For My MamaPosted: May 12, 2013
When Mother’s Day rolls around I’m always struggling to find just the right card, just the right gift, just the right way to show my mama how much I love her and how much she means to me. This past year I’ve been noting, compiling, and reliving some of the countless ways she has made my life better, lessons she has taught me, and memories she has given me. I was worried about writing a post with such a specific purpose, my usual MO is writing posts as they occur to me. I was surprised and amazed at how, once I started writing about her, how quickly the words came to me. I only hope she loves reading this as much as I loved writing it.
She taught me how to swim. She always recalls that when I was months old she took me out into our pool, holding my head above water, and her favorite detail that, “and your were so cute and chubby that your whole body floated, I just held your little bald head!” When I played soccer at age 4 I got so beat up during the game that I vowed to not play again til I was 8. Turns out, I had the same to less luck when I played age 8-13, at that age always much smaller than everyone else. After games when I was bruised up, toes broken, sometimes bleeding, I would come home to a drawn bath, fresh pajamas, and my mama would set me up on the couch putting Ziploc bags filled with ice against my legs, bringing me ginger ale, and letting me watch movies the rest of the day. My catering to the kiddos when they are ill is all learned from my mama.
My spoonful of sugar technique is a page straight from her book. When we were as little as three, she would have us help her with tasks around the house, be it emptying a trash can, or bringing in our dirty clothes to the laundry room, or my favorite spoonful of sugar moment, when folding large sheets, each of us holding one side, walking toward each other, when we got within nose length we’d giggle and kiss, then she would grab both sheets’ end and I would fold the underside up, kiss and giggle, then fold it again, and again. Each sheet was a game ending in laughter and love. I just loved that!
I get my love of letter-writing, and mail-sending in general from my mama (though sadly I did not inherit her pristine penmanship:/). Since college she has sent me packages containing anything from gum, markers, eyelash curlers, emory boards, a sundress, socks, I never know what to expect! I only know that somewhere in the box there will be articles torn from magazines/newspapers with a “C” written in my mama’s beautiful handwriting; something she read that she knew I would enjoy or learn from. Or her postcards she sends, sometimes from vacations taken decades ago that she stumbles upon but she’ll recall the things she liked best about the place, and what she thinks I would like. Or her sweet letters and cards, always thanking me for any gift no matter how small, or just to say that she loves me and that she is so proud to be my mama. In her letters she calls me Dolly.
One of my favorite episodic memories of my mama is at the cosmetics counter at Dillard’s (or was it the now defunct Foley’s?). Anyhoo, we were walking through the makeup kiosks as salesgirls were trying to get passersby to try sample different scents or try different beauty products. People brushed them off, most often rudely, too busy to stop, but when one earnest salesgirl caught my mama’s eye, my mother obligingly smelled a sample and let the gal giver her spiel. She listened patiently and attentively, even though I knew we were in a hurry, her hands placed delicately on the counter. I remember thinking, “This is what a lady looks like. She’s never too rushed to be kind. She’s gracious to everyone. And she places her hands just so,” as I tried to mimic her naturally lovely mannerisms. She took the sample, and let the salesgirl know that she would think about it for our next mall trip but that we really did need to go. It was such a fleeting moment for her, I’m sure she didn’t give the exchange much, if any, thought, but I’ve always replayed it in my mind when I start to get frustrated with the checkout clerk who is taking forever, or the rattled obvious newbie retail sales associate who is annoyingly eager, I try to take a deep breath and remember that everyone deserves respect and courtesy.
My manners in general come from my mama who instilled in my siblings and I very early on that your manners are something people remember about you long after they’ve forgotten what you wore or the joke you told. People always remember how you made them feel. How would we be remembered? And so we all still write thank you notes, still uphold her standards of manners, and in my nannying I do my darndest to pay it forward to the kiddos.
My mama is not a woman interested in gossip, nor does she indulge in negativity. She will always find something nice to say about someone, even when the task is difficult. If the person is a total jerk, she’ll say what a nice lawn he/she has, or that they dress well. I very rarely, if ever, hear her dwelling on anyone’s negative attributes. This characteristic is representative of her positivity in general. She always looks for a solution rather than dwelling on the problem. And, even more telling, she only ever likes to watch light-hearted, uplifting, heart-swelling movies. Her go-tos are The Birdcage, Moonstruck, and Sound of Music. She loves listening to Motown and Show Tunes, and, like my daddy, loves to dance!
She has given me a healthy attitude toward aging, mostly because she herself, at every age is so naturally beautiful. She has always had a quiet confidence, an inner beauty that shows, and her beauty advice has always been practical: moisturize, wear comfortable shoes (“The way your shoe fits is reflected on your face. If your shoes pinch your feet, your face will be pinched. If your shoes fit well and are comfy, you’ll have a comfy expression on your face.”), always wear sunscreen…and lipstick. (She always has at least four shades of lip color in her purse at any given time.)
My mama is also a fountain of information. Whether I have a question about etiquette, housework, current events, a recipe, historical figures, geography—She. Knows. Everything! I’ve watched her answer every Jeopardy question right on many occasions, her range of knowledge is impressive to say the least. As someone who did not get a “computer phone”(as I call them) until several months ago, I had depended on my mama for most answers. Who needs Google when you have Terri Franck?
We call her the “hostess with the mostest”, and I get my love of entertaining and party-planning from her. I can’t remember anyone coming to our house any day of the week and not being offered food, drink, a seat, welcome to stay as long as they like. Our house was always so open to my pals and our family and friends I inherited my love of girls’ nights, holiday parties, and having my home be the meeting place of pals and kin from my mama. Even now when I go home for a weekend my mama has a special menu of my favorite foods planned, specialty drinks just for me, and always a card and gifts laid out on my bed, something that never ceases to surprise and delight me when I arrive. I know when I visit my folks, it’s gonna be an awesome few days filled with good tunes, amazing food, and incomparable company!
Anytime I am sad or stressed I run to my mama first to hear her soothing voice and words of wisdom. When confronted with heartbreak and loss there is no more comforting presence. Whenever I have needed her she has been there, once, years ago, showing up on my Austin doorstep with my beloved Dixie knowing I was heartbroken, and staying with me for an entire week to help me get back on my feet. Seeing her downstairs in the parking lot, my dad opening her car door, filled me with so much relief that I started sobbing because I was so grateful that she was there. There has been nothing that I cannot face with her behind me. Just knowing that she is a phone call away lowers my blood pressure, and often venting to her about my problems, I stop dwelling and start focusing on the future.
My mama is the reason every time I hear Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers, I think of her whispering, “This one always gives me goosebumps,” showing me her arm when we saw The Nutcracker Ballet. She’s the reason I’m a good speller and a stickler for grammar. She’s the reason I still try, though still fail, to stop cursing. She’s the reason I wear blues and greens more than other colors, “They bring out your eyes and your hair.” She’s the reason I grew up thinking more about what I would be than when I would get married. She’s instilled in me a confidence that, like hers, comes from trying my best to be a good person.
There is no way to say everything that makes my mama so special, so wonderful, so loving. You really have to be around her to understand how in her, often understated, way she makes you want to be a better person. Her approval is sought after by anyone who knows her from her six siblings, to her pals, to her former students, to her children. I think that is a testament to what an amazing person she is. Her genuine warmth and constant calm are rare and beautiful qualities. She means so much to so many people: sister, pal, wife, grandmother, teacher, daughter, and so very luckily for me, mother. I love you, Mama. Happy Mother’s Day to all good mamas here and never far!