Children learn what they live, a truth acknowledged in Dorothy Law Nolte's (1924-2005) well-known poem. Nolte's work, “Children Learn What They Live,” highlights the characteristics children absorb from their parents. “If children live with fairness,” Nolte wrote, “they learn justice...If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect...If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live,” etc. I've always identified with the positive points in this selection; I'm proof the words are true. I am what I am because of what I learned from my parents, especially my mother.
My mother passed away 21 years ago; not a day goes by that I don't think of her. As Mother's Day approaches, and I reflect on what my mother taught me, I wonder. How? How did she teach me life's important lessons? She didn't sit me down and expound upon the meaning of life; rather, she led by example.
From my mother, I learned little things mean a lot. When I was a child, my mother turned her daily chores into a game she happily played with me. I pretended to be a housewife and dusted, swept, folded laundry alongside her. We laughed and giggled. When I decided I needed groceries for my pretend refrigerator, she rinsed empty milk cartons and Nestle Quik containers for me. She crocheted little sweaters for my dolls, and mended the torn ear on my favorite stuffed dog. In fact, she paid for the stuffed dog with S&H green stamps we collected together. My mom drew funny faces on the paper napkins she put in my lunch box. She bought me a little, white pocketbook to go with my Easter bonnet with the chenille bumble-bee on the brim. She knew I liked quilted robes and flannel nightgowns and made sure new ones were under the tree each Christmas. She took me to the library to take out as many books as my hands could carry. She made me jelly sandwiches without crust and had tea parties with me. Mom even gave me my own miniature porcelain teapot.
My mother taught me compassion for all God's creatures. When I found an injured sparrow in the yard, she made a nest for it in an empty shoe-box and cared for it. She showed me how to care for animals. We fed stale bread to the birds in our backyard every afternoon. One day, Mom asked if I wanted a bird of my own, and she took me to the Five & Dime and bought me a green parakeet. I learned how to care for it by watching her gentle touch. My mother taught me to love being at home. She kept a pristine household and frequently changed the curtains and bedding in my room to make it pretty. When I woke up ill in the middle of the night, my mother was already at my bedside to help me. To this day, when I am ill, I wish for my mother; she always knew how to make me feel better. I liked listening to her singing as she washed the dishes or went about her day. It was my mother who taught me how to be a mom. When my firstborn would not stop crying, my mother showed me how to swaddle and comfort him. My mother was a subtle example of tender care, dignity, respect, and spirituality. She loved the Lord; everything she did showed it.
I would be a liar if I said I appreciated my mother while she was living; I don't think I did. I took her for granted. My mother was always there; I never considered that someday she wouldn't be. And now, here I am, on another Mother's Day, without her. Indeed, children learn what they live; the legacy my mother left me is a comfort, an inspiration.
Thank you, Mommy. Happy Mother's Day in heaven.