Things My Mother Taught Me
isn’t easy talking about my mother. Not sure why. My
was absent much of the time, and my mother became my friend and
Maybe that explains it. Being a mommy’s boy, I spent much
of my early
adulthood freeing myself from the apron strings and establishing my own
she was the one
who formed me and gave me much of what has made
my life happy and successful. To begin with, she loved me. Maybe
a little too protectively, but she loved me. One of my earliest
was of my mother sitting with me in a huge upholstered rocking chair
reading to me from a large hard covered book, that if I remember
I found in a neighbour’s garbage. It had pictures of
knights on horseback
riding across hills and vales, of what must have been, English
“Read that story,” I’d say, pointing to a
picture. And she would
read and rock until I fell asleep, nestled in her arms.
When I was older, just entering my teens, I asked her to teach me to
She had once been a dance instructor, and our family’s one claim
was that we were all great dancers. She put on some music, a slow
fox trot, and stood me in the middle of the room. " You always start in
the center of the room," she informed me. “Dancing is
walking to the music,” she told me, “And if you should step
on the girl’s
toe, you should expect her to apologize as her foot shouldn’t
We walked around the room to the music, my mother showing me how to
“You have to show her which way you want to go, and you do this
hand on her back and your hips against hers.” She put my hands
should be. “Now make sure you signaled me which way we go,"
danced around the living room. “There” she said
firmly, “the rest
is up to you.”
That was the end of my one and only dance lesson, but it was
Before the school year was out, I had earned the reputation as the best
dancer in the school.
My mother had this knack of giving me the confidence that I could do
be anything I wanted. A great attitude to go through life with.
downside was that I took my mother’s view of my abilities
so I spent much of my life being greatly disappointed as my innate
definitely average, never seemed able to deliver my expectation.
Life proved far more complex and difficult than being the best dancer
the high school sock hops.
“If only, mom, you had given me a little more sense of reality,
would have been so much easier. And yet then I would never have
so many marvelous endeavor, writing a novel, singing, playing the
She hadn't bothered to tell told me the whole family was tone deaf,
we were ordinary folk. She led me to believe that I would marry
princess, be the boss’s favorite, go from success to success. And
have led a life of spectacular expectations, never-say-I-can’t
whatever adventure presented itself, and crushing, fall-on-my-head
"All of this I owe to you, mom, and in truth I wouldn’t have
any other way."
Her simple Irish way of meeting life has stayed with me to this day.
going off to the dentist, she informed me that she would start
about the pain the minute it started to hurt and not a moment
I think I found that the most admirable bit of advice she ever gave me.
Even more precious, she showed me what it was like to live with a
showed me that they were fun to be with, great to talk to, that a
was a place to play, that ironing was an art, and that if you broke a
of china, laugh.
As I grew older, busy with a teaching career, looking desperately for a
mate, my visits home became less frequent. I began so see my
as talkative and possessive. I was secretly glad when she moved
West to live with my sisiter. My mother died out there
I wish now that before she had left I had told her what a special
mother she been to me.
What I have instead is a memory of a day shortly before she left.
I had come by the house to show her my new motorcycle. She was
and frail, but she insisted that I give her a ride. As we rode
town mom sat behind me, a red kerchief around her head, one arm around
my waist, the other waving at everyone along the street. I could tell
was imagining herself a young motorcycle moll wheeling down the street,
one arm around her own private Marlon Brando
"And mom, for that moment, for you, I was."
might also enjoy reading In Praise
of a Good Man, a tribute to my father. To contact the author,