Dear Mom,

You said after you and Dad retired that you hoped to discover your purpose in life someday.  Since you’ve read rather a lot on spiritual topics, you already know that people who’ve had near-death experiences often recount being told to return to their lives, and to remember that the purpose of an earthly life is to love, to learn, and to teach.

If that’s true (and I like to think it is) then you’ve already been living your purpose, even if you’re unaware of it.  

When I was attending Illinois State, I met some of your former students, and they all thought you were a marvelous teacher.  I could’ve told them that.  I’ve been attending the Shirley Naughton School of Moms for five decades.  Here’s just some of what I’ve learned:

Pre-preschool:  Moms are warm and sweet, and they kiss you a lot because they love you.  When you grow up, you will probably marry Mom.

Preschool:  Moms don’t like it if you use your crayons to create an artistic expression on the bricks.  If you draw on the bricks, Mom will make sure you learn how to remove crayon marks with a toothbrush.  She will still love you, though.

Kindergarten:  Moms know how to make buttered toast with cinnamon and sugar and hot milk poured on top.  This is quite possibly the best breakfast ever invented.

First Grade:  If you don’t wear your scarf and hat, you’ll get an earache.  Moms warn you about these things because they love you.

Second Grade:  If you get an earache, it’s okay to wake up Mom in the middle of the night and tell her about it.  She’ll hug you and kiss you so you’ll feel better.  The next day, she’ll take you to the doctor.  He’ll put oily stuff in your ears.  And you should’ve worn your scarf and hat.

Third Grade:  Moms know how to take an ordinary can of Spaghetti-Os and turn it into the best lunch ever invented.  They do this by mixing in pieces of hot dogs.  It’s a lot of work, but they do it anyway because they love you.

Fourth Grade:  Really good Moms become den mothers for a bunch of Cub Scouts.  They teach you techniques for creating modern art, such as gluing split peas to a jelly glass and spray-painting the whole thing gold.  You can give these masterpieces to your grandparents.

Fifth Grade:  Moms don’t like slugs.  If you find a slug on the sidewalk, you definitely should not put it on the kitchen counter shortly before Mom walks in to cook.  Hearing your mother scream isn’t as much fun as you might think.  If you do put a slug on the kitchen counter, Mom will still love you.

Sixth Grade:  If you learn a new song at school, Mom would like to hear you sing it. If you sing really well, your Mom will say so.  If you don’t sing really well, she’ll say you do anyway.  You probably shouldn’t judge your talents based on what Mom says.

Seventh Grade:  If they are surprised, Moms can forget what their own kids look like.  If you forget your homework, you probably should not let yourself into the house through the garage door and surprise Mom coming out of the bathroom.  In this situation, Moms often mistake their kids for axe murderers.  If you do grow up and become an axe murderer, your Mom will still love you and tell people you’re just confused.

Eighth Grade:  Moms love dogs.  They also love hamsters and guinea pigs.  If you want any of these animals for pets, you should go straight to Mom.

Ninth Grade:  If you make Mom angry enough, she’ll spank you.  This isn’t much of a concern, however, because it doesn’t hurt.  Also, it will probably only happen two or three times in your entire life.

Tenth Grade:  Good Moms love your friends and feed them better meals than they get at home.  They also talk to your friends as if they have brains, which is true in most cases.  This means your friends will want to spend a lot of time at your house.

Eleventh Grade:  Moms are smart!  They can go to college and learn about English literature and philosophy.  The good news is that if you’ve also been reading literature and philosophy, you can enjoy talking to Mom about those subjects.  The bad news is that sometimes you’ll end up talking until 2:00 in the morning and spend the next day feeling tired and not all that philosophical.

Twelfth Grade:  If you’re studying literature in school, you should raid Mom’s library and see if she’s already read whatever book you’ve been assigned.  If she has, you could almost write a term paper on what you glean from the notes she scribbled in the margins.  At the very least, you’ll have some interesting points to raise in class and impress the teacher.

