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What Mom Never Said

Here arI deservee three truths that guide my life:

1) Perfection is highly overrated. I’ve never met a perfect person, and I certainly wasn’t raised by anyone who met the criteria.

2) We learn more far more from our mistakes than we will ever learn from accomplishments.

3) The best advice we receive isn’t handed to us wrapped in words of wisdom. Instead, the most meaningful lessons are often hidden in what we observe, what we hear, and, in many cases, what we don’t hear.

My mom has spent more than 51 years trying to impart these nuggets of truth on my brother and me.

When I was young, she sometimes interspersed her acquired wisdom into our conversations, but what went unsaid was always more powerful.

For example, my mom never once told me I deserved anything. NEVER.

I was well into adulthood before I realized that.

No matter what I achieved, she never used the word deserve. Of course she encouraged me and told me that I’d earned my successes, but she implied that earning something is entirely different from deserving it.

She never explained this, and we never discussed the matter.

But by not speaking that one word, deserve, she said volumes.

In matters of every day life, human beings don’t have the right, or the ability, to decide who is deserving of something. Because, in doing so, we imply that others are not deserving.

Life is one big poker game in which the draw sometimes determines everything. Yes, some people are better at playing the game. Yes, some people use their cards to gain an advantage. Yes, some people avoid temptations and are able to improve their chances. And yes, some people are so charming and engaging that they can cloud reality to sway the beliefs of others.

But in the end, some people are simply luckier, and luck has nothing to do with their character, their abilities, their  fortitude, their courage, or whether they are more “deserving” than others

So even though Mom never talked about why she threw “deserve” into her junk pile of words that are either misused or meaningless, she said everything through the life she’s led.

And for that, I will always be grateful.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

My Mother’s Hands

I had a shock the other day while typing.IMG_3173

I looked down and realized that, despite my best efforts to never have my mother’s hands, I had failed.

Growing up, I was always very aware that my mother’s hands didn’t look like those of my friends’ mothers.

Her fingers never sparkled with jewelry or nail polish. The only ring she ever wore was a simple gold band on her left hand, and her nails were always cut short so dirt couldn’t accumulate under them. She never considered polishing them, and, as a teenager, I brought the first bottle of nail polish into our house.

Neither were my mother’s hands soft. They were rough from all the tasks she required of them.

And she required a great deal.

When I was a child, she always had a meal on the table, her house was always spotless and the laundry was always done and hung on the line to dry. She canned and froze the vegetables and fruits my dad grew in his large garden and she sewed almost all the clothes I wore. She made bread from scratch and biscuits from memory. As a Girl Scout leader, she taught me how to start a fire, put up a tent and forge a trail. And when she wasn’t being a mom, she was a photographer and a journalist. She dragged my brother and me from everything to train wrecks to hippie communes to worm farms.

By the time her day was over, she didn’t have the time, energy or interest to soak her hands or massage them with lotion. Her hands were too busy turning the pages of a book.

I was an adult before I realized that I had no reason to be embarrassed by my mother’s hands. They were simply a reflection of whom she is, which isn’t whom I am at all.

I don’t like to cook, and my house is never spotless. I haven’t canned or frozen any vegetables since she stood at my side teaching me. And I refuse to sew anything.

And yet, as heredity would have it, I now have my mother’s hands not because I have labored as she did but because I have labored in my own ways.

My hands, like her hands, are rarely idle. My hands, like her hands, have chosen meaningful work over vanity. And my hands, like her hands, have taken care of two children in the best way they know how.

As I look down at my hands now, I am no longer shocked or even bothered. Instead I am proud that they reflect who I am: one in a long line of women who are true to themselves, true to their families and true to their beliefs.

Even if we aren’t true to fashion.