This is the last short piece I wrote for my class through The Momoir Project. I was going to post it for Mother's Day and then didn't, as I began working on something for a contest and thought I might re-work this. I didn't end up doing that and then forgot about posting this. Since yesterday was Father's Day I was reminded. The spark was "My Mother Always Told Me".
My Mother Always Told Me
"Always wear clean underwear, you never know when you might get into an accident".
My Mother Always Told Me
Ok what, mother? First of all, shouldn't you always wear clean underwear just because? And secondly, if you did get into an accident and need medical treatment, would anyone really care what you were wearing? No! But this was my mom, always proper: hair combed, lipstick on, proper. I'm sure the thought of a doctor seeing her in anything other than her best underwear was simply mortifying.
Sadly, in the more than sixteen years since her death, this is the first piece of advice I think of. I know she shared plenty of wisdom over the years but nothing else readily comes to mind. I was a teenager when she died, not clued in yet that mother really does know best. Anything she did say was probably lost on me. She certainly did lead by example however, being the most giving, selfless person I knew, always helping and comforting others. In unmanageable pain, she even wrote deathbed letters to me and my siblings, the scrawling, nearly unrecognizable handwriting a sign of the disease that was ravaging her.
There are countless times over the years I would have loved her advice though - the words, not just the actions. What to do with my first baby, crying and writhing in pain from a sore tummy at two months old; how to make her perfect strawberry cream filled angel food cake that I have attempted, and failed at, many times; or most importantly to hear from her that I am a good enough mother to do all the things I worry every day that I don't do well enough.
But I don't have that, so I want to make sure my children do. Sure, I will probably live to a ripe old age, always available to give my three kids advice, often unwarranted I'm sure. But what if I'm not? What if my children are left, like me, without a mother to ask life's simple questions to? I am raising my children in a different generation than my parents raised me, one where the lines of communication are more open. But I still fear the years will pass and my children will think that the best piece of advice I gave them was to "always double wrap the onion or it will stink up the fridge".
Sure, those savvy little tidbits are important. Every girl needs to hear things like "don't highlight your hair yourself because the results can be disastrous." Or any child of mine should know how I feel about wearing white pants (Don't wear them! Ever!). But more importantly, I want to to tell them the big stuff, like they should choose a partner that they love and respect more than anything else; if they have babies (please have babies, please have babies, please have babies), it will change their ability to love in a way they won't understand until they are parents themselves; and above all else, that they are good enough, smart enough, and strong enough to do whatever they want in life.
Maybe I should start my deathbed letter to my children now and work on it over time, for say the next fifty years. Although if my husband didn't think I was insane enough already, stumbling upon the file "Deathbed_Letter_to_Kids.doc" on the computer might just tip him off. I guess that one's probably out of the question.
So instead, I will try to lead by example like my mom did, giving little pieces of advice to my kids whenever I can, hoping that it'll be there should they need it one day. And mom, if you're up there reading down over my shoulder, lucky for all of us that you were a wonderful woman whose memory we can turn to in the absence of advice. Because that clean underwear bit is really not your best work.