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Friday, October 8, 2010

Mom's Birthday

Today is my mother's birthday. Since she died, I've made a list of things she taught me. None of those lists are complete or even close. It's just what I think of at the time, what's important or what's meaningful or just what I'm doing at the time that she taught me.

My mom, Carolyn Elizabeth Bradley always said-
"Boredom is a choice and I know you're smarter than that."
"Get your hair out of my eyes dear."
"Every dollar you spend is a political or social statement. I couldn't sleep under a quilt made by children in a country that doesn't have basic human rights, but I'll sleep sound under even the ugliest blanket if it was made with love."
"You know what kind of girls wear red." (As she donned a red wool coat)
"Women's liberation means if I choose to cook dinner for my husband and find empowerment in that, I can." (Mom fought hard for equality and was adamantly feminist, but made it clear that it opened choices. A woman should be able to choose her lifepath without the criticism of other women or men)
"Do something, whatever else you do, do something. Learn, use your hands, find out how things are made and do it yourself at least once so you'll appreciate the work that goes into it."
"You can be liked, or you can be loved. Very few people manage both."
"Living an effective life means that some people won't like your choices or you very much. If everyone you encounter thinks you're nice, you're doing something wrong. Not standing up for the things you believe in or not doing the things you can."
"I look at Mother Theresa and all she does, and try to be a better person because she exists."
"The more you understand yourself, the more you know other people and can empathize with them. If you dislike someone strongly, it's can be something you dislike about yourself."

What she taught me-
Thrift stores are full of treasures, if it's a wrap skirt from the 70s, a silver toast rack to organize mail in, or a cast iron bacon press with a picture of a pig, you'll always find something good in a thrift store.
On that note- At least glance at dumpsters and see what's in them. Mom loved dumpster diving and was very good at it. I have a lovely end table she found for me in an alley that way.
Look at things and imagine what they could be. Clouds, fabric, that table (which was covered with an ugly dark varnish that was peeling up in spots) and people.
People are people. It's both the greatest and worst thing about them.
How to do hair- because she couldn't, but she grew her hair long out of love for my dad. I taught myself a 5 strand french braid she loved, how to do updos and twists, and lots of other hair styles to get her hair off her neck and back.
Good manners- which fork to eat with, how to introduce people in proper order
She taught me by doing. She did needlepoint, made her own coffee tables, sewed my dresses for most occasions, cooked gorgeous meals, and marched in demonstrations. She cold called various businesses in town to raise donations for charities and social causes she believed in.
That taking your children to cultural events for other cultures is important. Let children grow knowing how big the world is.
To really enjoy reading, to enjoy books. That everything is in them if you find the right one.
That coffee wouldn't stunt my growth
Having should mean sharing.
Enjoy yourself. Don't stint yourself the little luxuries, you'll regret it in the long run.
Good quality costs, but if you find it at a thrift store, someone else already paid most of the cost!
Bargain, barter, shop off season. Never pay retail if you can avoid it.
Following other people's recipes and patterns helps you learn how things are made- then you can start designing your own.

If you get along with your mom, hug her please, tell her thank you for what she's taught you. When I was about 13 I started a tradition with my mother, on my birthday, I'd give her a gift for all she gave me including life.
On her birthday, I took her out for dinner every year. A place of her choosing. Usually she chose Chinese or some other kind of place that would make it a real treat. Dad doesn't like much but steak and potatoes type places.  Her last birthday, she chose a pancake house telling me "Oh! I want a Reuben!" She was like a kid plotting and thinking I didn't know. But a block away from the specific place she chose is a thrift store. She wanted to go there. I made sure I had extra money with me, and sure enough, after we were done eating, she asked "Can we go to the thrift store?". I said yes. And we went over there. I paid for her purchases as she thought I would, but most of them were for my son and her husband. That's how she was. The perfect gift for her, the chance to shop for the two people she loved most.
Every year on her birthday, we go back to that restaurant, and we go to the thrift store. It's a family tradition. The restaurant is now a very nice Mexican place, the thrift store is still there.
I miss you mom. Thank you.


  1. How I agree with you!!! My Mum died when I was 20 and here I am at 66, teaching my granddaughter the things she taught me!!! The greatest compliment a mother can be paid is the love of her child. I'm thinking of you today and I hope you find peace in your memories!!!

  2. What a lovely post. Your mother sounds like a wonderful woman. Much like my own mother. Thank you for sharing.

  3. I truly enjoyed reading this. Thanks so much!

  4. Your mum sounds like a very wise woman, I'm glad you had such an amazing role model! Thanks so much for this post, it was a delight to read.

  5. My mother's not here to hug either, but thank you for a lovely post. x

  6. This is the first time I've read your blog. Thank you so much for sharing some of your mother's words and lessons with us - she sounds like a truly great person.

  7. what a lovely lady. you are a lucky young woman.
    I hope I can be such a wonderful mother to my daughters.


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