Tag Archives: memories

Five Reasons Your Mom is Awesome

A mother holding a baby by the sea at sunset
Mother and Child

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the amazing mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, and mother figures out there! WE set aside today to honor and thank mothers for everything they’ve done and continue to do for everyone they care for. Mother’s Day has been an official U.S holiday since 1914, and you can learn a bit about its history here. However, as nice as cards, flowers, and breakfast in bed are as gestures, sometimes we forget that moms just want to be thanked. Being a mom is a full-time job with multiple positions; moms are alternately teachers, nurses, cooks, cleaning staff, spiritual mentors, and a host of other things that we probably take for granted, because we often don’t notice the little things that make a big difference in our lives. So here are a few things moms do why they’re awesome.

1. For tracing hearts in your peanut butter sandwiches

Okay, I’m probably dating myself here, but does anyone remember those Skippy Peanut Butter commercials from the 1980s where the mom draws a heart in the peanut butter? The fact that you couldn’t see the heart once the sandwich was closed isn’t really the point. The point is that Mom took the time to do this for you, probably at 5:00AM, because she had to make sure she sent you off to school with a hardy (and hearty) lunch. I don’t remember when my mom stopped doing this, but I do remember that her hearts looked just like the one on TV.

2. For reading bedtime stories to you

If you think about everything your mom had to do just to run your life, from sending you off to school, to going to work to pay the bills, to coming home and cooking dinner while reading over your shoulder to make sure you weren’t skipping the hard Math problems (not guilty), she probably wanted to spend any “free time” she had with a glass of wine, the TV remote, and the dog that never asked for anything but belly rubs and pretzels. (this was a ritual our dog initiated. the pretzels, not the wine. At least, not for the dog). Instead, Mom chose to spend that time reading to you. According to the Reading Foundation, infants and young children who are read to or frequently engaged with verbally develop more advanced language and literacy skills.

3. For letting your friends treat her kitchen like the Waffle House (except with better food and sans drunk truckers)

Remember all the Friday nights when you begged and pleaded with Mom to let your best friend sleep over? She always said yes even though she needed another hormonal teenager under her roof keeping her up all night like she needed the entire family to become infested with head lice. And when you woke up the next morning, there were waffles. Always waffles. With chocolate chips. And enough maple syrup to send your blood sugar off the charts. You can’t really thank Mom if you’ve since developed diabetes, because she probably told you once if she told you a thousand times to lay off the sugar. You can and should, however, thank her for giving up her Saturday morning to cook you breakfast instead of shoving a box of cheerios at you and saying “Kitchen is closed. You’re on your own, kid.”

4. For making you do homework during the summer

Maybe this one is more specific to children who were raised by teachers, but I still remember summer mornings of having to practice my handwriting and my multiplication tables before I could run under the sprinkler outside or bury my nose in a book (unless the book in question was my required summer reading, in which case, I could spend all day reading if I wanted to). I have to be honest, these morning previews of purgatory didn’t really improve my math skills or my handwriting, but that’s not really my mother’s fault. I’m just inherently bad at writing in cursive and balancing my checkbook. What I did learn, however, was the value of tackling unpleasant things first thing in the day to clear my head and allow me to focus on the things I enjoyed with greater enthusiasm. It’s probably the reason why as a grad student, without fail, I rolled up my sleeves, however reluctantly, and tackled my daily writing quota on my dissertation before doing anything else. The downside, of course, is that you can’t numb the unpleasantness of difficult tasks with alcohol if you complete them in the morning, but I’ve learned to settle for caffeine.

5. For forcing you to make your bed every morning

Maybe I’m assuming a rule of thumb here, but in my experience, organized parents seem to think that an unmade bed equals some kind of moral degeneration. My mom also thinks this about dirty dishes left in the sink. The truth is that as much as we grumbled about this as kids, there’s something quietly satisfying about seeing that neatly made-up bed, knowing that your day has officially begun, if for no other reason than that you’re not going to go back to bed after all that work smoothing the sheets and aligning the comforter just so. Perhaps it’s psychosomatic, but I always seem to feel more tired throughout the day when I haven’t made my bed, so obviously my mom was onto something here. I don’t credit my neatly made bed for all of my work productivity, but it certainly hasn’t hurt.

Even as I write this, I recognize that the ways that we define the roles of parenthood have necessarily become more fluid as family dynamics have changed. Some of us grew up in the so-called nuclear family. Some of us were raised just by our mothers, or just by our fathers. Some of us had two mothers, or two fathers. Some were raised by individuals not biologically related to them. The label of the person who performs these small kindnesses for those they care for isn’t really the point; what matters is the love behind those acts.


What does the word mother mean to you?

