In honor of Mother’s Day today, here is my annual reprint of the blog post I wrote about all the wonderful things I learned from my Mom:
Snacking is good. Mom loves to snack and had a simple rule for my brother and I when we were growing up: as long as you brush your teeth, it's ok to eat potato chips, ice cream and chocolate. When we played outside, Mom would call us in to give us ice cream. And during our marathon Scrabble sessions, there was always a snack break or two. No snacks were forbidden and no food was "evil," so we developed a healthy relationship with food. And all that teeth-brushing must have worked because I have never had a cavity in my life!
Talking to strangers is ok. Mom talks to anyone, especially in the grocery store. All it takes to start a conversation is an observation about the size of the iceberg lettuce or shared commiseration about the long checkout line—and then the conversation is off and running. Today it would be called "networking."
Dollars are stretchable. Growing up, we did not have a lot of money. Mom managed to keep a family of four afloat on very, very little money. She did this by working hard and spending only on necessities. And even when we didn't have a lot, she enjoyed volunteering at church to make food baskets for people who had less than we did. She made sacrifices for us; in fact, I don't recall her ever buying anything for herself. We often joke that we should send her to Washington, D.C. to help the government balance the budget.
Coupon clipping is an art. Mom checks the sale papers and clips coupons religiously. Then she calls and tells me how much money she saved in the store. I expect to get a phone call from the police one of these days, informing me that they've arrested her because she saved so much on one item that the store had to pay HER for it.
Projects can be fun. Organizing the file cabinet? Unpacking boxes? Cleaning out the basement? Call Mom. She loves doing work around the house especially if she gets to use the paper shredder or go to the dump (or "transfer station," as it's called in my town). During her last visit, she helped me organize my office closet, which had been so crammed with stuff that I hated opening it. It took hours. And when I inevitably got tired of doing it, looked at all the junk that we had piled on the floor and the desk and said "I don't want to play this game anymore," Mom said "it's ok, we're almost done" and kept me going. Now everything is in its place and properly labeled and I love opening the closet. And some of the neighbors want to rent her out to help with their projects.
Humor helps. Mom always has a positive attitude and loves a good laugh. She loves the Pink Panther movie and recently laughed hysterically at the dance scene in Johnny English, a spoof on spy movies starring Rowan Atkinson (from the "Mr. Bean" series). We played the scene over and over, just to make her laugh more. She will be delighted to know they are releasing a sequel. She also has the unfortunate habit of laughing whenever I am up on a chair, taking a box down from the closet – I don't know why. She is supposed to be holding the chair for me and instead, she starts giggling just as I'm trying to lift a heavy box and then of course, I start laughing… luckily, no one has gotten hurt…
Simple things can make you happy. Mom doesn't need a "spa day" or a meal at a fancy restaurant to be happy. She is what we fondly call "low maintenance." She enjoys the little things – like watching an old movie starring Robert Taylor or Joseph Cotton (extra points if it's set during World War II), going grocery-shopping at the Shop-Rite store near my house, eating ice cream outside on a warm day and of course, eating a Hershey's chocolate bar.
Complaining is not helpful. Not complaining is easy when life is easy, but Mom never complained even when life got hard. When family members were sick or even when my father died, Mom didn't complain or ask, "why me?" She just kept going forward, with a strong spirit, a smile and a desire to help other people. I'm still learning that lesson.
A few weeks ago, I received a big envelope from Mom in the mail. Inside were packages of one of my favorite candies – the dots of colored sugar stuck to long strips of paper. (Yes, you get some of the paper stuck in your teeth when you eat them, but that's half the fun.) She knows that I couldn't find them locally, so she looked for them on one of her grocery trips and sent them to me.
I'll be seeing Mom today for Mother's Day. What am I bringing her? Flowers? A gift certificate for a massage? Nope. I'm bringing her all my love – and chocolate brownies. Thanks, Mom, and I love you.