Big Sur, Calif.
When my mother died in 1999 I figured she’d be all over me from the afterlife.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
My mother has been MIA pretty much since she died. Which has surprised those of us who have talked with my father in the afterlife. Because my father was not the primary person in this life, my mother was.
Since she’s been missing I feel we have lost connection and it gives me a funny feeling that I can’t explain. Like I’d be uncomfortable in her company.
The only time she ever appeared to me was in a dream that I remember as if it were yesterday, a dream in which she admonished, “Carol, you are not a very spiritual person.” It wounded me so deeply I could bring up that feeling right this minute.
On the other hand, look what I’ve done in my life since. Yeah, so, who knows. Still, I can think of a number of lessons my mother taught me. So, here you have it: what my mother taught me.
Girlfriend fun is way fun.
Mom was big on lunching and traveling with her girlfriends. She spent a whole lot of time with them, maybe because it was a respite from a marriage that didn’t go the way she wanted. Still, her enjoyment of girl-time was a big influence on me and how I like to spend my free time.
Travel with young people.
I think I was 15 or so when my mother, her BFF and daughter and I took our first plane trip together, me with a rosary clutched tightly in my fist. Still, we enjoyed girlfriend time in NYC and Toronto on a regular basis, often staying at the same hotels as celebrities and having some hilarious moments. I love to hear stories about moms traveling with their daughters. Instilling love of travel and new experiences is important to a full life.
Working for what you have is important.
After high school my mother worked three jobs to support her immigrant parents. I am not sure the role her older brother played in that and I know her younger brother was the beneficiary of her hard work and didn’t really contribute. But my mother felt a responsibility to take care of her parents and her work ethic and my father’s run strong in me.
There is a fine line between caring and co-dependency.
My mother had a hard time with this. There were loved ones that she loved to their detriment, allowing them to coast and take advantage of her. I won’t mention the dead or even the living. But I learned about co-dependency because I saw my mother doing it with others. I came out of the womb way independent so I never fell victim to that. Not that she didn’t help me when needed, because both my parents always stepped up in that way.
If you don’t use the big brain you were blessed with, it turns on you.
My father was the doctor but my mother had the bigger brain. That’s just a fact. She just never had the chance to go to college. Like many 1950s housewives, she had no outlet for her intelligence and over time it turned to various manipulations and not good ones. She could be a world-class shi t stirrer. Things would have been way different if she’d used her keen intelligence in a different way.
Don’t stay in a bad situation.
I have this beautiful photo of my parents in their early marriage lying together on a sofa reading the paper. My aunt told me that they really were in love in the early days. I never saw that. When I was a kid I fantasized about having a different father. Mom had a boyfriend before Dad, a guy named Charlie, and I would fantasize about Charlie being my father.
My parents went to war pretty early–maybe when I was just a few months old– and part of it was my father’s strange ideas about child-rearing. We three kids were the worse for it. I worked hard on this in therapy for many years, into my 40s, and emerged fairly whole. My siblings, not so much. I can see exactly what happened and how, but I can’t do anything about it. Those things run deep and people must fix them for themselves.
Since I’m from the planet Observia, I watched everything. So when I found myself in bad relationships, I exited. Period. I have no apologies for that.
Pacific Grove, Calif.
Always protect the defenseless or those who can not take care of themselves.
My mom took good care of her parents and she also helped friends in need. She was taken advantage of, for sure, but her generosity was well-meaning. I got some of my heart from my mother. But the truth is, she didn’t do so well in that regard with her kids.
Get out and see the world.
At some point my mother developed a fear of flying and stopped traveling. She’d been to Europe twice and Vegas countless times (she was a gambler and her father was a gambler –he made book for a living) and then, afraid to fly, she stopped going places she couldn’t drive.
I didn’t want to live that limited a life, so I have tried to embrace the larger world despite my own fears and neuroses. I knew I wanted to see things way different from my life and I continue to do that.
Fear is your enemy.
My mother was all about “all the reasons to say no” –they were mostly fear-based and as I result, I became about “all the reasons to say yes.”
Just say yes.
It’s not that hard.
When we look at what our parents taught us, I think we could all agree that some things were worthy of modeling and others were cautionary tales. But then, I think that’s the role of parents. Kids have to learn from their mistakes. Of course, it’s easy for me to say as I’m not a parent. But at the same time, I am not foolish enough to think that if I were, my kids would see only the positive. Kids see EVERYTHING.
I’d love to know what your mother taught YOU.