some things about my mom

A few years ago, I wrote up some things about my dad, on what would have been his 71st birthday.

My other parent is still here, thankfully, and so for Mother’s Day, here are some things about my mom:

* She is an extrovert’s extrovert, but somehow ended up with two introverted daughters. She makes up for this by talking to random strangers as much as possible when we are out in public. Whenever she travels (which is frequent), she comes back with detailed stories about the lives of all the strangers she met.

* Her need to talk is so strong that she once called me from the woods during a silent yoga retreat.

* She thinks that yoga is the cure for all ills. Whenever I get sick — even if it’s just a cold — she tells me I need to do yoga. When I once pointed out that she’d had the exact same cold as me a few weeks earlier, despite daily yoga, she denied ever getting a cold and changed the subject.

* Some of my happiest childhood memories are of watching “Dallas” with her and heatedly discussing JR Ewing and Cliff Barnes. In retrospect, it wasn’t an appropriate show for an eight-year-old, but it was our Friday night thing and we were super into it. We were also heavily into Benson.

* She becomes a superhero when someone is ill or injured. She was never an especially demonstrably affectionate mom — she is too no-nonsense for that — but when you are sick, she tends to you like you are a baby kitten.

* Years after divorcing my dad in a not especially amicable split, she was sometimes found driving him to chemotherapy appointments.

* When I was about 12, I told her that I figured adults stopped having sex around 26 years old, because after that point they’d be too old and gross. About a decade later, when my then-boyfriend turned 26, she sent him a sympathy card. She is still immensely pleased with herself for this.

* She was once convinced she had shingles and was Very Upset about it, but it turned out to be a bug bite.

* She’s normally very careful not to give me unsolicited advice (I think as a reaction to having parents who gave her waaayyyy too much), but every once in a while she feels strongly about something and swoops in to tell me to do something. She’s nearly always right (aside from the yoga). Most of the really excellent advice I’ve received in my life has come from her.

* Things she has never pressured me to do: get married, have a wedding, have kids. Things she did pressure me to do: buy property, invest money, return library books.

* She is an excellent grandmother. She is constantly flying across the country to see my nieces, who love her.

* She likes to cook extravagant things, like a baked Alaska, just to see if she can, but she’s also unflappable about food issues. When I went vegan in my 20s and my vegan friends all had families who were varying degrees of unsupportive, my mom calmly started holding vegan Thanksgiving dinners. When my sister went kosher, my mom found kosher stores and restaurants. When my sister’s diet then got really complicated for medical reasons, my mom learned the 500 new rules my sister had to follow, hunted down obscure ingredients and recipes, made sure they were all kosher on top of it, and to this day calmly juggles myriad people’s varying dietary preferences without seeming in the least put out. I think she actually likes it.

* She stayed in a bad marriage for years because she thought it would be better for my sister and me. She was wrong — so, so wrong — but she sacrificed years of her life because she thought it would be good for us.

* She taught me to speak up when something is wrong in the world — whether it’s an unjust law or a silly company policy — and she has always supported me in doing that, even when she didn’t like what I said.

* She isn’t one to tell you she loves you, but if you pay attention, she’s saying it.

{ 110 comments… read them below }

    1. Specialk9*

      I ended up with tears in my eyes. What an amazing post about a wonderful person.

  1. Jenna*

    This is lovely. <3 My favorite part: "Things she did pressure me to do: buy property, invest money, return library books." May we all have women in our lives who build us up, teach us, and make us better.

    1. JessaB*

      This is the awesome mom of awesomeness here, pressure your kids to take care of THEMSELVES first. It’s the oxygen masque on an airliner technique, you can’t save your friends and family if you cannot yourself breathe.

  2. Tomato Frog*

    Maybe it’s the jet lag, but I’m tearing up. Learning to recognize the non-verbal ways in which people express love is difficult and important.

    She is still immensely pleased with herself for this.

    I’m pleased with her for this.

    1. Student Gosset*

      I have found one of the best ways to express love is what she did — to remember something from a long time ago. Kudos to Alison’s mom.

