I could never enumerate all of the things that I learned from you. In so many ways, you are a shining example of the Woman in Proverbs 31. You greatly enrich our lives; you always stayed busy, contributing to the family’s welfare. You took care of us in every way; you speak with wisdom and kindness. Your children stand and bless you; your husband praises you. What a blessing you are to us. I admire you and I love you so much.
Many hands make lots of tamales. When I was growing up, sometimes at Christmas my mom would gather her sister and all of the girl cousins to our house to roll tamales. Everyone would take home bags full of dozens of tamales that would go into the freezers to feed us for months. I learned that many hands make light labor-and a party to boot! A deeper truth: women need sisters. They might not be related, but we all need a group of women to love us.
If you are going to walk in the tall grass, carry a big stick. Mom was not a fan of snakes. When we lived in the country, her big stick rested just outside the door and when she went outside she made sure the snakes knew she was armed. They had a sort of détente going on. We would tease her about it, but I learned to be aware that there was danger in the world and it was my responsibility to prepare for it and carry my own stick.
When you are camping out, somebody’s got to keep the fire going. When I was in Girl Scouts, we didn’t camp in tents but in large rock shelters with a central fire pit. I noticed when I went to sleep, Mom was tending the fire. I noticed when I got up, Mom was tending the fire. She was not the only leader there, but she was the one who stayed awake. Mom taught me that personal sacrifice for the good of others was a character trait worth emulating.
Everybody has a story. Everyone talks to Mom. Relatives, her friends, my friends, your friends, store cashiers, complete strangers. Mom is always ready to lend a compassionate ear. Within 5 minutes of contact, Mom will have a person she just met downloading their life story into her sympathetic and capable hands. I learned that you don’t judge people for how they act in the moment; everyone has burdens to bear that sometimes overflow. Show grace when you can because you can be sure there will come a time when you will need it shown to you.
Bloom where you are planted. Mom actually had a plaque with this on it and it is a good description of how she lives. She has not always been exactly where she wanted to be, doing exactly what she hoped. But she always blooms wherever she is and makes it a nicer place for everyone who is there with her. If you cannot be happy with what you have, you will not be happy with what you don’t have.
Silence can say it all. Words can be highly overrated. Especially in stressful situations or where negative emotions threaten to erupt, silence can be the better part of valor. Much can be conveyed without words and with less misunderstanding. Mom was skilled at controlling her tongue. As the Bible says, “too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.” I can’t say I’ve learned this; I’m still trying to learn that just because I think it doesn’t mean I have to say it. Even a fool may be thought wise if they keep silent.
You can do anything if you must. Mom has always been a hard worker. At times, she has worked much harder than is actually possible physically. When my parents owned greenhouses and were famous for their incredible fern baskets, Mom’s green thumb and relentless supervision were the key to their success. When they expanded, Mom was spread way too thin. She suffered physically and emotionally as a result of the pressure. Mom just never gave up, no matter how tired or discouraged she was. What she did was impossible-but she did it anyway. That is the way we roll.
It is possible to swim without getting your face wet. As a youngster, I asked my mom what her favorite sport was and she said, “Wading.” Didn’t even know that was a sport. Mom preferred water to stay below her knees but she was willing to go in the deep end for us. I’ll admit, her form may have been a bit unusual, but I learned to be a good sport, to participate and not worry whether or not I did something the same way as everyone else. The important thing in life is to get from one side of the pool to the other, not what you look like doing it.
You can feed 5 people with one steak if you have enough beans. During our nomad period, when we took a family of five all over the country during three summers, we ate a whole lot of beans. We ate beans in 25 states. Not only did my parents give us the wonderful gift of travel and history, but my mom taught me how to nurture fellowship through food. Hospitality is not about the perfect table, the most haute cuisine or the finest wine. Hospitality is about caring for others, spending time together, making them feel valued and serving them.
Nobody can ever love you like a mom can. Although her authority was undisputed, my mom was my best friend. I always thought that I loved her and she loved me and we were equal there. It wasn’t until I had my own daughters that the truth became clear to me. No matter how much I love Mom, she loves me more. No one loves like a mom loves, there is no substitute. Mom nurtured me, lectured me, supported me, challenged me, doctored me, praised me, and backed me all the way. She always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres. That is love. That is Mom.
Happy Mother’s Day!