My mom was wise and funny and brave and interesting and interested. Her spirit was eternally youthful. She could relate to everybody: baby, geriatric, teen, tween, thirty-something, ninety-something, man, woman, animal, and anything in between. And she did so without effort or falsehood.
She never judged anyone for what they did or didn’t do - well, okay, that’s not entirely true – we, her family, were her works-in-progress apparently. My father was judged quite often as I recall, especially when he came home late from the club and Sunday lunch was spoiled. I got a good stinging backhand at 19 for having a ”look on my face”. My poor sister heard “Good God, Vivienne! MUST you always marry men beneath you? You had a private school education for heaven’s sake…” After the unceremonious demise of her third husband, my sister conceded my mother had a point!
It’s entirely my mom’s fault that when showing houses to my real estate clients, I usher them out of the same door we came in. “My mother said we have to leave the way we came in or it’s unlucky”, I tell my buyers as they allow me to gently urge them towards my mother’s preferred egress, irrespective of how they feel about superstition. Who needs bad mojo, no matter how far-fetched, when you're buying a house?
“Always have the courage of your conviction.” Now, mother of mine, easy for you to say when your vibrant red hair had all but a few feathers of white at eighty-six. But at thirty-eight, I said, “If I ever go gray, I will just let it happen.” Well, two years and three salt and pepper streaks later, you better believe I whipped out the Revlon “Cover My Grey” and have never looked back. So Chicka-Dee, let’s just put a Jill-twist on this one. How about “Always have the courage to change your conviction”?
But my precious mother’s values were standards to live by. Loyalty is worth more than gold. Never be a turncoat. Friendship is a blessing like no other. To thine own self, be true (stolen and often paraphrased but it carried the same punch). Never let your right hand know what your left hand is doing (practiced frequently by my naughty nephews, this one often came back to bite my mom in her perfect derriere).
My mother never sweated the small stuff long before the book by the same name was published. She had no time for what she considered trivialities. No sympathy was ever dished out freely in my house.
Case in Point:
At fourteen, a pimple was the worst thing that could ever happen to a girl who was unaware of how much worse her other issues: spindly legs and a nose too big for her face. The pimple thing happened frequently and much weeping and wringing of hands was inevitable. When this cursed blemish appeared before a Saturday night party where a boy I fancied might turn up, well… the drama was through the roof. I lamented and performed about my rhinoceros horn - throbbing, red and angry, like a lighthouse on Cape Point and my mother would give me a look. “Don’t be ridiculous, Jill!” She would say looking away to make her point, “Who the hell is going to look at you at all, never mind notice a tiny little pimple?” Now that will spike a girl’s confidence into the stratosphere! No wonder we Wolf Sisters had a bottle of cane spirits buried in the garden hedge to give us some Dutch courage before important social engagements. I swear it’s the only way we got through those years of angst and self-doubt. It certainly wasn’t because of my mother’s mollycoddling!
Mom-isms are still whispered to me: “Don’t take anything for granted. Don’t take anyone for granted. Don’t let anyone take you for granted. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.” (Just now and then, please Ma?) And you only so much time to deal with ‘things’, then you had to “Get on with it.” ‘Things’ could be surviving a boyfriend’s infidelity, a Tampax snafu or death.
Gone from us in her “right” time but too soon in mine, I am comforted by a butterfly flitting unusually close. It’s my Mom, just popping in to say “Hi”. Every time my bangles jingle on my arm, I hear her laughter. I am thrilled to have her in my ear. Her life’s truths put all things into perspective. Every year, on my birthday I said, “Thank you for having me, Mommy.” I meant it then and I mean it still.
And Mom, I know you’re listening. I want you to know it is a privilege to be your daughter. You brought so much imagination to my world and it sure was fun being your child. (Well, most of the time :o)
Photo Credit by Randy Hudges