  3. Foreign Octopus*

    This is really lovely. Your mum sounds great. I particularly like the card that she sent to your boyfriend. That is a hands down funny thing to do. It makes me wonder if she’s made a note of other things you’ve said and is just waiting for the perfect opportunity to get you back.

    Out of curiosity, was your boyfriend super confused? And did you have to explain the situation to him? Because that sounds hilarious.

  4. Damn it, Hardison!*

    What a lovely tribute to your mom! I bet I would enjoy being next to her on a flight.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Maybe we can get her a name tag that says, “I’m Alison’s mom.” This way we could all stand a chance of finding her. She won’t be bothered by all of us what with her extroversion…..

  5. Nerd Writer*

    “When I was about 12, I told her that I figured adults stopped having sex around 26 years old, because after that point they’d be too old and gross. About a decade later, when my then-boyfriend turned 26, she sent him a sympathy card.”

    I just about died reading this.

    1. Nervous Accountant*

      I’m jet lagged still and I missed the “abour A decade later” part. Re read it and laughed.

      May God protect all of our mothers and grant them long and healthy lives.

    2. Optimistic Prime*

      This was the best one, IMO. I mean, they are all so cute and wonderful but this one had me dying.

    3. PlainJane*

      This was my favorite. I like the way your mother thinks. And I’d love to have seen the look on your boyfriend’s face.

    4. Turtlewings*

      I made my sister in the next room stop her show so I could read her that one.

  6. Julia*

    Your mom sounds delightful, just like you. I don’t have children (yet), but if there’s one thing I want to teach my future children, my niece or my students/nanny kids, it is that one has to speak up about injustice, even when the target is someone other than oneself. Your mother seeing this the same way really strengthens my resolve on this issue.

  7. Coelura*

    What a wonderful post! May your Mom’s day be as wonderful as she made your childhood.

  8. Cristina in England*

    What a lovely post. Your mum sounds wonderful. She called you from a silent yoga retreat! This really made me laugh.

    1. Specialk9*

      This is totally my mom. I hear *details* about strangers, and occasionally she does silent retreats and I’m baffled how she doesn’t just explode with all the dammed-up words!

  9. Vancouver Reader*

    This is such a sweet post, thank you for sharing.
    My mom also had great advice for me in my earlier years, and in hindsight, I’m grateful for all the times she was right, I was wrong, but she didn’t say “I told you so.”

  10. Grammy*

    I stayed too long in my marriage as well, it is something women of that generation were taught to do. Your mom is wonderful. The very best part of being a mom is when your kids turn out to be amazing people. I have three amazing people in my life, and Alison, I am sure your mother would tell you the same thing. Thank you for your tribute to your mom.

    1. PlainJane*

      Yep. I used to beg my mom to leave my dad. She’d say that when she took her vows, she meant them. I think we both would have been better off if she’d left, but I respect her reasons (more now than I did then).

  11. Tearing Up*

    As good as all of your manager advice is, I think this is my favorite AAM post! I think I love your mother as much as you do. And in case you didn’t know it, you write really, really well. :-)

  12. Ali G*

    What a lovely Mother’s Day gift! Your mom is a hoot and sounds like a wonderful person.

  13. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Your mom sounds like a pretty amazing woman. And it also sounds like you’re following in her footsteps.

  14. Middle Name Jane*

    That’s lovely, Alison. I hope you’ll share this post with your mom.

    My favorite is the sympathy card to your boyfriend. Hahaha…

  15. JoAnna*

    My mother wrote in my baby book that she was glad I was born in the morning so that she wouldn’t miss “Dallas.” :)

  16. Chilie J*

    I love your column. I am a silent reader generally.
    The post is really sweet. I loved your last statement.

  17. ArtsNerd*

    One of the last conversations I ever had with my mom was her telling me how awful she felt about all the times she didn’t tell me she was proud of me, that I was so special and that she loved me so much. She regretted it so deeply, but she didn’t need to say it aloud for me to hear it.

