It’s very cool when the woman who gives you lifelong wise words is the woman who gave you life.Oh, the things my mom said that I swore would never take leave from my lips! But guess what, her voice then, and now, is in my head and, thank the good Lord, I occasionally utter her pearls of wisdom to my own kids. As teenagers, they palpably cringe at my outpouring of womanly wisdom and check the calendar daily as to how long until college begins; but mark my words, they’ll remember the gems that flowed down, uninvited but precious as gold, from Grandma to Mom to them.
My mom is what I call a “Real Woman.” She doesn’t need a nationally recognized time to mark her totally cool “woman-ness” but International Woman’s Month seemed like a great opportunity to lovingly share her wisdom. So, I’ll do what I can to recall the “best of the best” jewels she bequeathed to me, and I hope they’ll bless and help you too.
1. “Honey, you can do anything you want to do and be anything you want to be.”
At eleven years old, this was a daunting thought. I was beyond clueless as to what I wanted to do except run the fastest time in my elementary school’s 50-yard dash field day event. At 15, all I wanted to be was the one-and-only to my scoundrel of a boyfriend and keep him madly in love with me, at least for the current month. But as I considered a college to attend, a potential career, a man to love, or even a “yes” or “no” ethical decision, somehow her words gave me the lift I needed. I could do and be what I wanted. And the good news — I wanted to do and be good things.
2. “One day you’ll thank me.”
“I don’t think so, Mom. In fact, not only will I one day not thank you for your unsolicited advice, instead, I will stand on the rooftop and holler at the moon while holding high a half-downed beer” thought my sixteen-year old self. It’s funny, though, now, my 13-year old son is learning manners and how to treat a woman. (I’m making sure of it.) So my boyfriend, RZ, and I are taking him on a three-way-date so that he can observe how RZ tells me how beautiful I look as I come down the stairs, (love that man) how he pulls out my chair for me at the restaurant, how he helps me on and off with my coat, how he beats feet around the car to open my door and help me to the curb. Then we are asking Andrew to do the same for me that evening. As Andrew rolled his eyes at our suggestion of the three-way-date observational opportunity, he said, “You two have got to be kidding!” I simply said, “One day you’ll thank me.” Imagine that.
3. “Don’t speak to me in that tone of voice!”
“Do you mean my favorite insolent one or perhaps my ingratiating, patronizing one, Mom? Or maybe you like the ‘You are all lowly underlings and I am the boss over all of you’ tone?” I snarked.
I’m surprised I have lived to tell about this one because I was the expert at dissing my dear mom and stopping just minutes before my dad arrived home. (It’s called strategy and self-survival.) But besides the fact that I deserved to get launched from a circus cannon for such blatant disrespect, she had more in mind than just her angered ego. She was teaching me that disrespect was the hallmark of ignorance and that no one, especially her, deserved to be the object of my stupidity.
Yesterday, I thought to myself as I listened to my daughter’s impertinence (how dare she speak to me in that tone of voice), “If you don’t change that tone, I’m going to fling you to Kansas and back and you can have your car keys again when you are in a retirement home.”
Of course it’s insulting to be spoken to in such a way, but I know, and someday my daughter will know, that a real woman voices her displeasure with directness and aplomb.
4. “As long as you are under my roof, you’ll live by my rules.”
“Well,” I thought to myself, “There are rules and then there are rules. And aren’t they meant to be broken anyways?” That attitude, although stubbornly held by me for a while, didn’t prove fruitful. I sometimes resented curfews at 11:00 p.m., cleaning my room, helping with the dishes, not sassing back, but they were the “house rules.” And we all know, “If Mama isn’t happy, nobody’s happy.” (Plus she didn’t want bratty-acting offspring.) She had the right to demand those things of her children. After all, it was her castle and domain.
Recently, I told both of my kids at the dinner table, “As long as you live with us, you will follow our rules.”
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
5. “I love you more than you’ll ever know.”
My mom said these words when I gained a few extra pounds, when I lost those same pounds, when I worked at a lowly job in high school and when I worked in a great corporate career; she said those words when I was dumped (repeatedly) by the scoundrel I mentioned earlier and when I was happy in love. She said those words when I was sick and when I was well, when I had pleased her, and, yes, even at those times when I had displeased her.
This morning I stood as I do everyday, and watched my two kids back out of the driveway as they left for school. I stood in my garage at the place where I stand and pray for them as they drive away each day; asking God to watch over them, that no harm will befall them, that they will experience joy and show kindness and grace to others. I waved goodbye and thought, “I love them more than they’ll ever know.”
As William Shakespeare said, “The wheel has come full circle.”
Three years ago, my 80-something parents moved in with our family. My dad was suffering dementia so we invited them to live in our downstairs apartment. My dear dad has since moved to an assisted living center where he can best be cared for, safe and with medical help close at hand.
Mom is on her own now and each day we have a lovely ritual that both of us enjoy. I come down stairs, sleepy-eyed, after the kids have left for school. We pour ourselves some steaming brew and discuss the important issues of the world. And I mean, important. How long will it take Samantha Guthrie to lose her baby weight? Isn’t it grand that no one died in the last episode of Downton Abbey? Do you think it’s too early to plant the tulip bulbs? These are meaty discussions.
And all the time I listen as she still intersperses the womanly words that guide me in my life.
Happy International Woman’s Month, Mom.
And thanks for teaching me what a Real Woman is.