My mother gave me so much. She gave me an appreciation for the way mama robins tend their babies, and she was right by my side that spring when I was 4 as our cat darted up the tree by our window and ate those babies before my horrified eyes.
She taught me that teachable moments include the sweet and the bitter. I remember watching her face to see her reaction and finding solace in her ability to embrace all moments with grace, even when tiny feathers were floating to the ground. What better way, than at my mother’s side, to learn the wonders and terrors of the food chain?
Reading through these essays by such a variety of writers as Joyce Carol Oates, Lisa See and Susan Stamberg, whose mothers are definitely not cut from the same mold, I could see that it is really the wonderful, eccentric mixture of good and bad, strengths and weaknesses of our moms that mold our own character. In some things, we endeavor to be just like our moms; in other things, we swing wide in the other direction.
With humor, honesty and great insight, these women have given us the gift of a glimpse back to another generation. And with each telling, I remembered the little oddities and endearments that made my mother so special. Though she moved to heaven many years ago, she will never be forgotten because her banged up pans are still in my cupboard — the love of a hundred birthday cakes still inside. I see her eyes and cheekbones on the faces of my adult daughters and, as Erma Bombeck once observed, when I look down I see my mom’s arms coming out of my sleeves. She gave me so much.
Give something nice to your mom this year. The adult equivalent of a childish handprint encased in plaster of Paris is a thoughtful paragraph in your own handwriting that tells her how much she means to you. Tuck the note inside a pretty or witty card and wrap it up with this book.
• “What My Mother Gave Me: Thirty-one Women on the Gifts that Mattered Most,” edited by Elizabeth Benedict, was published April 2 by Algonquin. It retails for $15.95.
• Susan Richmond owns Inklings Bookshop. She and other Inklings staffers review books in this space each week.