Today is my mother's 80th birthday.
A few years ago, in honor of her 77th birthday, I started compiling a list of things she has taught me. Each year since then, on her birthday, I've added to it.
This year, I've had trouble with #80. Not trouble coming up with something - if my mother lives to be 1000 I could come up with something every year because I'm still learning from her. My problem has been narrowing it down to one thing.
I thought of Keep it simple when she insisted on celebrating with a quiet family dinner at Sudie's Catfish House, followed by cake at the house, instead of the big celebration with friends and extended family that my sister and I wanted to throw her.
I thought of Be someone others can depend on when I opened my eyes this morning in what used to be my grandmother's room in my parents' house, remembering how she moved in with us when I was two and, except for a few years, lived with Mama and Daddy until her death. It wasn't always an easy situation, but my mother was willing to make the sacrifice because she knew her mother needed her.
The colorful cards standing in formation on the sideboard, proclaiming happy birthday wishes from her kids, lifelong friends, nieces and nephews reinforced that one, reminding me of all the times over the years family dropped in unexpected or called for her advice. She never hesitated helping anyone.
She isn't a pushover - woe to anyone who tries to take advantage of her. If someone is in need, they can count on her. I can't begin to count the ways or times she's caught me from falling. And after my sister's hip surgery this year, sheer love and determination gave Mama the strength to care for her.
I thought about how she has a way of seeing through a person, an ability to overlook flaws and see the good, and I remembered this quote:
“A friend is one to whom one may pour out the contents of one's heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that gentle hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.” ~ George Eliot
That's my mother. She's been hurt and disappointed by people, but she doesn't hold one person's sins against another, and she's quick to forgive (if there's sincere repentance.)
The thing is, my mother is all of these things. She's dependable. She's forgiving. She loves with all her heart.
In essence, she knows people are more important than things. Her actions, her life, have always reflected this.
Thank you for all you do and for who you are, Mama! Happy birthday! I love you!
Things Mama has taught me...
- it's never too late to learn something new
- if you have a choice between laughter and tears, choose laughter.
- don't let anyone mess with your babies!
- only give advice when asked for it (I'm still working on that one)
- pray every day
- pray some more
- reading a good book might not solve your problems, but it's a nice escape from them
- bend but never break
- some people are just takers
- be nice whenever possible, but sometimes nice doesn't cut it
- take care of family
- we're all individuals - let your kids blossom into themselves, not "mini-me's"
- be there
- Johnny Weismuller is the best movie Tarzan
- don't be in a rush to be older than you are - you're only going to be this age once in your life
- if you like something, and you'll use it, and you can afford it, then buy it, or you'll regret it later
- quality over quantity
- never think "can't"
- people will stand in line for a dead skunk if it's free
- roll with the punches
- have fun
- laugh often
- believe in yourself
- don't let others change who you are
- be honest
- don't steal
- forgive yourself
- God loves me
- don't judge
- just do it!
- inside matters more than outside
- don't use God's name in vain
- you can learn anything if you put your mind to it
- you're never too old to dance
- it's okay to ask for help
- show appreciation and express gratitude
- use my manners
- consider the source
- an office or position of authority should be respected, but the individual in that position has to earn your respect
- sleep is good
- take advantage of opportunities
- keep your eyes open and your wits about you
- people aren't always nice
- things can't make you happy
- use your imagination
- just get started and the rest will be easy
- don't be intimidated by anyone - we're all the same, all human, we all have strengths and weaknesses
- you can love someone even if you don't like them
- forgive but don't forget
- learn from others' mistakes
- there are times for being patient, and time for putting your foot down
- speak up
- stand up for what you believe in
- admit your mistakes and expect others to do the same
- persistance pays off
- let your kids be kids
- love unconditionally
- take lots of pictures
- kids grow up fast
- your kids need a mother, not another friend
- pets are family
- help others
- a sense of humor is essential for sanity and survival
- if you look close enough, you can find something to love about everyone
- coffee is good anytime
- messes can be cleaned up
- prayer works
- God is strong all the time - let him carry you
- if you say you're going to do something, do it
- be nice to yourself in case no one else is
- you have to show respect to get respect
- girls are tough
- don't put up with temper tantrums
- listen to your body - doctors don't know everything
- don't say everything you're thinking
- asking questions is the best way to learn something
- your babies are always your babies (and their babies are your babies, too!)
- God is.
- Just listen.
- People are more important than things.