My beautiful mother

My mother (far left) with her brothers, sisters and parents 55 years ago

My mother told me yesterday that right before my grandfather died, she entered his hospital room and he said to the nurse at his bedside, “This is my beautiful daughter.”  She smiled as she told me this and said, “I never told anyone this story before. It was the only time that my father ever said anything like that, so I guess that is why I remembered it.”

My grandparents were of the generation that did not compliment. They felt it would “go to your head” and make you haughty if you thought that you were OK. Life was a huge struggle for them. They believed that being hard, and pointing out all of the mistakes that their children were making, would prepare them for the harsh realities of the world….and it did. It prepared them to expect the world to be hard and harsh, to not believe in themselves, to expect life to be a constant struggle.

I see my mother trying so hard to drop these beliefs now. As I look at this photograph of her, I want to go back through time and hug her. Tell her how beautiful and capable and wonderful she is.

We’ve all heard that we have to learn from our mistakes, but I think it’s more important to learn from successes. If you learn only from your mistakes, you are inclined to learn only errors.  Norman Vincent Peale

17 thoughts on “My beautiful mother”

  1. What a work in progress… What food for thought! My folks were born in the early 1900s and were amazingly beautiful and giving people. I often wondered how I came to be, as I have a poet’s, artist’s and musician’s heart. Even though I was told to “play my cards close to my chest” I could not seem to learn the concept. They were “trying” to teach me protection and for that I respect and love them. Thank you Mary

  2. Wow Mary. I can barely type through my tears. Having just had my 81 year old mother here for almost a week, your thoughts and the song you shared went right to my heart. Simply beautiful…thank you…

  3. Oh Mary – I see your beautiful face in all of their faces!
    I love the photo…. I wonder what was in their thoughts as the photo was being taken….
    I have a beautiful mother too – and I tell her that often! She is going through a huge adjustment in her life now, and sometimes it is hard for us both as she has recently moved to my town – but that is another story… What they faced 55 years ago must have been a hard world to have been “real” in, and must have been quite a lonely time for most people. I know my mother struggled with the superficial ways of the accepted culture of adults – she was more of a free spirit – thankfully the 60’s came along…
    I’m so glad that your mother is opening up her heart. oxo

  4. Oh Mary, this was lovely! My mom will be 94 in a couple of months. She is active, involved, independent, but also checking everything to make sure that she does not burden anyone. I told her, “Burden me! I’m here for you just as you were for me when I was learning about life.” Your post fine-tuned so many feelings I have about my mom. Thank you, thank you!

  5. What a beautiful story to share Mary and what insight about our parent’s generation.

  6. My mother is from the same generation; mentions often how her father was pretty gruff; parents were mostly all business; not a lot of lovie-dovie stuff going on. But I think there was always an undertone of love headed straight at all their kids that they eventually recognized and passed on. I must assume as much because with my father, she raised a child, me, that felt beautiful inside and out, always. I am not sure how my other siblings see themselves, truly, but I know I have had the confidence of their obvious and extensive love with me that they instilled for my lifetime. I have seen my mother struggle with her knowledge and confidence but she has always had the power of a loving upbringing, a loving marriage and the art of positive thinking down pat; it’s her legacy to us all and it, in the end, always gets her through. She just celebrated her 89th birthday; I love her dearly and am so fortunate to be close enough to her to tell her often.

  7. Hi Mary, I’m wondering if your mother or father told you that you were beautiful when you were growing up. My mother, born in 1917, was raised in “Hell’s Kitchen” during the Depression. When I was a kid, I tripped over an opened paint bucket, spilling paint on my mother’s newly installed carpet! “You clumsy brat!” She yelled. The carpet was cleaned. her “clumsy” comment about me held on for a long time. After she died, my sister sent me some letters that my Mother had written to her sister when I was a baby. My mother writes to her sister, Rita, “The other babies were cute, but this Mary Rita is beautiful…what a doll…and such a good nature”. It is never to late to find out that our MOTHERS THINK WE ARE BEAUTIFUL! In fact, I will tell my daughter, Katharine, today how Beautiful she is.
    P.S. I have no resentments for my parents mean words, or lack of loving ones.
    Just better understanding; they passed me my brains, looks, varicose veins, and all the mean words they were raised with. Mary Rita.

