Several days ago, my aunt sent my mom a request to write up a paragraph about the things her mother taught her, honor of mother’s day. She had been putting off the project because her internet connection was down and so she wouldn’t be able to send it over to Hawaii, but as we talked about it, I started to realize that it was a topic I wanted to take on (plus, my internet connection is working just fine). My mom has actually taught me many more things than I can possibly list, but these are some of the big ones that leap to mind.
She taught me how to stand up for myself. In the second grade, when bullies picked on my every move, she sat down with me and coached me on come backs. She helped me figure out how to fight back with words and attitude (much to her chagrin, I most often employed this newly acquired skill on my sister).
She also taught me how to play dumb, to feign innocence to get out of uncomfortable situations (mostly with men). I realize that it is behavior that is deeply politically incorrect, but as Jayne Mansfield proved time and again, it takes smarts to fake stupidity.
She taught me how to write. She did this initially by helping me learn to read and later by starting to write herself and sharing it with me. Her poems encapsulate little moments of life with such beauty and perfection that they cause me to sigh when I finish reading them, sad that I will never have the opportunity to read that particular poem again for the first time.
She taught me how to cover my tracks. This lesson has served me well, covering a range of situations, from when I learned not to throw the contraband candy wrappers behind the couch if I didn’t want anyone to know I had eaten three “fun-size” Snickers a hour before dinner (age 7) to how to take the car out for a spin before I had a driver’s license (age 15).
She taught me how single-minded focus on a goal could help me improve my chances of success.
She taught me to cook dinner in under twenty minutes, to fold laundry right after it comes out of the dryer (to minimize the need for ironing) and to check a plastic bag for holes before you use it to pick up dog poop. I also learned from her how to bargain, how to pull treasures from the garbage, how to strip paint from old wood and when it’s okay to pick fruit from other peoples’ trees or bushes (only if it’s hanging over the side of their fence and is easily accessible from the sidewalk).
She gave me the absolute comfort and security that comes from being loved totally, completely and without question (my dad gets some credit for that as well, but Father’s Day is still a month away). In return (although she asks for no such thing), I love her wildly, deeply and without measure. Happy (late) Mother’s Day, mama.