    Happy Mother’s Day <3

  18. ECHM*

    Very sweet post. And how nice that you wrote it while she was still alive so she could see it.

  19. Free Meerkats*

    The sympathy card had me laughing out loud at my desk – working on a Sunday because I’m going to be gone all next week. Luckily I’m here alone; except for the office cats.

    Happy Mothers’ Day to all the Moms!

  20. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

    I love this post. Also, congratulations on your book, Alison, it was as terrific as I expected it to be!

  21. Ellen Dayton*

    Barbara has been one of my best friends for years. I am so grateful. She is kind, honest, hardworking, interesting and smart. After reading this tribute, I feel that I know her even better.

  22. Me2*

    What a lovely tribute to your mother. I hope you, your sister, and your nieces get lots more time with her, and she with you.

  23. SpiderLadyCEO*

    Your mom sounds excellent! I am absolutely cracking up about the sympathy card – I am pleased with her for it! I am sure you weren’t though.

  24. Indie*

    My dad would always tell me to Yoga my ails away too! He was awesome at it and could do the straightest headstand. I actually like it myself and it was still eye rollingly annoying….but affectionate too. He too would go out to Talk with Strangers. One time he met up with my entire Postgrad class accidentally and went on the town drinking with them. Gah, I miss him

    1. Nerd Writer*

      Hilarious about your dad and your post-grad class! I take it that was all without you being present? My mother too loves to talk to strangers, and yet somehow she ended up with four (out of four) introvert kids.

      1. Iris Eyes*

        It makes sense that an extrovert would have kids that present as introverted, sometimes one person is social enough for the whole family.

  25. Sarah*

    The sympathy card thing made me laugh out loud. Your mom sounds very cool. My mom is also awesome and I love her dearly!

  26. Teresita*

    Last year I was convinced that I was bitten by carpenter ants, and it turned out to be shingles. I was very upset about that!

  27. PhyllisB*

    I talk to strangers, too. My kids (and now my grand-kids) are on varying days, either mortified or puzzled. (“Gram, how can you talk to someone you don’t even know?”) but as they’ve gotten older they understand more. My two daughters have even been known to make conversation in a check-out line. Alison, your mother sounds amazing. Sounds like you know it, too. Loved the sympathy card!!!

  28. Liz*

    I have nothing more to add to all the wonderful comments, all of them times 10! Oh, and she is not wrong about the yoga!

  29. Future Analyst*

    This post was so needed today. Thank you. I am always happy to hear/read about good moms. <3

  30. Tuesday Next*

    Thank you for this. Your mom sounds really special. (My mom also liked to talk to complete strangers in the queue at the supermarket.)

  31. Soz*

    Love every bit of this! Only thing is I’m 26 this year…

    Beautiful to see the nuances of relationships. Lovely!

  32. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    What a beautiful post. The sympathy card had me rolling with laughter. The calm acceptance of people’s dietary needs says so much about her character, all of it good. Thank you for sharing all of this with us!

  33. Discordia Angel Jones*

    Your mum sounds amazing.

    Loved the sympathy card and the dietary needs story. Thank you for sharing!

  34. Veronica*

    This was such a lovely read – your mum sounds like a fantastic woman.

    Also, after years of reading your work-based advice, can I just say that your writing skills clearly aren’t limited to that topic? You probably already know this, and I don’t mean this in a negative way at all – it’s just that the switch of topic surprised me, and has you writing with such subtle tenderness and love. In addition to being touched by the writing, I’m also bowled over by the skill behind it. You’ve managed to say so much about you relationship in a quick post of bullet points. It’s absolutely wonderful.

    (I, unfortunately, do not share your skill, so please excuse my clumsiness in expressing this.)

  35. ItsOnlyMe*

    I love this so much, thank you. Your Mom sounds like the best, you have been blessed.

    And the sympathy card. Awesome.

