I had saved a message from my late mother on my phone. It breaks my heart that somehow in upgrading phones, I lost it. But I remember her words pretty well. I had just started blogging and she called to tell me she was so proud of me for something I had written. But she went on to say she was always proud of me just for being her daughter. And her message ended with “I love you.”
Maybe Mother’s Day is the time to share the message my mother left on my phone with my children and grandchildren. I’m proud of you for just being who you are, and I love you unconditionally.
I remember as a child that Mom’s love was unconditional and expressed often. Yes, I knew she was proud (most of the time) of what I did, but I never felt like I had to do anything to earn her love – it was just there.
My mother was a young mom, just twenty-two when I was born. We were close when I was growing up – shopping together, singing show tunes, baking, doing household chores. She taught me what are now arcane household skills. I can still picture her madly wielding an iron during the McCarthy hearings and remember her teaching me this skill by letting me press Dad’s handkerchiefs. She dusted and vacuumed three times a week. As the only girl in the family, it was my job to dust the shelves of knickknacks, which never seemed to be dirty. I also helped her hand-wash and dry the dishes nightly, and set the table for that precisely-at-6:00 p.m. dinner.
It was seeing my mother as a young grandmother with my own kids, however, that made me appreciate the kind of parent she must have been when I was young. She was definitely a down-on-the-floor, hugging and kissing, playful person. My daughter described her as, “the grandma that everyone wishes they could have: pure love.”
Her eight grandchildren have many fond memories of the time they spent with Grandma: The girls still remember her tea parties with sugar water and trying on her make-up, special lotions, and shoes. Granddaughters and grandsons alike have special memories of her teaching them card games and how to dive into her apartment pool. During their college years, they all received her coffee cans filled with mandelbrot cookies. And when they found significant others, my mother and father loved to take them out to dinner, an event she dubbed a double date. One of my daughters remembers falling asleep holding my mother’s hand when we visited my parents. All of them recall her candy drawer, the smell of her Shalimar perfume, the way her face lit up a room when she smiled, the warmth of her hugs, and the love in her voice every time she spoke to them.
My mother was loyal and kind. She was also a loving daughter, caring for her own mother as part of her daily routine, even with the demands of raising her own three children. Her example was my inspiration as I tried to transmit her unconditional love to my own family. As parents and grandparents, the messages we give are a delicate dance between letting our children know we are proud of their achievements and disappointed by their mistakes, but also that we love them no matter what they do. How many times did I tell my children, “I don’t like what you did, but I will always love you”? And did they think really meant it?
I guess that is the challenge of unconditional love. I hope my family knows that, like my mother, I will always love them. I may not always brag about their accomplishments because I don’t believe they are defined by what they do. But that doesn’t mean I’m not insanely proud. I hope I have taught them to be humble about their gifts. I hope they know what really matters: It is not their innate ability is but rather how they use it.
Maybe Mother’s Day is the time to share a version of the message my mother left on my phone with my children and grandchildren. I’m proud of you for just being who you are, and I love you unconditionally.
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.
A lovely tribute to a mother you’ve written about often. Unconditional love is essential. As you say, it doesn’t mean you approve, but that love is unshakeable and the bond unbreakable. I love how you describe all the ways your mother showed she cared – from the tea parties with your children, to the double dates with their partners. So tender and meaningful (and fun!). She sounds like a wonderful woman. You’ve conveyed that in all your writing. And you’ve passed that along as well. She is still proud of you. I can feel it. Happy Mother’s Day, Laurie.
Thanks, Betsy. To love unconditionally is no easy feat, but a good goal to strive for in life.
Thanx for this lovely story Laurie. I often find myself hoping I’m as good a mother to my son as my mother was to me.
Gone for over two decades, I still feel my mother is my best friend.
Your mother is always with you, Dana. I’m sure you passed her love to your son.
Laurie, you’re such an excellent writer. As a newcomer here, I have to say that everyone shares such personal glimpses of their lives. The pics, details, memories you capture allow me to get to know you so much more than last week, even. Your mom was certainly special, unconditionally loving, honest and fun. When I finished I wished she was my grandmother too.
Thank you. I feel blessed that my children and most of my grandchildren had her in their lives. She was a special woman.
What a wonderful mother and role model who gave you so much to carry forward. A mother’s unconditional love is what everyone needs but doesn’t always have. You described the details of how her love was manifested in daily life so well. This is also a message to your children and I hope they will appreciate it as much as you treasured your mother’s message.
It’s not as easy to do as to say. That said, I strive to convey to all I love that my love os not based on accomplishments or perfect behavior.
This is a lovely and well told recollection of your relationship with your Mom, Laurie!
When I think of mandelbrot cookies, I find myself imagining a cookie that, no matter how many times you break it, the pieces all look identical.
My mother’s were popular in college because my kids’ roommates thought they were biscotti. Hers were not so easy t break and best eaten out of the freezer.
So many wonderful and evocative details in your stories–they bring your mother alive–through various phases of her life–and give her a kind of immortality.
I guess for me that’s how a person’s “soul” or essence lives on. My hope is that my grandchildren will read these stories, especially those who were too young to remember her own their own.
P.S. I recently ordered your book; read a lot of it on a plane to California, and have nearly finished it. Such a great read, and so full of love and good humor.
Thank you so much, Dale. I wrote it so long ago and have written so many stories since then that I feel like I have to review it from time to time (and resist the temptation to want to edit it!).