Here we are, just three days from the Momstravaganza! Can you believe it? When I was growing up, I never gave it much thought, to be honest. I loved my mom, she loved me--it was a 24/7, 365 days a year thing (well, maybe not so much between my thirteenth and fifteenth years. We don't talk about those days.). It was a damned good thing my dad always remembered and came through with the goods.
As I got older and became a mom myself, I realized how damned hard being a mother can be, and I appreciate my mom so much more today than I ever did as a kid. She wasn't much more than eighteen, a kid herself, when she had the most stubborn, pig-headed, irascible child in the world (moi). According to family legend, I gave up naps by one year, walked (ran) when I was nine months old, talked at about the same time, and was reading by two years. The questions falling out of my mouth never ceased. THE WOMAN GOT NO REST. The fact that I lived to be writing this is a testament to her sainthood.
So, without further ado, here is a list of the five best lessons I learned from my mom:
5) LISTENING IS A GIFT
I was a shy kid at school, believe it or not. I didn't talk much, but I read all the time. I wrote stories, and thought thoughts, and found myself delightfully entertaining. Of course, when I got home I had all this STUFF that had been going around in my head to talk about, and good old mom was there to listen. I'm sure she had no idea what I was talking about half the time, and found most of the rest boring as hell, but she never let me know that. I got her bright smile and questions in all the right places, and when I finally ran down I got a hug. I knew I was loved. That was priceless. I try to pay it forward everywhere in my life, from my kids to the old lady in the grocery store that wants to reminisce about people I've never heard of. Everyone deserves to feel as important as I did at the end of each school day.
4) EVERYONE HAS A STORY
This goes along with the last one, I guess, but it's separate in my mind. If Mom always listened to me, she wasn't shy about letting me know when it was my brothers' turn to talk, and she didn't put up with 'topping'. You know, that thing when you listen to two minutes of what someone else has to say, and then jump in with our own story of how much (bigger, badder, better, worse) your (thing) was. Uh-uh. That didn't fly at all. A reminder that we're all pieces of the puzzle, separate but equally important, was a great lesson for me, both in life and as a writer.
3) DON'T BE SO DAMNED SERIOUS
Picture the scene: a family walks along a beautiful Japanese trail, taking a last look at ruins of a wall that was in existence for centuries before the US was conceived. Picture the teenage son, sauntering coolly along, pretending that he doesn't belong to this motley crew. Picture the mother, irritated that he's ignoring her and missing out on this gorgeous sight. Now picture her crawling along behind him, chattering brightly at his back until he starts to laugh. Then she stands up, brushes off her hands & knees, and continues cheerfully on. Yup. My mom. I'll never forget how much we laughed, both because my brother (Ole StoneFace) finally broke out of his shell and because mom looked so funny! It taught me that: 1) you don't have to beat people over the head to make your point; 2) embarrassment isn't fatal.
2) WEIRD IS (POSSIBLY) GOOD
In the last week, I've had an involved discussion of Legos with a five year old, commiserated with a woman of indeterminate (but white-haired) years over the state of her car, had a street person tell me exactly where the Obama Administration has gone wrong, and talked old vs. new Spiderman with a stringy guy. All of these people were complete strangers. This is not unusual. If there is a drunk, a little kid, a lonely old person, or a crazy with a story anywhere in the vicinity, they will find me and tell me their story. I get this from my mom. She's always been the one that can and will talk to anyone about anything. It takes FOREVER to get through a store with her...but it's always a happy journey! It's apparently genetic: my older son was recently moaning that if there is a weirdo in any of his classes, they talk to him. His summation: "Grandma is the Yoda of weirdo attracting, you're Obi-wan, and I'm your damned Padawan learner!" (Yes, the geekdom is hereditary, too)
1) BE KIND
If I pass nothing on to my kids, this is the best I have to offer, and I got it from my mom. She used to tell us (often), "Be polite. You don't have to like everyone in the world, and they don't have to like you, but you can always be polite." After hearing this a jillion times and seeing it in action all of my life, I find it nearly impossible to be rude without extreme provocation. I learned to ignore a lot of the little irritations of life, let pass the petty mistakes people make, and to live and let live. Mom taught me that being polite and being kind makes life easier and more pleasant for everyone. And isn't that something worth passing on?
THANKS, MOM. I LOVE YOU.