My mother taught me how to read. Since before my memories begin, she was constantly reading to me; my favorite books were Ann of Green Gables and Little House on the Praire. I’m pretty sure I was reading on my own by age 5, but we continued reading together at night for long after that.
That lesson might have been be simple, but it shaped my whole life. An avid reader throughout high school and college, I eventually ended up becoming an English teacher. And now, it’s come full circle as I strike out into the wildly unknown world of writing.
Reading is one of the greatest gifts my mom ever gave me. And as I look back on my 28 years, there were so many other subtleties that she gracefully emanated that shaped me as a person.
My mother taught me the value of a goodnight kiss. Every. Single. Night. my mother would tell me goodnight and give me a hug and a kiss. When I got to be a bitchy (oh, and I was BITCHY) teenage girl, the ritual didn’t change. The one night she stayed at my door and simply said goodnight is branded into my memory. Although I would never show it, the absence of her touch that night made me feel cold and alone and panicked at the thought that maybe, just maybe, I had finally pushed her too far.
My mother taught me the value of an open home. There were many nights where I was relegated to the couch or the basement in order for a guest to have a bed. It was so common that it wasn’t even viewed as an inconvenience. Many memories include the presence of other people in our home, which added a richness and depth to my life experience that I would not have gotten if my encounters with others only consisted of sterile greetings in restaurants or church. To this day, I offer my apartment willingly and spontaneously to anyone who needs or wants a place to stay for a couple of nights.
My mother taught me the value of inner strength. In her younger life, my mother has survived her parents’ rocky divorce and sexual assault. She has watched her five children struggle with friends and relationships and teenage angst. She has had to stand by as I got physically attacked, married to the wrong person, divorced, and moved hundreds of miles away from anyone else in the family. And yet even with all of that burden, if you were to talk to her about a problem you were having, she would listen and care and shed more than a few tears over your predicament. She never crumbles, but simply moves forward with determination.
My mother taught me the value of consistency. She would have dinner made from scratch on the table every single night. And every single night, barring work schedules or other scheduled events, we would eat dinner as a family. I have no idea what we talked about during our meals, but I do remember that they happened. This core remains unchanged now that all but one of us have left the house, and it is something I look forward to every time I go home.
My mother taught me the value of partnership. My mother is the quintessential housewife. She cooks. She cleans. She irons my dad’s shirts. She makes sure that he has meals ready when he comes home. My dad, on the other hand, is the ultimate man of the house. His business is the main source of income, and he spends his spare time fixing cars, mowing the grass, tinkering with tools, and taking out the garbage. In today’s day and age, their relationship can seem ‘unfeminist’ or ‘outdated’. But all I see is that it works. They both do what they do best, they pick up each other’s slack, and best of all, they are happy.
My mother taught me the value of unconditional love. I have always been independent and stubborn. While my edges have softened as I have gotten older, I am still far from what my mother would ideally have as a perfect daughter. Yet throughout all of my childhood sass, teenage attitude, and young adult mistakes, I have never once felt unloved. I have never once felt unsupported. And I have never once felt like she wished I was anything other than me.
Overall, even though my mother has given me invaluable lessons, the biggest gift she has given me is simply being herself. I have never once seen her try to put on a facade, or act like she was different than who she was, or try to portray a facet of herself that wasn’t actually there. She is always her, in all of her raw, messy, amazing, graceful, crying-at-the-drop-of-a-hat, stubborn, opinionated, laughing, caring, oblivious, loving glory. In a world full of smoke and mirrors, she gave me an example of true authenticity, which is more precious that all of the rubies and gold in the world. I can only hope to be half as rich as her one day.
I love you Mom.