What I Learned From My Mom

Jeff Lane, Julie Lane and Jennifer Elliott in December 2012.

Jeff Lane, Julie Lane and Jennifer Elliott in December 2012.

By Jennifer Elliott –

My mom passed away a little over a year ago. She was my best friend, and I knew the first year would be hard, but I didn’t realize what an understatement that would be. I couldn’t have written this six months ago.  I started it several times but was too stuck in the emotions to get it right or say what I wanted to express about her and my experience. Now, I believe the best way to write about her legacy is to focus on the valuable lessons she taught me.

1. f you are going to do something, make it fun. My mom taught high school keyboarding, and she did not let a little teenage eye rolling get in her way of enjoying the day. She decorated her room for the holidays, brought candy for the kids and came up with games for them to play. They loved her! Do what you can to make your daily tasks joyful.

2. now your favorite people’s favorite things and not so favorite things. Growing up, my brother hated nuts. Mom always made half of the cookies without nuts for him. We laughed at her little index cards in front of the platters labeled “Nuts” and “No Nuts.” She would even frost half of a cake with “no nut” icing. Things like that seem small, but it really shows love and consideration.

3. Listen. My mom could listen to me pitch 15 birthday party ideas like it was riveting material. I miss that. I want to do that for others.

4. Stay in touch. During the holidays this year, my mom got a few Christmas cards from distant friends who didn’t know she had died. While writing to them in response was difficult, it reminded me of the importance of real communication. My mom always included a letter in her Christmas cards to let people know what was going on in our family. She also mailed birthday cards to tons of friends and relatives each year. Facebook posts are not a replacement for sincere, hand-written correspondence.

5. Let people know you are proud of them. Probably, no one will ever be as impressed with you as your own mother. That reality has been hard to accept. My biggest cheerleader is gone. She thought I was remarkable for having dinner in the Crock Pot on nights when my kids had to be at two or three different places throughout the evening.  This made me realize that I need to praise others more often, and not just for the big accomplishments in life.

6. Volunteer. Someone needs to get those 300 hot dogs donated to the school carnival, and it might as well be you. You might think your kids won’t remember, but I remember my mom and her best friend cooking and selling those hot dogs. It matters.

7. Take care of your friends.  I think my mom made Chicken Tetrazzini so many times for various births, surgeries and deaths that she could have made it in her sleep. It wasn’t always convenient timing for her, but she did it. People are grateful.

8. Holidays are important. Traditions made during various holidays help define your family. It is a huge comfort to bake the same cookies with my kids that Mom baked with my brother and me. She went all out decorating the house for all occasions. On our birthdays, she put huge butcher paper signs across the front porch. I think she was the first person in Fort Worth to have those giant Easter eggs in her yard. One of her dearest friends sent me a card at the beginning of December and said, “Heaven has never been so beautifully decorated for the holidays.” It made me cry, but it also reminded me that although she is no longer here, I have many wonderful memories.

My mom also taught me to bake and sew, and while I am certainly grateful for those skills, I am even more grateful for the time we spent together working on them. My hope is to follow in her footsteps and celebrate all that is joyful in life. Happy Mother’s Day!