Things My Mother Taught Me

How to keep a house clean. How to vacuum. How to dust. How to throw open all the windows when you need air and close them up again when it starts getting cold, or hot, depending on the season.

How to wrap the stovetop protectors in tin foil to make cleaning easier. How to scrub the stove down with an SOS pad and then wipe up all the grease and grime with the blue suds.

How to make a home feel like a home.

How to fold a sweater. How to swap out your wardrobe every season so that it makes it seem like new things are coming out of your closet every few months.  How to dress nicely and look put together even if you had a total girl morning and this is the fifth outfit you even tried on and there is positively nothing in your closet.

How to fold bath towels – in third lengthwise, then in half. How to empty the trash before company comes over because it looks nicer. How to make meals everybody will enjoy.  How to write thank you notes.

How there’s no substitute for talking face to face.  How to come back to family and friends and pick up where you left off. How to keep in touch. How to give someone space. How to smile at strangers and be polite to everybody, especially the receptionist and the cashier because they don’t make the rules and you don’t need to make their day any harder just because you’re unhappy with an institutional thing.

How it feels to rediscover an old favorite song. How to sing along to Broadway while you cook dinner. How to softshoe with a kitchen towel to “My Blanket and Me” from You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. How to work a record player, to set the needle down oh so gently into the groove and smile at the scratching noise as it finds its place and begins to play. How to wake up with a smile.  How to shift seamlessly from one good morning song to another, from “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” (Oklahoma) to “Good Morning” (Singin’ in the Rain).

How to be quiet. How to be assertive. How to save your swear words for what really matters so that everybody will know how mad you really are. How to put your hands on your hips and stare down a fractious two-year-old.  How to distract said two-year-old when his mother leaves. How to entertain him until she comes back. How to call people out of the blue just when they need it most.

How to get rid of telemarketers.

How to make tea. How to make cookies. How to follow a recipe. How to put the Tupperware in the bottom drawer for the child to play with, even if you don’t have a child in the house, because there very well might be soon. How certain things are two-in-the-afternoon decisions, not two-in-the-morning decisions.

How there are very few things a Boo Boo Bunny can’t fix. How to bribe your children with Beanie Babies when they have to get shots at the doctor’s office.

How to care for candles. How to care for animals. How to care for others. How to give to those in need every little tiny seemingly insignificant chance you get, whether it’s a can of soup for a church drive even though you just helped with the Thanksgiving baskets last month, or spending a Saturday painting Tacoma beautiful.

How to pull on your big girl panties and deal with it. How to hold it together until you get home and then how to let yourself cry, and maybe eat some chocolate and curl up with an understanding cat if you feel like it. How to be the bigger person. How to stand up for yourself. How to stay young at heart. How to learn from your elders. How to show respect. How to command people’s respect. How to multitask. How to enjoy doing nothing.  How to take care of yourself.  How to love God. How to struggle with Him.

How books stay with us. How reading transports and transforms us. How reading together teaches us to be a family. How families don’t have to include just the traditional members. How families can stay together even when they fall apart.

How beauty is always available in the world, no matter how crabby and out of sorts we feel.


tulips-glossary_110603Some of these I never wanted to learn. Some of these I never knew she was teaching me. Some of them she may never have known she was imparting.

If I’m lucky and I keep working at these, I may just manage to turn out something like her. Wouldn’t that be something.

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