  36. Turquoisecow*

    I never watched Dallas – I was young and my parents wouldn’t let me stay up that late – but my mom did. Mom has never been a big TV watcher, so when she finds something she wants to watch, she gets very protective of it and very much upset if she needs to miss an episode. On the nights Dallas was on, she made sure we were in bed and would not disturb her. For years, I would randomly get the theme song stuck in my head and not even realize what it was – I just remember hearing it from upstairs.

    Happy belated Mother’s Day to all the moms who read AAM! :)

  37. Quackeen*

    This was very sweet. I can only hope that my kids are inspired to write such lovely things about me someday.

  38. Lana Anna Fontana*

    This is so, so sweet and was such a wonderful way to start the weekend! Good moms are truly the greatest.

  39. SJW*

    This was awesome and I feel like I know your mother just a little bit. And I loved the story about the card to your boyfriend. She’s a hoot!

  40. J.B.*

    I like the love expressed in actions. No-nonsense is one part of taking care of us!

  41. Database Developer Dude*

    OMG, Alison’s mom is SAVAGE!!!! I wonder if she’d like another son? I come with my own job, car, income, and home!!!!

  42. Ignatius Reilly*

    Dear Ask a Manager,
    What would you recommend if you start crying at work because you’re reading an advice blog and stumble across an unexpectedly heart-warming tribute?
    – Emo on a Monday

  43. Nicole*

    I appreciated reading this. You illustrated well that a mom doesn’t need to be perfect to be a perfect mom. I bet she’s super proud of you :)

  44. Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way!*

    What a wonderful read to start the week! And your mother wins hands down for the sympathy card. What a beautiful tribute and I agree with the other commentors that you are a gifted writer! I’m still waiting for the dating blog to come back…

  45. Margali*

    Your mom sounds like she’s made of awesome. I really hope you shared this with her!

  46. Mockingjay*

    My mom and I also shared TV shows (in the 70s). When I got old enough to stay up later than my sisters, we would watch McMillan and Wife, Columbo, McCloud, Ironsides, and the like. It was wonderful!

    1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

      Awwwww, my grandma and I shared those exact same shows in the 90s, thanks to A&E’s Murder Mystery Theater. :)

  47. Arjay*

    This is a lovely tribute to your mom. It’s clear how much love you share by the wonderful stories you can tell. Mi mom wasn’t a typical mom in many ways, but her stories are awesome and live on in legend.

  48. 30 Years in the Biz*

    Such a wonderful tribute Alison! Happy belated Mother’s Day to your exceptional Mom!

  49. Caitin*

    You’re Mom sounds so lovely but that’s not that surprising because you are obviously an apple that didn’t fall far from the tree – she must be so proud!

  50. Annoyed*

    My mom died in 2008. All these years, birthdays, holidays, other days… not one tear.

    I figured something’s wrong with me. I mean there’s a lot wrong with me, but that’s a whole other comment.

    Reading this made me cry for my mom. IDK what that says/means…

  51. NotAnotherMananger!*

    What a lovely tribute!

    My otherwise headed in the direction of overprotective mother also let me watch Dallas (and Falcon Crest and Knot’s Landing) with her at an inappropriately young age. I have wonderful memories of sitting in her bed with the 1980s, two-button television remote clicking over to watch Dallas, and I still love the theme music and have the actors memorized.

  52. Sophia Brooks*

    Benson! I watched Benson with my mom and grandparents, and I realized when I was so upset when Robert Guillaime died that I sort of thought of him as a father figure!

  53. chersy*

    Alison, your last lines—both for your mom and dad—killed me. I decided to read one after the other (although I read your dad’s before) and I cried over both (and at work, I tend to read AAM before I start my work day. I wonder if I’m the only one who does this!). This is a very lovely tribute to both your parents.

  54. Effective Immediately*

    This makes me so happy. I am a lot like your mom–even down to the loving food challenges–and I’ve always struggled with not being “mom” enough (you know, squishy kitten sweaters or 20 mommy-and-me classes a week).

    This whole homage made me feel so much better that I’m not traumatizing my kid by not being that kind of mom.

    I might be biased, of course, but your mom sounds like a badass.

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