Some of these mantras were repeated daily. Some are singular moments & conversations that have stayed with me for years. Limiting to only ten was a challenge, so I tried to select the most universal advice. I also tried to stick with Mom's voice, so more concrete lessons learned by example were omitted despite their value. Perhaps a second list is needed for those. Because really, everyone should know that you can't use a canoe paddle to push off from a muddy bank - you will capsize.
Suz's Top Ten
10. “Work hard.”
Work is not a noun, where some is hard and some easy. It is a verb.
Whatever it is, work hard at it.
When one has repeated the same litany for years, there is no need to belabor the point.
One word should suffice as a reminder.
8. “I’ll sit on your bed.”
Whenever I had an onerous task to complete, Mom would come sit on my bed while I finished. She’d sit and talk to me while I worked. She did this for decades. Whether I had to clean up my toys, complete my calculus homework, pack for college or write thank you notes, she would keep me company. She never did it for me; but I never had to do it alone.
7. “I was at home. Thanks for noticing.”
During my first post-partum come-apart, I told my Mom I felt like I wasn’t living up to her example. She was a “working mother” and I admired her career. I thought that by staying home, I might be letting her down. Turns out, she didn’t work – outside the home - until I went to Kindergarten. She was at home for five years. But, like most aspects of the Mom job, it went entirely unnoticed by the beneficiary.
[She also, quite graciously, refrained from mentioning that with a two-week old infant,
I might be less than entirely logical.]
6. “Well, you’re not going to be friends.”
I was lamenting the presence of a girl in my life that defied understanding. We disagreed politically, socially, just about in every way possible. I was confounded. What should I DO? Mom’s reply reminded me that while I needed to be nice, I don’t need to welcome everyone into my life. Especially not those that make me crazy.
5. “There is no one different from you.”
Same conversation. Same girl. How could there possibly be someone so different in every way? But Mom didn’t believe in different. In other. We are all the same.
Far more than we ever choose to accept.
4. “Leave an extra car-length for your Mother.”
No one ever accused Mom of aggressive driving.
3. “You don’t need to be perfect to be loved.”
In college, Mom sent an article, clipped from Parade magazine that was entitled, “You don’t have to be perfect to be loved.” It was a message she lived every day in every moment. I was amused and touched that she found an article that spoke to her philosophy, and I still have the clipping. But at 18 I still didn’t really get what a gift it was. I was privileged to have a roommate who also had an extraordinary Mom. We both received notes and gifts in the mail all through our freshman year. We mastered the college voicemail system in part to silence the 8am calls each Saturday morning. It was only much later that I realized how rare was that tether of demonstrated, spoken, unwavering love. One day I'll have to explain "clipping" and "mail" to my daughters of the email age, but hopefully they will have already internalized that love does not have to be earned.
2. "Call me when you cross state lines."
This was, once upon a time, “Call me when you get there.” But I am TERRIBLE at that. I can never remember, at the flurry of arrival, to stop, look back, and be grateful for the safe journey. So Mom adjusted her expectations. Call me when you cross state lines was a doable, and more accurate assessment of my safety. Then, in the habit of checking in, I’d call within a few miles of my destination, “I’m almost there.” She could take on faith that I'd make it the rest of the way on my own.
1. "Be Safe."
This is why I will never jump off tall rocks into water.