Just a Little Smile is All it Takes: Happy Birthday Colin Firth

Winter, 2008: the near-end of my first semester as a PhD student. In the midst of end-of-semester insanity, I’d gone home for the Thanksgiving holiday to see my family. While everyone else in the family gathered in the living-room to decorate the Christmas tree, I sat curled on the sofa watching the BBC television adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice for a seminar paper due two weeks later. My father, as he so often does when I visit, wandered into the room at intervals to inquire about my progress and whether or not I needed anything (AKA another cup of coffee…or a tranquilizer). What he discovered probably made him suspect I’d require the latter. There I was, feverishly pecking at the keys on my laptop: pausing, rewinding, scribbling, rewatching, and—it goes without saying—occasionally attempting, without much success, to suppress a fangirlish squeal of delight.
“Research?” Dad asked delicately while I manufactured an expression of intense concentration.
“Yes, for my Jane Austen course.”
Dad’s gaze swiveled to the wet-shirted, dripping delight that was Colin firth and then settled back on me. “Well
, I’m glad your graduate studies are being put to good use.”
Just then, my mother joined him, took one look at the television, and declared, “So this is why you declared a specialization in nineteenth-century literature. Suddenly it all makes sense.”

My fascination with Colin Firth has been something of a family joke for as long as I can remember. One long-ago Christmas during my childhood, a distant relative I no longer remember sent me a gift that at the time, he or she had probably only picked out because it was the nearest to hand: a video of Hallmark’s 1987 television adaptation of The Secret Garden.

The day after Christmas, I sat curled on the rug in front of the television, the distant shouts of the neighborhood children trying their new bikes and roller-skates drifting in through the open window. At that moment, it didn’t matter that they never included me in their games—that I couldn’t ride or skate or run as quickly as the rest of them; I was far too engrossed in the story unfolding on the screen in front of me. At the time, I still had enough usable vision that if I sat close enough to the screen, I could still distinguish faces. Suddenly, in the final scene, I found myself scooting as close to the set as I could without actually pressing my face against the glass.
“This wasn’t in the book,” I thought as I watched, intrigued. A grown-up Mary Lennox was standing in her garden with Ben Weatherstaff, and suddenly from behind her came a voice, tender and caressing, and slightly crisp at the edges—a summer breeze with just a hint of fall: “Where you tend a rose, a thistle cannot grow.” I shivered as Mary turned and saw who it was, and as I caught a glimpse of his face, I thought, “That’s the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen.”

Why? Why that man? Why that face? There wasn’t anything immediately remarkable about it; neutral in appearance, passive in expression, but with a hint of something rippling beneath the surface like a lake stirred by a light breeze. That was what intrigued me—that carefully modulated reserve, that passion kept in check. Then I watched him kiss her, and I think my heart spilled into his hand then and there.

That was the first time I saw Colin Firth, though it wasn’t until quite a few years later—after I’d become much more familiar with his work—that I made the connection. Since that moment, I’ve been mesmerized and a bit haunted by that face—a face I’ve never forgotten, though it’s been years (longer than I feel comfortable admitting) since I’ve actually seen it. Over the years, I’ve made (and have been the subject of) plenty of jokes about this…lifelong love affair, for lack of a better term: that Colin Firth is the reason I can’t walk past a fountain or make an omelet without smiling; that (according to my mother) I’ve taught so much of his work in my courses I should probably list him as a guest lecturer; that he’s the reason why I refuse, on principle, to accept a marriage proposal that does not begin with or contain the words, “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” Admittedly, in fairness to Mr. Firth, even though I can no longer reread Pride and Prejudice without hearing his voice, I really think the blame for that last one should be laid at the feet of Jane Austen, since she introduced me to Mr. Darcy long before I became acquainted with Colin.

The truth is, though, that I’ve cherished a long admiration of his work that has deepened as I’ve been given opportunities to study it more closely, both in my own work and with students. He reminds me daily that passion for one’s work is often more rewarding than recognition (though he’s certainly deserving of every accolade he’s received) and I love his obvious appreciation in so much of his work for the value and utility of literature. I cannot reiterate enough that I think the roles he’s had in literary adaptations are some of his best performances. (And before anyone asks, yes, I have had the privilege of listening to his recording of Graham Green’s novel The End of the Affair, and I was entranced).

I don’t know why I feel compelled to share this story; it isn’t a remarkable one by any means, but it’s one that never fails to make me smile. In my mind, I associate Colin firth with some of my last, and clearest visual memories. Over time that image, like so many of the others, has begun to fade, but whenever I hear his voice, if I close my eyes, I can just see that face—can just picture that tantalizing half-smile twitching at the corners of his mouth. Maybe I’m no longer the best judge, but that smile is still one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

The happiest of birthdays to you, Mr. Firth, and many happy returns!