Things I Learned from my Mother (without her even saying a word…)

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My childhood contains at least half a dozen vague memories of a bleeding child being ushered to our bathroom. The other mothers on the block would consult her for a feverish child, a rash. The first opinion before heading off to the emergency room for stitches. Or home for an icy compress. My mother, the nurse.

While I slept, my mother headed off to the local emergency room to start her “day.” It was unusual at that time to have a married, working mother. I never thought about the lives she touched while we slumbered. She remained fascinated in her field, as evidenced by sometimes off-kilter dinner conversations or the slightly grotesque nursing magazines that came in the mail.

My teenage self squinted into my reflection in the bathroom mirror. I had my mother’s green eyes, but nothing much more. She was petite and curvy, I was long and skinny. Where had she left her mark? So many were the spitting image of their mothers. It was obvious was not going to follow in her footsteps. I became woozy at the sight of blood.

Not the type to preach, but more likely to discuss. I only learned the answers when I became a mother myself. What impressed upon me in my youth never had to be said.

She had (and still has) friends. Some of them from childhood. While we played corner store or house or Monopoly, she chatted with friends. They met for coffee or came over for barbeques. We went camping with them and their children. When she lost a son not yet 25 years old, friends came to the house in droves to comfort her, some with words and some with only a hand held. She could have become bitter, turned inward and died inside. She chose to live.

What my mother instilled inside me is a life of balance. Of time spend with friends. And with family. With meals together. The courage to dream and to be. The notion that one can live through anything. And she never had to say a word.

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