My own mother encourages me to be the best version of myself that I can be. She doesn’t set an expectation of me to win her approval; rather, she has taught me to be introspective – to listen to my own heart, follow my own path. Better still, she has backed me at every turn, every fork, and every step. When I met my husband I was not in the best mental place – I wasn’t up for taking chances with love. I thought all men were jerks. I was out of college and living with she and my dad in Chicago. I’d wasted too much time having my heartbroken by the same boy. It was a Saturday night and my friends were gathering at a small party on Lake Holiday, about 90 minutes outside the city. Jamie, my husband, was going to be there. My best friend, Amy, called me and encouraged me to come to the party to meet him. I told her I wasn’t up for it. I was singing that old pathetic “woe is me” song that all heartbroken women have sung. As my mom busied herself around her bedroom, I sat in her purple velvet chair explaining why I didn’t want to go to the party. She said, “But if you don’t go, you’ll never know.”
I went. Now, 12 years later, I sit in the basement of my home with that man, three children sleeping upstairs, and I am grateful for my mom’s advice that Memorial Day weekend in 2000.
My mom has given me advice, like many mothers, on everything from how to pluck my eyebrows to what shade of pantyhose to wear. She drove four hours from Downers Grove to Iowa City at the drop of a hat my freshman year of college when I broke out in a very bizarre allergic reaction to the mildew in my dorm and woke up covered in hives. She has moved me to and from eleven different residences since 1995. She has cleaned and painted over half of those residences. Three times she has sat with me before I have given birth, nursed me back to health, and taught me how to mother.
I have watched her do everything from power wash a deck to jackhammering a concrete patio. She has painted a kitchen pink, then blue, and then demolished that very kitchen for a remodel with a sledge. I’ve seen her bake a coffee cake from a recipe in her head and sling a chainsaw like a good lumberjack would. She makes me a chocolate cake every year for my birthday and taught me the difference between homemade icing and store bought. She is a jack of all trades in terms of mothering. She can do it all…and she has. She will sling a shot of Jagermeister, mix the best G&T, and get red wine out of a white shirt like no body’s business. She is the most-singingest Mama around and the best at making sunshine on a cloudy day.
She takes a vested interest in everyone she is speaking to. She is genuine and honest. She doesn’t muddle me up with guilt trips or unspoken expectations about silly things. She is straightforward and positive. Through her own choices and behavior she has taught me how to be kind, selfless, and loving.
She has taught me that I should never wait for a man to do anything for me unless I want to take the chance of waiting a very long time. If there is a light bulb out, it is better to just change it. If the garage door needs oil, ask the guy at Ace and make it happen. She has taught me to be resourceful; Maxi Pads can be band aids, too. Never take something camping that only has one use.
Most importantly, she has expressed to me through her actions that I am important and loved simply by being me. In so doing, she has taught me that no matter what is happening in my own life, my children come first.
My father, the man I know who wrote, “The great thing about Moms like mine is that there are so many of them on our little planet” was lucky like me. He encouraged me, five years ago, to write about my memories of those I love. There are few people I love as much as I love my mom. I cherish her. His mom and mine have at least one thing in common, three adoring children.