College, First Year:  Moms love you and don’t care what you plan to do for a living as long as you’re happy.

College, Second Year:  Moms don’t mind if your band practices in the basement.  They like hearing the same song fifty or sixty times in one week.

College, Third Year:  Moms love you and don’t care what you plan to do for a living as long as you’re happy.

College, Fourth Year:  When you come home for weekends and holidays, Moms celebrate by making Beef Bourguignon.  This is the best dinner ever invented and only takes a couple of days to whip together.

College, Fifth Year:  Moms love you and don’t care what you plan to do for a living as long as you’re happy.

Early Twenties:  When your best friend is getting married, Moms will make moussaka for the rehearsal party.  This is the second-best dinner ever invented and only takes a couple of days to whip together.  The next morning, it’s also the best breakfast ever invented.

Later Twenties:  If you write a play, Mom will be reasonably sure you’ve established yourself as a literary genius. 

Thirty:  Moms don’t care if you can’t find anything to do for a living as long as you’re not completely miserable.  Moms will assure you that if you follow your dreams, something good will happen.

Early Thirties:  Moms are good to your girlfriends and can even miss them when you decide you didn’t actually mean to get engaged.  Some girlfriends will tell you they wish they’d had your Mom instead of theirs.

Mid Thirties:  Moms make excellent comedic material.  If you can’t make people laugh by talking about your Mom, you’d better find another career to pursue.

Later Thirties:  Great Moms make great Grandmas.  Contrary to what some little grandsons believe, grandmothers don’t necessarily live in little houses that smell bad, and it can make you feel warm and fuzzy to see how much your nephews like going to grandma’s house.

Forties:  Little boys don’t actually grow up and marry their Moms.  But when the lucky ones grow up, they do get married and are almost ridiculously happy because they learned how to love and be loved – from Mom.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  You really are a marvelous teacher.

I love you.


2 Responses to “Lessons From Mom”
  1. Steve says:

    Really cool post, Tom. Is your Mom Greek? Or, did she just love moussaka? My mother’s side of the family was Greek, and I am forever connected to the culture through the food. Moussaka, tiropita, spanokopita, souvlaki, baklava…don’t get me started!

    Also, although I have not eaten it in years, I love buttered cinnamon/sugar toast with milk, although I never had the hot milk poured over it. I might have to try it.

    Another old carb fest favorite from my Mom was a glass full of oreo cookies all broken up, with milk poured over it, so you can crush the cookies more and eat them with a spoon. Yum! That was Love!

    Happy Mother’s day to Chareva and to your Mom. The third anniversary of my Mom’s passing is on May 25th. Ruby Margeritis Raymond lives on, cherished in my heart and memories.

    Mom is Irish & German, but also a gourmet cook who loves making dishes from all over the world.

    (I’m about 3/4 Irish and 1/4 German. My dad, back when he had his wits, explained that this combination produces a hot-headed nitpicker. You know me well enough to see there’s some truth in that.)

    I wouldn’t touch toast with sugar on it anymore, but man, that was good back in the day. I’m kind of glad she didn’t think of the oreos treat.

    Thanks for the Mother’s Day wishes. Since much of my mom’s life is now spent taking care of a husband who longer recognizes her on some days, I wish her all the happiness she can muster.

  2. Trinkwasser says:

    Ah, bless!

    Mine lived in the same house in the same town for 60 years. She was a teacher and years after she’d retired people would come up to her in the street and say

    “Didn’t you used to be Mrs Trinkwasser?” and tell her how much they used to enjoy being in her class.

    Eventually in her eighties I managed to drag her away. She is now living with me, in a much more civilised place, the neighbours, shopkeepers and everyone else she meets loves her to death. The food, the doctors, the roads and infrastructure are much better here, she’s never looked back. But secretly I think she still misses those old pupils. Maybe I should bribe some people to pretend to have been in her class.

    “Didn’t you used to be Mrs Trinkwasser?” That’s hilarious. Your mum sounds like a peach.

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