Life Lessons My Mother Taught Me

Life Lessons My Mother Taught Me

Art by Steve Hanks

This is a great time of year to think about mothers. Many of them are at this moment quite exhausted from preparing for the holidays and doing everything in their power to provide magic for their children. And many mothers do this while working full or part time, watching the budget that threatens to explode because of the season’s needs and continuing to monitor homework, prepare meals, and keep a household running efficiently.

Now We Are Six…How My Mother Financially Supported 3 Kids 

To steal from A. A. Milne’s book of poetry, I can remember six, a time when my older brother was 9 and my younger 3. A widow, my mother worked at home typing insurance policies in our dining room. At night she did what she called “processing” her day’s work. All we knew was her routine of sitting at a card table in the living room with paper clips, a stapler and even glue—a stack of paper gradually piling up until she was finished. And of course while doing this, my mother monitored our television watching or reading or stopped to help us with our homework. And this was every night, except weekends.

My mother taught me the rewards of a consistent and well organized routine—maybe today we call that multi-tasking.

Christmas and All the Trappings

So how did she ever find the time to do Christmas? One year my mother actually sewed a bra for the anatomically correct doll that I asked for, but who arrived without the proper foundations. If something needed to be assembled: a toy airplane or a pup tent—there was no one else but Mom to make sure things were Santa-ready.

There was the annual trip to Van Laten’s, the fresh vegetable store, whose parking lot at Christmas became a forest of freshly cut trees. Somehow we got one home each year—my older brother must have learned early how to lift the tree into the trunk of the car and tie down the trunk lid. Luckily our drive was short.

We never were disappointed during this economically challenging time of year. My mother must have scrimped and saved to make it happen. And we were always excited, full of the magic and truly grateful.

There were years when Mom developed a cold around the holidays—probably from exhaustion—but even so, she would get herself to our local church to sing Midnight Mass, somehow getting her high, clear soprano voice to function—a mini Christmas miracle.

My mother taught me commitment.

All We Need Is Music, Music Music

What can you do when there are dishes to wash or other mindless chores that must be accomplished? Easy, you can sing while doing it. How can you distract your five-year-old who doesn’t want her hair washed? Again, you can sing through it. My mother sang to us. Often. She had a beautiful voice. My grandmother did too, she being the fountain of good parenting, making sure that each of her children learned how to play the piano and another instrument of their choosing. Though my grandfather traveled and money was always tight, my Nana knew how to instill in her children a love of music, literature and art. And so did my mom. She drove used cars—but we had a piano! And eventually a good turntable and speakers—my older brother doing all the research and helping make this happen. Music filled our house.

My mother taught me love of the fine arts and that when you are feeling sad, you might try singing.

Kind and Generous

Through her openness and warmth my mother showed me and my brothers that acceptance can lead to happiness. There might have been a few weeks in my mother’s life when she felt anger or disbelief that she’d been left with three small children when my father died suddenly of a massive coronary. But there’s that old line about picking yourself up and dusting yourself off. Metaphorically, my mother did that–and never looked back. She made her life about us, and about always helping anyone who was experiencing sorrow of some kind. She replaced sorrow with gratitude.

The doorbell would ring and there was Gen and her daughter Mary Jane with a box of hand-me-down clothing for me. Hey! It was great. The clothes were lovely, Mary Jane growing faster than I did. There was also the friend who worked in a toy store or had some connection with one. Once a year, he’d arrive with very expensive toys—one for each of us.

When you can accept the generosity of others, the upside of that action is giving back. My mother always had a bag or box or envelope for people who cleaned for us. Thank you were two words that were often heard in our home and we took them with us, bestowing them on others throughout our lives.

My mother taught me to accept gifts graciously and to give back.

The Role of Motherhood

All my life I have been fortunate to be witness to good mothering—and I’m talking about my mother, my grandmother and the wonderful aunts in my life—role models all of them. They believed in me and helped me believe in myself, a process that is still on-going, a process that fuels the writing I do here and my book A Mother’s Time Capsule. One reader graciously wrote: I think your stories about motherhood had a striking effect on me because the stories brought home some things I think I knew unconsciously about motherhood (mine and my mother’s). So thanks for being able to write those stories.

You are so welcome! And thanks, MOM. You taught me well.

P.S. Google has made some changes, as Google often does. Currently, these changes have affected my POSTS being delivered to YOU if you use gmail. Please check your SPAM and move my posts, if you choose to, to your In-Box. I am working on this problem, but it is not solved yet.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, Beth

Art, Steve Hanks via Pinterest

Life Lessons My Mother Taught Me