Lessons From My Mother

In honour of Mother’s Day, here are some of the many, many lessons I’ve learned from my beautiful mother:

1.Try to look your best when you go out in public. Now grant it I don’t follow through with this one ALL of the time especially Saturday mornings after a long week at work when sweat pants, a tee-shirt and a ponytail suffice. Washing the crud out of my eyes and the application of deodorant are dependant upon the amount of caffeine consumed that morning. As kids, mom used to curl our hair with hard plastic yellow curlers, wrap our head in a babushka Saturday night so that we’d have curls in time for church Sunday morning. My sisters and I celebrated the day the curling iron came to town because we no longer had to sleep in the Babushka Of Hell. My mom ALWAYS looks the lady in public. Fixing her hair . Wearing earrings. Filing her nails. I wish to be as graceful and classy when I reach her age.

2.When someone breaks your heart, take the time to pamper yourself in order to remind yourself that you’re pretty darn special even if you feel like a rejected loser. When I was in my early twenties the boy I was dating for four years and I broke up. I was living in Edmonton taking a summer school course. I was away from family and friends and I was simply and profoundly sad (insert mournful violin music here). My mom came to Edmonton just to spend time with me. She took me out for supper and bought me a pretty sweater. I still remember what that sweater looked like. It was dark plum in colour and had a beige lace collar. I remember that sweater because to me it symbolized that someone cared and that I was special and loved even though I really REALLY didn’t feel like it at the time.

3.Reading is as important as breathing. When I was a little kid our home possessed a little library. Before she was married, my mom was a part of a book of the month club and had acquired quite a little collection of classics. Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Jamaica Inn just to name a few. Then, while we were growing up, she bought other classics like Little Women, Huckleberry Finn, Treasure Island. I owe my love of literature to my mother. Throughout my life, reading has been a saving grace helping me through times of sorrow and stress and loneliness. It’s also served as a bridge for friendships and a bond with family.

4.You must always maintain a relationship with your sisters no matter how annoying you might find them. The ties with siblings are often the only ones that survive an entire lifetime. My mom has proven this. Throughout the years (about fifty!) her and her brothers and sister have always stayed in touch. Phoning on birthdays, meeting at weddings, and sadly now, meeting at funerals. As the years go by I notice the heartache and loss my mom feels as she loses her siblings in their passing. The people you share a history with, the people who have seen you throughout EVERY stage of your life hold an emotional power that no words can describe. Now of course I love my sisters, but what’s really notable is that I’m at a time in my life where I really quite like them a lot as well! But there is no doubting that there were times growing up that I wanted to stuff both of them in the laundry hamper and shift them off to the dump.

5.You don’t need band-aids for every scrape you receive. In the literal sense my mom was pretty stingy with the Band-Aids. As a kid I longed to wear a Band-Aid because I thought wearing one was like wearing a badge of honour. Wow, you must have really hurt yourself if your wound warranted one. Sometimes I’d pick the scabs off my mosquito bites so that I could get one. But Mom would just apply the rubbing alcohol and tell me to “let the air get at it” so that it could heal properly. In the figurative sense this taught me that not every emotional bruise I was going to receive was going to be the end all and the be all. That I couldn’t really experience happiness unless I experienced sadness. That I couldn’t recognize joy unless I witnessed pain.

6.A love for learning. When my sisters and I took piano lessons, my mom learned how to play even if it was just a little bit. She even braved a quartet with us for one of our recitals. When I was in high school, I remember watching my mom study for her Early Childhood certificate. Spending evenings at the dining room table writing papers and working on projects. I also remember my mom buying “how to teach yourself how to type” books along with a typewriter. Over the last few years my mom has learned how to quilt. I consider her a master quilter even though I’m sure she begs to differ. I see her finding joy and excitement in learning new things and more importantly creating beautiful kaleidoscopic manifestations of this learning and sharing them with others.

7.You can do it on your own. My mom, during a time in history when it wasn’t all that easy for women to be independent, trained to be a teacher, got jobs, paid her bills and bought a car pretty much on her own. She didn’t NEED anyone to make it on her own in the world and she instilled this confidence in her daughters. A gift for which I will always be grateful.

8.True love is unconditional and constant. Life is filled with inconsistencies and crapshoots. But one of the few things I’ve always been absolutely indubitably sure of is the fact that my mother loves me. I don’t have to see it in her actions, I don’t have to even hear it in her words. All I have to do is be in her presence and I can feel the profound love she has for me. And this has been the most valuable lesson of all.

Happy, happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there!


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