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.


Art, Steve Hanks via Pinterest

Life Lessons My Mother Taught Me


18 thoughts on “Life Lessons My Mother Taught Me

  1. I love this post on Boomer Highway, partly because I had the privilege of being raised by the same mother as Beth. The other part I love about this post is to see my sister, and the author of Boomer Highway, embrace many of those wonderful traits our mother taught us.

    • Thanks Dear Bill. She is with us always in things we do, actions we take, words we say. She is part of us and the best part. Me

  2. Thank you for your beautiful words and wonderful memories of your childhood. There are so many wonderful words of wisdom in this blog. I love how your Mom used music to sooth and calm difficult situations.

    • Dear Ellen,
      Thanks for your words this blessed season. Hoping you are doing well and wishing you the best in 2016. Beth

  3. Such a beautiful picture of you and your mother, Beth and the one you painted with your words tells of a beautiful, gentle lady, yet resourceful and strong. I’m sure people who know you tell you that you are much like her.

    • Dear Corinne, a lovely note to get from you this morning. Thanks so much. Your tenacity in life gives you a wonderful gift–your ability to reach out with kindness to others. Thanks for starting my day this way, Beth

  4. This is such a touching post. What a role model you have in your family – and all those good qualities continue to ripple out from and through you.

    I love the idea of accepting the generosity of others. In December, we watched Things We Lost in the Fire and the line that I took to heart from the movie was, “Accept the good.”

    • Wow, I think that’s what my mother always did, accept the good. These are profound words to live by and sometimes you need them on a day to day basis. Better to embrace the child who did call you or the friend who did understand, than to focus on the phone call you didn’t get or the friend who has left you behind.

      Friends on the net, you and me, Beth

  5. Hi BEth! Happy New Year! And thank you for sharing this lovely story about you and your mother. You were indeed blessed to have such a sweet, kind, and generous woman to show you the way. And yes, I agree with all your other commenters, she taught you well. 🙂 ~Kahty

    • Happy 2016 Kathy. Thanks again for your comment, your friendship and your continuing great posts on your blog. You go girl!

  6. Hi BEth! Happy New Year! And thank you for sharing this lovely story about you and your mother. You were indeed blessed to have such a sweet, kind, and generous woman to show you the way. And yes, I agree with all your other commenters, she taught you well. 🙂 ~Kathy

  7. Such a loving tribute to a loving woman. (Do you ever wonder what she would think of this whole blogging business?)

    Your words made me see your mom. You write in a very visual way. Ordering the Kindle version now so I can keep going!

    • I am truly honored by your post, Mithra and you made my day. Especially your comment on writing in a visual way. If in fact I am truly doing that, how great! I hope the book doesn’t disappoint. Heading right now to work on my novel and I will be thinking VISUAL WAY.
      Again, thank you, Beth

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