Today I am grateful that my mother taught me many life lessons even though I was a reluctant student as a teenager. Although I never thought my mother knew much about life when I was a teenager, I realize now that perhaps she did. My mother taught me many life lessons, often inadvertently.
As I was primping and getting ready to go out with my friends or on a date, my mom would remind me that “my looks would only get me the first five minutes, after that you are on your own” In other words, beauty is only skin deep. Another saying my mother was fond of that I found annoying at the time was “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” As a parent myself now, especially with bullying a major issue amongst teenagers, this saying still makes sense. Kindness is much more attractive than meanness.
A piece of dating advice came in the message “boyfriends are here today, good friends are here to stay.” What she meant by that was that one should not date someone that does not want you to spend time with your friends too. Friends should not be ignored just because you are dating someone. I had one girlfriend that I hardly saw when she had a boyfriend.
The importance of looking after her skin, especially her face, was one of the life lessons my mother inadvertently taught me. I recall how she painstakingly cleaned and moisturized her face every night with cold cream. She wore very little make up, but any dirt on her face, visible or invisible, was always removed before bedtime. Her skin was beautiful right up to her untimely death at age 65. This is a timeless beauty lesson; going to bed with makeup on is one of the worse things you can do to your skin, especially the delicate area around the eyes. I too wear very little makeup, just mascara, but always remove what I do have on each evening.
My mother was obsessive about keeping her house clean. I have memories of her vacuuming almost daily. Every evening after dinner the girls in the family would have to wash and dry the dishes, and sweep the kitchen floor. My older sister always seemed to find a way to get out of these chores, so I was the one stuck doing them with my mom. Now I look back at those moments and realize they were quality time spent with my mother. We had our best mother and daughter chats in those moments. With three brothers and two sisters, quality time alone with a parent was a luxury we could not afford. I only wish my house was kept as clean as hers was.
My mother was a great cook. She very rarely followed recipes, but preferred to follow her instincts in the kitchen. I have heard that is the sign of a good cook and believe she is proof of that. I laughed when I found her attempt at a recipe book after her death. The ingredients of each recipe were recorded on loose sheets of paper, but no measurements or other details that a novice cook would be able to follow were included. I chuckle as I write this because I cook the same way. When and if I do follow a recipe, I always revise it to suit my tastes and to include the ingredients I have on hand. My mother-in-law used to ask for my recipe for the homemade soup I often made her, but I never had one to give her. Each batch of soup was different. Another sign of a good cook is the ability to stretch a meal. I recall helping my mother-in-law cook hamburgers one night at the family cottage. Extra guests showed up unexpectedly and we only had so many hamburgers. I quickly changed the menu from burgers to spaghetti sauce, making enough to serve everyone. My mother-in-law was grateful, my mother would have been proud.
Between the few short months that my mother was diagnosed with cancer and her death, we spent many hours talking. She felt the need to apologize for the fact that she believed she could have been a better mother to me and my siblings. I did not hesitate to tell her she was wrong. Considering the fact that she had six children in eight years, I believe she did the best she could. I know I learned a lot from her.