  8. P.P.S. My mother’s name was Mary and she was beautiful like a movie star.
    Loretta Young – looking.

  9. Thank you for the beautiful picture of your mother and a beautiful song. My parents are up here from Florida now. They are here for the summer months. As soon as it gets a bit cold, they head back down. My Mom is 86 and Dad is 89. I was visiting with them the other evening and my Mom paid me several compliments on my appearance. I was so startled and surprised, as my whole life I always felt that I could never measure up or be good enough. The song lyrics, “trying to keep up with you and I don’t know if I can do it, oh no I’ve said too much…R.E.M. “Losing my Religion,” used to always get to me in some way when I’d hear it. I’m thankful for my parents and love them so much and glad to have this time with them. Every day is precious.

  10. Mary – I’ve been meaning to write you for a while about your mother. I’ve enjoyed you sharing about her and about some of the problems you’ve had getting along with her. I’ve experienced the same with mine (she’s about the same age as yours). I could make this so long, but this is not the place for that.

    What bothers me the most is when I look at the pictures when she was newly married and how happy she was, the big smiles she had, and that was gone sometime after my sister and I were born. I think my Dad and grandfather just ground it out of her. She went from loving fun to being dominated by two men who didn’t care what her needs were.

    She divorced my Dad after many years, then ran from man to man looking for love. Once she made her peace about being single, she finally began to heal. The last five years she’s finally laughing again, happy, and I think finally she is who she should have been all these years.

    My grandfather treated my grandmother the same way, which is where my Dad learned it from. My great-aunt (my grandmother’s sister) moved in with them when my Dad was in college. There must have been some good fights in the household as my great-aunt did not tolerate men doing that around her. I never saw arguments, but I know that my Dad and grandfather did not mess with her at home or at the family business.

    I can’t write this on my blog as my mother reads it. My adult niece loves the family stories and one day I will share it with her.

    Sorry this is longer than I expected. Thanks in advance for letting me vent a bit. Reading your posts has helped me clarify some of my thoughts around my mother.

    1. As I read you comments I felt glad that you did share your thoughts here, and when you wrote that your mother read your blog I thought what a mixed blessing! I would have to change a lot of what I write about if my mother read my blog! Love, Mary

      1. Thanks for the encouragement Mary. My blog is about my life stories, current and past. The great thing about her reading it is that all these years later, I hear the gossip that happened over the fence between my grandmothers. I don’t think they realized that my mother was listening in on so much of it.

        Getting along with her has been a real exercise in patience. The last few years I’ve been calling her on my way home from work (I use a wireless headset). It keeps it short and because she enjoys it so much, she’s been much more careful not to criticize and to listen when I talk to her. My blog entries have been a great source for conversation between us.

  11. Ah, Mary, what a flood of memories this brings back! Once I said to my then-12-year-old daughter, “Oh, honey, how pretty you’re getting!” My mother scolded me: “Praise to the face is open disgrace.” But the glow on my child’s face told me that I had done and said the right thing.

    My mother once told me that her own mother had kissed her only twice in her life: the day she got married and the day she left for treatment at the Mayo Clinic and nobody thought she would come home alive. (She did, and lived to be 95.)

    I don’t remember that she ever told me I was beautiful, but I knew I was loved. She read to us children, took us on nature walks, and made assortments of homemade candy for us to take to school on our birthdays. Frequently I find myself frequently quoting one of her maxims.

    Both of my parents did and said things that hurt me, but when you grow up enough to wonder why they did and said them, understanding and forgiveness follow.

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