Friday, January 20, 2012

Four Very Important (and Sometimes Strange) Things I Learned from My Mother

By Susan McBride

I feel a little like a copycat after Laura Spinella wrote that wonderful post about her mother last Friday.  Not only was it Friday the 13th, but it was her mom’s 83rd birthday (hope it was a happy one!).  Tomorrow is my mom’s 75th birthday.  So that she doesn't feel left out, I figured I’d pen a piece in her honor, all about some very important life lessons I’ve learned from her.  Let’s just say, they’re invaluable (or at least chuckle-worthy).  Here goes!

Lesson #1:  Threats Don’t Work
I remember one particular time in my young life when I was furious with my mother…for what, I can’t remember.  I was about 10 or 11, and I recall very clearly telling her how she’d pissed me off and then letting her know I was running away.  Not only did she basically say, “Terrific,” I think she offered to help me pack.  I ended up leaving the house, racing across the lawn and down to the grassy triangle up the street, and climbing a tree so I could see the house.  I was certain she’d run outside crying hysterically and shouting at the top of her lungs, “Susan!  Sweetheart, I’m so sorry!  Please, come back!”  I don’t know how long I sat in that tree, waiting and watching for her, but it had to be at least an hour (which felt like days).  My pride wounded and stomach growling, I finally slunk inside and found her in the kitchen.  “I see you’re back in time for dinner,” she said. “It would’ve been a shame to give the dog your meatloaf.”

Lesson #2:  Don’t Troll Mom’s Bathroom for Empty Boxes
I bought what was surely a fabulous present for my mother one Christmas long ago but I needed an empty box in which to stuff and wrap it.  So, of course, I poked around my parents’ master bathroom (this was before The Container Store, you see).  Lo and behold, on a shelf in the linen closet, I found a cardboard box that was light blue with tiny white flowers all over it. Gorgeous!  It wasn’t until Mom unwrapped the box and began laughing that I learned the box once contained Tampax tampons. Not sure at that point I even knew what that meant. But she said that next time I needed an empty box, I should just ask.

Lesson #3:  When it’s Dad versus a Kitten, the Kitten Wins
We always had at least one dog in the house.  When I was really little, it was a cocker spaniel named Cindy.  As I got older, we had a couple of golden retrievers and a giant mutt named Puppy.  At some point after my sister and I were in grade school, we started asking for a kitten.  My mom thought that was a grand idea.  My dad was not so keen.  “It’s either me or a cat,” he very sternly told us all one night at family dinner.  My mom replied, “You’re going to lose there, buster,” then asked us, “So is it a kitten or your father?”  My sister and I looked at each other, grinned, and squealed, “Hooray, we’re getting a kitten!”  And we did.

Lesson #4:  Don’t Dump a Guy Just Because He Wears Weird Shoes
When I was a sophomore in high school, I dated a senior who was brilliant (he went to the Air Force Academy), talented (he played piano like a pro), athletic (he was a star on the soccer team), and hunky.  He also wore desert boots when no one else was wearing desert boots.  For some reason, that bothered me enormously. Superficial, I know. But then again, I was 15. My mom kept saying, “Don’t break up with this wonderful boy over a pair of shoes.”  But I did anyway.  Fast forward 26 years to when I met Ed. He used to wear this motorcycle jacket—a real one, with hard pads that made the shoulders stand out like a linebacker—only he didn’t ride a motorcycle.  (Oh, he had one. It was just not drivable and still resides in his parents’ garage because he won’t get rid of it.) My friends teased him about it unmercifully.  The meanies. But Ed wore it anyway.  He also had a neon-green striped shirt he donned for Christmas Eve dinner at my folks’ the first time they met him. The next morning, Mom asked, “So, what about that green shirt?”  I felt the same way about it as I did the motorcycle jacket.  Yuck.  But thank goodness I wasn’t 15 any more.  I recognized and appreciated all the wonderfulness of Ed that had nothing to do with his clothes.  To this day, I’m so glad I didn’t dump Ed over something as superficial as a silly jacket or a fluorescent green shirt.  I would have missed out on the best thing in my life.
Not sure what the moral is to any of this except that moms are sly creatures.  They know things—sometimes strange things—and we can learn from them if we pay attention.  Seeing as how I’m going to be a mom myself, maybe I really need to write more of this stuff down.  Or make up some new stuff. 


  1. Your mom sounds very wise. :-) Please wish her a happy birthday from all of us at Stiletto! Maggie

  2. An absolutely darling post, Susan!! Your mom will love it!! It's fascinating the things from childhood that stick in our memories! Mother did have a very happy birthday, and I wish the same for yours!!

  3. Maggie, my mom is definitely crazy like a fox. She certainly does (and says!) the unexpected much of the time. But being her daughter is never boring. ;-) I'll tell her you said, "Happy birthday!"

    Laura, I'll have to send Mom a link (or maybe print it out!). It is amazing what sticks in your brain, isn't it? And I have lots more where those came from. I'll pass on the b-day wishes from you, too!

  4. Mom's know best. I decided to runaway when I was about 7 and in the bathtub. Mom said, "Go right ahead, but you'll have to go just as you are now. I bought all your clothes so they belong to me, you'll have to leave them behind."
    I didn't go anywhere. Happy Birthday to your mom.


  5. Marilyn, that's hilarious! It sounds like something my mom would've said. :-) I will holler "Happy Birthday" for you, too!

  6. Happy Birthday to your mom Susan! It seems that many of us "attempted" to run away in our younger years and our moms outsmarted us every time. The most hilarious (for me) and most humiliating (for my mom) thing I ever did in my childhood was make a harness to walk my dog with (when his collar broke) with my mom's maxi pad belt (I had NO idea what it was, just that it looked like it would make a good dog harness, and surprisingly enough, it did)! Unfortunately (for my mom) my mom was not home when I grabbed it out of the bathroom drawer and slapped it on the dog but got home just in time to see me walking the dog back home from his (4 block) walk around our entire neighborhood while many of our neighbors were out gardening, mowing or watering their lawns! I know now why I got so many odd looks from mostly the women I passed in the neighborhood and my mom got her own teasing about it from some well meaning friends, but at least from then on she made sure that she kept her belts in her dresser drawers LOL!

  7. Susan, those were very stories. I'm sure your mom will love the blog. Wish her a happy birthday for me. Motherhood is a very special experience, enjoy the journey.

  8. Charming. What I love is the security and sturdiness of the relationships in your family. You have good antecedents. Has Ed ever lived down the neon green shirt? I can just imagine what a fun family you'll be :)

  9. LadyRed, I laughed out loud reading your story! Oh, gosh, that's priceless! Thanks a million for sharing!

    Yellowrose, I will give her your good wishes! I have a feeling that Peapod will be the best present I could ever give her (just a wee bit late--er, five months--for her birthday!). I can't wait to become a mom. Then in a couple decades, my kid can write about the kooky lessons he/she learned from me! ;-)

    Lil, I have a nutty family, and they've taught me a lot (mostly about myself). I don't think my mom will ever forget the neon green shirt. She absolutely loves Ed, so she likes to say, "I'm very glad you didn't dump him over that shirt." Me, too!!! Ah, the difference 26 years make. Thank goodness I grew up. :-)

  10. Great stories Susan!I can only imagine what an amazing woman your mom is and I'm sure you will be too!

  11. Aw, thanks, Anjali! My mom is a true character! :-) I hope you're doing well btw.

  12. Excellent lessons! Your mom is wonderful, and you will be a wonderful mom also!