May 11, 2014

Musings

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Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there.

As you might know, my mother’s no longer with us. She died in 2003. That was 11 years ago? Wow. It doesn’t seem possible that she’s been gone so long.

Maybe that’s because I always carry her with me, courtesy of all the lessons she taught me over the years.

Mom

At their engagement party. My brother thinks Dad has a bit of a Conan O’Brien look going on.

Before I was born, my mom taught English and math—to high school students. I can’t imagine. Seems like they’d be the worst age to handle, with all the raging hormones, overwrought teen drama and bad attitude. But she seemed to have liked it—and her students seemed to have fond memories of her, too. (I went to school with a lot of the kids of the kids she taught.)

Among her lessons:

1. Reading is fun.

I can’t count the number of times I saw my mom with a book. She was always reading, everything from classic Updike to Danielle Steel. It was the influence of her and my dad, another voracious reader, that got me reading at age 4. My parents read all the time and I wanted to be like them, so they taught me to sound it out.

ButterCookies6-764x1024

Naked butter cookies.

2. Butter cookies rule.

There are two types of people in the world: Sugar cooke folks and butter cookie fans. Our family falls into the latter category. Mom’s butter cookie recipe, which she got from her mom (who apparently shared it with Kelly Ripa), is flaky, crisp and just sweet enough.

About Kelly Ripa: I’ll never forget Mom calling me, excited because Kelly made her family’s favorite Christmas cookies on her show—and it was mom’s recipe that she shared. I guess Grandma got it off a box of butter or something?

Every year, after Mom baked the cookies (which I now know is a pain in the butt, rolling out the dough and cutting the shapes), she’d frost them while my brother and I decorated with sprinkles, colored sugar and other fun toppings. (My fave was the tiny candies shaped like flowers.)

3. Live life—and attack problems—with humor.

This is probably the biggie. My mother had a great sense of humor. She was the mom who sat in the back of the band bus and told jokes, or sat around the Girl Scout campfire telling funny stories.

She laughed a lot, and was first to deflect sadness with a joke or smile. Er, actually my whole family is like that. I remember when Dad died, my brother, cousins and I broke from the funeral home for pizza, and laughed jokes and funny stories until our sides ached.

Laugh through the tears, I guess.

Wikipedia tells me it was Ella Wheeler Wilcox, a Wisconsinite, who wrote “laugh and the world laughs with you.”

 

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;

Weep, and you weep alone.

For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth

But has trouble enough of its own.

— From “The Way of the World,” a poem (1883)

That may well be—but my mother lived it.

I, for one, am glad, because I got my sense of humor from her. I’m quick to laugh and I crack jokes at what some people might call inappropriate times.

Every time a line in one of my books makes a reader laugh out loud, I hope she hears it and knows that she had a hand in making the world a happier place.

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