Here's how:My mom is unfailingly generous. Don't ever tell her that you like something that belongs to her, because she'll try to give it to you. And don’t look hungry, cause she’ll feed you. And you’d better bundle up, cause if you look cold she’ll give you her coat. She’s constantly finding ways to share what she has with others. Growing up, I often saw her writing a supportive note, putting together a gift basket, or offering to help someone who needed it. One instance during my sassy adolescence still stands out. A less-active member of our ward had passed away, and my Mom was involved in the funeral preparations. At the family’s request Mom set about gathering a set of scriptures and a scripture case bury with the deceased. When I saw the trouble she was going to I snidely commented, “What’s the point in burying scriptures with him? If he didn’t even have a set of his own they couldn’t have been that important to him.” She replied, “It’s what his family wants, and we can do it. Why not comfort and help in any way we can?” That has always been her attitude, and I’m trying to learn from her example.
My mom is an incredible cook. Her orange rolls are the stuff of legend. We've had them every Christmas for as long as I can remember. They are so gooey and delicious and reminiscent of home that once off at college, certain siblings have been known to make them at Thanksgiving. And Easter. And Labor Day. And rainy Thursdays in June. (Or was that just me?)
My mom lets us know she’s thinking about us, even when we’re far away. Before we moved I sorted through the boxes and boxes of letters accumulated in my closet. There were dozens of cards from Mom. She’s better than anyone else I know at consistently sending birthday cards, holiday greetings and thank you notes.
My mom puts everyone else’s comfort before her own. A few Christmases back Mom and Dad gave up their comfortable bed and slept on the front porch (!) so there’d be more room inside for all the kids and grandkids. More recently, they purchased a home with half a dozen bedrooms (even though all the kids are now adults) just to make sure there is always room for everyone. And you know what? Half the time, when the crowd is in town, they still end up giving up their own room to sleep on the hide-a-way bed.
My mom teaches life’s most important lesson in just the right way. Like when my third-grade reading group read a story called “The Middle Muddle,” which outlined the dreadfulness of being a middle child. Finally I knew why my life was so horrible! I was a middle child! I filed my new knowledge away until the next injustice, and then loudly proclaimed “I have the hardest life because I’m the middle child.” Kindly, my mom reminded me that in our family there are seven middle children. Many times since—usually when I’m tempted to think “my life is the hardest because …”—I’ve remembered that encounter. A little perspective goes a long way.
Later in fifth grade, I learned another crucial lesson. Vickie was one of the few children lower on the social totem pole than I was, and so I teased her with the fury only an underling can muster. Remembering my cruelty still embarrasses me today. And then one day, my mom came in to school on an errand. I was horrified to see Vickie, the object of my cruelty, approach my mother and tell on me. I spent the rest of the afternoon fretting about my punishment. Would I be grounded? Spanked? Forced to eat Brussels sprouts? Despite my anxiety, a few days passed without a word on the subject from Mom. I thought I was in the clear, and snottily told Vickie that I didn’t even get in trouble. Later that evening, Mom smoothly worked in to conversation the principles of kindness—to treat others kindly even if we aren’t treated kindly ourselves. There was no yelling, spanking, grounding, or punishment of any kind. But she still taught a powerful lesson.
My mom is a natural. When I became a mother myself my appreciation for her as a mother only grew. She brought me and Sam home from the hospital after Sam was born. While I sat on the couch with my little sleeping bundle wondering “now what?” she knew just what to do: The Laundry. And the dishes.And the meal preparation. And the ordering me to bed. Once as I sat on the couch she said, “You look tired.” I asked how she could tell (since “tired” is the default look for new mommies after the drugs have worn off) and she said it was the way I moved my eyes. I remember thinking that was funny. How can you read someone’s stamina from the way they move their eyes? But now I get it, because looking at Sam’s eyes always tips me off that it’s nap time. A mom just knows. My mom does, anyway.
My mom throws great parties. I turned sixteen just a month or two after moving to Arkansas. I’d left lots of good friends behind in New York, and I felt a little isolated spending what I considered to be such a monumental milestone without them. I wanted to skip school that day, to enjoy a celebratory mope or something. But Mom wouldn’t let me. You see, she had many secret preparations, and couldn’t have me hanging around all day. Later that evening, after a long and nondescript day at school, my sister came up to my room to tell me “there are some people downstairs to see you.” I went downstairs to discover a roomful of people from our new ward ready to yell “happy birthday.” My mom was in the kitchen, grinning as she pulled a frosted angel food cake out of the plate cupboard. A German chocolate cake emerged from the spice cupboard, and suddenly the room was full of snacks and friends and fun. Sneaky Mom. I was completely surprised. Even now as I remember that party I tear up a little bit. She went to so much trouble just to make me feel special.
I guess, in a nutshell, that's what's really so great about my mom. With nine kids, it would be easy for us to get lost in the crowd. But that doesn't happen because Mom knows just how to make each one of us feel special. (And your mom doesn't do that. Your mom doesn't even like me. But lucky for me, mine does.) Thanks, Mom.
I love you Mom! Happy Birthday!