The May 27th issue of People features an essay written exclusively for the magazine by former first lady, Michelle Obama. It’s called, “What My Mother Taught Me.” Without even reading the story, I was equal parts intrigued and hurt. Sure, I wanted to know what life lessons these famous people had to offer; but I also ached for my mom – and all moms – who were/are equally wise, in spite of the fact they do not have a national magazine singing their praises.
Demanding equal time for my mom – and yours – here are some writing prompts to use. You’ll see my responses. I encourage you to send me yours.
What main life lesson did you learn from your mother? My mom, Rose Kleiner, died in 2002, at the age of 81. In her lifetime, she was a gal who understood Larry the Cable Guy’s tag line, “Git ‘er done!” When a bill came in the door, she paid it right then! When a winter storm froze our kitchen pipes, she made dinner anyway, washing dishes in the bathtub! When Dad’s health mandated infusions, she overcame her nervousness and administered them! We always had food in the pantry and hot dinners on the table. The house was always clean. Our clothes were always washed, dried, ironed, and put away. I could go on and on and on. What I learned from Mom’s example was this: In life you have to keep on keeping on.
When it comes to love, how did your mom show it? Mom was from a generation that did not speak easily of love. But if you remember the song, “Do You Love Me?” from Fiddler on the Roof, you will have my response to this question. In the musical Goldie answered her husband, Tevya, in this manner “For twenty-five years I’ve washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house…If that’s not love, what is?” It is said that one of the few ways to still nurture adult children is through their stomachs. Mom must have heard this saying because even though she lived in St. Louis, some 365 miles away from me in Cincinnati, when she came to visit she ALWAYS brought a cooler with a fully cooked eye of round roast and packages of frozen mixed vegetables and Rice-a-Roni. Dinner was on the table within an hour of her walking in my door. If that’s not love what is?
What was your mom’s philosophy about dealing with others? That’s an easy question! My mom always let the words and actions of difficult people “roll off her back!” I think she learned this concept from her mother, my Bubbie, who put it this way: “When other people give you advice you don’t want to hear, don’t take it to heart, take it to foot instead. You listen politely and then walk away.”
Now that I have touted the example of my non-famous mom, here are some writing prompts from the Michelle Obama story plus what she had to say about her mother, Marian Robinson.
What attribute best defines your mom? Michelle tells us that her mom was a listener as opposed to a lecturer. Not needing to be in the limelight, she absorbed the myriad stories Michelle and her brother, Craig, told. Yes, she answered their many questions but in “clipped sentences” of carefully chosen words. Michelle says, “When it came to raising her kids, my mom knew that her voice was less important than allowing [us] to use [our] own.”
What was your mom’s greatest gift to you? Marian Robinson never tried to remake her children in her own image, nor did she try to cast them into a mold of what society might expect from them. Instead, she recognized the “flame” each of her children carried and she allowed it to burn in its own way. Her greatest gift, then, was to encourage her children to keep their flames lit and to lift up their voices. These are gifts that Michelle Obama urges all mothers – and mother figures – to give their children as well.
Michelle Obama and I are lucky. I say this because not all people have moms with whom they can be in relationship. This understanding makes me especially appreciative of mine. People Magazine may never sing her praises, but I am glad this blog allows me to do so. My mom has been gone for seventeen years, but her every example is in my mind’s eye and I continue to learn from her daily. My mom, Rose Kleiner, what a woman!
Readers: I hope you will share stories about your mom in the comment section below.
Also, if you enjoy my blog, I hope you will not only read my book, Love, Loss, and Moving On, but tell a friend!
Here I am with Mom in 1996.