Things My Mother Taught Me
Today would have been my mother's 90th birthday. How I wish I had her with me to spoil her, throw a big party, let her see how wonderful her grandchildren have turned out, show her my beautiful grandchildren and give her a HUGE hug. After the party, I'd want to spend hours and hours talking to her, but mostly listening to her tell me again the things she told me when she was alive. But, she's not here, and I have a hard time imagining her as a 90-year-old. She died at the age of 55, full of life and plans for the future. She was so pretty.
Here she is with my sister and me at a bridal tea shortly before I got married in 1971. Notice that not only was her hair fixed to perfection, she made sure that mine was, as well.
In this photo, my firstborn Laura was three weeks old, and we were enjoying Thanksgiving at my grandmother's house in 1973. My mother is the one standing with the dark shirt. My grandmother is next to her, and my great-grandmother is the one seated beside me.
Then, just a couple of years before she died, this was her photo in their church directory.
As I said, I had a pretty momma.
But, more than just being pretty, she taught me lessons with her words and with her example. Here are some that really "took" and became part of my own habits and beliefs.
1) PUT ON SOME LIPSTICK! Starting when I was just 10 years old, Momma told me I needed a little "color on my face," and she supplied the lipstick. Imagine a 10-year-old with bright red lips. Yet, to this day, I try to never be seen without any lipstick.
2) FIX YOURSELF UP EVERY TIME YOU GO OUT IN PUBLIC. Momma would never have allowed herself to be seen at the grocery store with curlers in her hair. She loved going to the store and counted on running into someone she knew, so she made sure she was "presentable." I've slipped up a few times in my life and invariably run into people that made me wish I had taken a few more minutes to fix myself up before I walked out of the house.
3) PRACTICE THE ART OF CONVERSATION UNTIL YOU'RE GOOD AT IT. My momma was one of the world's BEST conversationalists. She could talk to ANYBODY. She even had a way of talking to people whose opinions were different from hers without offending anyone. As she and my daddy went across the state representing the Baptist Children's Home, this ability served her well and made her such a great asset to him.
4) BE HOSPITABLE. She LOVED having people in her home. She didn't keep a spotless house, but she kept a welcoming, comfortable home. I know I enjoyed being in the environment she created, and I believe others felt the same way.
5) PLAN MEALS FOR COMPANY BY DECIDING ON THE DESSERT FIRST. Momma thought that no matter what else you served, your guests deserved to leave with something amazing on their tastebuds. She was a huge fan of casseroles and congealed salads, but desserts were always a part of her meals.
6) BRAG ON YOUR CHILDREN. Momma loved collecting great stories about her children and their various accomplishments, so she'd be ready to "share" at a moment's notice. The same applied to her grandchildren as they came along. I know she knew we weren't perfect, but her friends and acquaintances only heard the good stuff, the funny stuff, the happy stuff.
7) KEEP YOUR HAIR LOOKING NICE AND BE SURE TO COVER UP THE GRAY. For many years, Momma had a standing weekly beauty shop appointment, and she kept it faithfully. To me, that meant that she took a lot of pride in her appearance, and, although it sounds old-fashioned in 2020, she wanted my daddy to be proud of her appearance, too.
8) BUY GOOD QUALITY CLOTHING. She always told me it was better to have 2 good blouses than 10 shoddy ones. Now, if I could afford TEN good blouses, then that was even better. :) She loved shopping for clothes and made those credit card payments out of her own salary. Thus, avoiding spats with my dad.
9) FAMILY IS IMPORTANT. Not only did Momma stay closely connected to her children, she also absolutely adored her parents, sisters, and brothers. If she had a choice of going to the beach or going to Athens to be with her siblings, she chose Athens every time. Along this same line, my momma extended unconditional love to my brother, sister and me. That wasn't too hard with my brother who was "practically perfect in every way"(In case you're reading, I love you, Bro), but my sister and I tested her love again and again. She loved us no matter what.
10) IT'S GOOD TO PLAY AND TO WORK. My dad was something of a workaholic, yet she knew he needed to get away from the office and find some outlets for relaxation. Over time, she convinced him to buy a camper, then a motorhome, and both of them enjoyed their times away tremendously.
11) KNOW THE SCRIPTURE AND BE READY TO APPLY IT. Momma was in church regularly throughout her whole life. No one would call her a Bible scholar, yet the truth of the Word had seeped into the fabric of her daily life. Verses would come out of her mouth during times of admonishment, times of discipline, times of encouragement and times of comfort. "Love one another." "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." "Obey your father and mother." "Love is patient and kind." "Spare the rod and spoil the child" (the loose translation she used for Proverbs 13:24). "He will never leave you or forsake you." "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." "Study to show yourself approved unto God . . . " etc.
12) LIFE IS SHORT. Those were the words she invariably used to preface her justifications for going ahead and doing or buying what she wanted. Whether it was a trip, a piece of furniture or a tube of lipstick, she would contend that life was too short to wait. She was definitely NOT a delayed gratification advocate. In her case, those words proved to be prophetic. I, on the other hand, had to learn to balance that upbringing with the ultra-conservative background of my husband. Momma was right. Life IS short, but that didn't mean it was always wise to get everything I wanted before I had the means to do so. And sometimes, not even then. When she died so unexpectedly, though, we heard my dad say over and over, "I'm so glad your Mother convinced me to __________."
I'm sure I'll think of many others after this post is published, but maybe you can get a sense of what Mildred Rose Collier was like . . . and maybe why I do the things I do.
Since I couldn't have Momma here physically today, I decided to have a party in her honor this week anyway. I prepared some of her favorite foods and served it on her wedding china that I inherited when she died. I invited her remaining sisters, two brothers-in-law and my siblings, and we had a time of remembering Momma. I believe she would have been pleased.
Exodus 20:12 - "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you."
Deuteronomy 5:15 - "Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged and that it may go well with you on the land which the Lord your God gives you."
Ephesians 6:2 - "Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise)"