Saturday, May 7, 2016

10 Secrets My Mother Felt It Was Foolish To Keep

You know someone by what they tell you about themselves. For my mother, there were moments where I would look at her and know she was lost in thought. We had no car growing up and needed to walk to wherever we needed to be. I would be alongside her, and see her with her eyes fixed straight ahead. She would say nothing, and knowing that she was a single mother of six children, I didn't dare ask what was weighing on her. I'm sure it was all of everything.

But, there were things about her that she felt no need to keep hidden. If by coming out loud and clear about what made her who she was, then how much easier it would be for the rest of the world when we knew what she needed from us.

Why keep any of them secret?

The 10 Things my mother felt she never needed to keep secret:

1. A love for chocolate covered cherries.

 Knowing this opens the world to a lifetime of people buying them for you. She would eat them like it was her request for a last meal. My entire life, whenever I see chocolate covered cherries, I think mama.

2. That there was nothing more beautiful to her than flowers.

Because they'll bring them to you on all visits and when you're gone, they'll miss not having you here to buy them for.

3. Your character speaks for you.

Character is the way you act. Character is what you do when there is no one there to witness or applaud. "Mama, I didn't drop that paper on the ground, why do I have to pick it up?" "Character!" I say that to myself, and now my children, when we do what our character calls us to do.

4. That we are never finished with this journey of life.

I remember one day, asking the sky and her in the middle of three children under seven, "When will this get better soon?!" She looked at me, shook her head, with a low chuckle she explained, "Life never stops changing. If you are waiting for that, you will be surprised every day until you leave this earth." 10+ years later, she has proved that right.

5. There is no other choice than bravery, every time.

 Do what your gut tells you and don't think about it again. I had a painful experience with a friend and my mother listened to me. Never interrupting my version of the story, she summed it up and shone a light on it with this, "I remember you wanted to say something to her from the beginning. Why didn't you?" Yes, I did, but I didn't stand up for myself until I broke from the weight of the times I didn't.

6. Never hold a Thank You inside.

From a bus driver, to the garbage collector, to the cab driver who makes sure to get you as close to the door as possible. If someone has done you a service, you thank them. Thoughts can't be read. Say Thank You. When I hear my children thank the bus driver after a field trip, I know it's my mother's words they've learned.

7. Tell your stories.

My mother worked at a bank, in the International Division. She was a translator and many well known people came through when exchanging money, her stories of the people she met always brought a bit of six degrees of separation of knowing someone famous. Now they can say, "I know a person who met Liberace..." and you've given them a story to tell.

8.  Do what your heart tells you you can do.

Then tell people that you can. There is a voice inside insistent that you would be good at it, so begin. Begin, and learn how and realize no one knows you better than yourself. My mother began working with wood, small projects, when she retired. She would finish and step back, "I always wanted to be building something." She knew. I heard these words when I took the role of co-producing LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER, even around people around me telling me I had never done that before and how did I know I could. I somehow did. We just completed our 4th LTYM in Milwaukee.

9.  Likewise, if you don't want to do something, and no one depends on you for it. don't.

When my mother was young, she never liked to cook. By 88 years old, that hadn't changed. At 12-years-old she purposely ruined the rice her mother had asked her to make so that she'd never be asked to prepare dinner again. When my mother told this story, she said, "It would have been easier to say I won't cook, I will never cook, I will do the dishes instead." Genius.

10. A good joke.

 Laughter is the quickest vacation away from all that presses in on you. We were out to dinner and my mother had ordered one of her favorite dishes, Chicken Paprika. She had left the plate clean and the porcelain was left with pink swirls from where she had used the rolls on the table to absorb every drop of creamy sauce. When the server came to bus our table, my mother looked up at him and told him with a straight face, "I didn't like it very much." He was so caught off guard with her words and the gleaming white of the plate shining through that his laugh filled the dining room. He walked with our plates, still laughing.

If you ask me, keeping it a secret that you love flowers is risky business. It could mean that you'll never have vases of them along your kitchen counters.


Thinking of all of you, on this Mother's Day -- especially those for whom this day brings on an ache. I wish you comfort and solace in the moms around you, others who have stepped into that role of mothering for you: aunts, friends, teachers, sisters, neighbors. Mothering is more than having  children, mothering is that place where we have felt trust and love along the way in our life.

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  1. I hope your day was full, despite having that part that is empty...but I know you have filled that too with wonderful memories.

    1. Oh, yes, Andrea: let's hope we have the funny memories to leave our kids!!! Happy Mother's Day, friend!



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