Back in 1996, when my mother was 59, her doctors diagnosed her with cancer. In the next breath they told her there was nothing they could do and that she very likely only had weeks to live. I became obsessed with wanting her to know what kind of mother she’d been. What kind of impact she’d made on me, my little sister–Carol–our father, and everyone we knew.
Not wanting to waste a minute, I grabbed a sheet of paper and feverishly put down this love-letter list, which I read both to her, and aloud at her memorial weeks later.
I share this here for a few reasons:
1. To send my beloved Joanne Tisch my undying mama love on this beautiful Mother’s Day weekend.
2. To let you mothers out there know that it’s the small things you do that make such a profound difference. Your kids are watching and holding your sacrifices in their minds + hearts (even if they regularly throw tantrums and call you names). Believe me!
3. To inspire you to put pen to paper (or fingers on keyboard) for your own mother. We never know how much time we have left to let them hear us sing their praises.
Thank you for holding my mother + hopefully yours, too, in your heart as you read this:
Dearest Mom, I thought you might want to know a few of the reasons I love you—past and present. Here goes:
I love your laugh. I love the way you support me, always. I love hearing your voice (nobody has it but you).
I love the way you always answered all of my questions as a kid. And the way you cooked for us–always yummy–walking Leo before we woke up, and having breakfast and lunch ready before we went to school.
And the way you drove me everywhere. And swam with me (“fishy, fishy”). And read to me. And waited for me to come home from school, and listened to my day with interest. (And still do.)
And the way you bought me tons of stuff. And told Dad not to make me clean my room. I love how you took me to Shoup Park. And comforted me when it rained and we couldn’t go.
I love how you tucked me in at night, every night. And how you would come home late sometimes, and hug me with your fake fur that smelled like perfume after going out on the town.
I love how you glowed with joy when walking with your toes in the wet sand. With Dad not far off, in his shoes and socks. I love how you pointed out shells and seaweed, followed by a walk up Ocean Avenue.
I love the way you ask for guidance, and admit you’re not perfect. And the way you are eating healthy foodstuffs and doing your affirmations.
I love the way you send Tosh little notes and packs of gum. And, football and basketball Easter chocolates. And how you write us letters beginning with “Dear Dolls.”
And how you type labels on the tapes you send us. And how you save (and recycle) water and foil and plastic bags and paper towels. And how you notice little plants and bugs.
And how you put spiders outside without harming them. And how you always have fresh flowers in the house. And, the smell of roses in the garden. And how you taught me to love planting things. And, cooking and cleaning and mothering.
And how you are such a good host at dinner parties. And how you laugh at Dad’s jokes, time and time again.
And how you let me tackle you as a teenager on the front porch. And trusted me to stay out late at night. And picked me up so I didn’t have to drive home tipsy. And how you would wave at me from the front porch, or from the road, depending on how long I’d be gone.
And how you fed all of my friends and me whenever we wanted. And how you’d let me eat a loaf of toast after track practice. And how you’d make me salad for breakfast. Or sit next to me on the bathroom floor when I had cramps from my period.
And how you taught me to love talk shows and interviews. And to love books so now I can write them. And how you taught me that a good walk feels wonderful.
And showed me how to get up each morning with a smile, and energy to do the day’s work well.
And how to type (by example) really fast. And how to stay married and support my family. And how to pray at night before bed. And how to appreciate the rain with all my heart, putting all the indoor plants outside to have a drink.
I love how you’d shop at the funky health food stores (that are now all the rage). And make lumpy carob-chip, oatmeal cookies that tasted better than the smooth kind. And swim for hours on end with your grandson, answering all his questions about your swim cap. And the little red hat you wear in the cold. And your socks and flannel pajamas that are so cozy to hug.
And the way you keep your home so clean and nice, always open for my family. I love how you were gracious when I dropped the Tisch from my name, or stopped my studies in college, understanding my need to be independent.
And how you acted goofy around my husband when you met him, like he was Robert Redford. Or at the very least, like the man taking your financial burden away (hee hee). I love the way you’ve taught me to love the theater and movies. And those who make them. And act in them.
I love how your little nose gets tan in the sun. And how you called me “Freckle Nose.” And how you have always loved me, regardless (and helped me to love myself), knowing that whatever I did, my mom loved me.
And loved my sister. And my dad. And my husband. And my son. And even Brodie and Peanut and Trinity and Luke and the rest of the pack.
And my book. And my home. And my land. And my friends.
Cause that’s what you do best… LOVE.
I hope you can love yourself as much as others love you. Because the world is a much better place with you in it!
Those are a few of the things I love about you, Mom, but not all.
Words are never enough.