuine interest and care in me and others I met at their house, she quietly fostered in me the drive and desire to nourish friendships. To this day, her children and I are in touch daily sharing our lives and supporting each other. These are my friends for life.
In high school, a classmate’s mother was particularly kind to me and included me regularly in their weeknight dinners, holiday celebrations and even weekend excursions. She taught me that green salads should be served at every dinner, how to can 100 jars of tomatoes in a weekend, how to make a proper glass of brewed iced tea, how to pray, and that it’s okay to tell your family and friends you love them. Just by watching her, I learned how to care for my own friends and other people. While I don’t have much recollection of all the things we talked about, I still remember how she made me feel. I was always welcome in her home and unconditionally loved.
I asked her daughter, my friend, what her fondest memory of her mother would be, and this sums her up perfectly: “She loved her family and always wanted my brothers and I to stay longer than we had planned. Her unconditional love was like no other. Words like love, sacrifice, hard-working, determined, dependable, independent, inspiring, responsible, dedicated, supportive, strong and faithful are all honorable descriptions for any person. Having a mother that demonstrated these characteristics is priceless.” They’ll remember.
I hope you’ll share with me in the comments what you remember about a mother in your life. More importantly, share it with them if you still can.
Happy Mother’s Day!