Pieced together like a precious quilt, a mother’s tender acts of nurturing come together over a lifetime to wrap her children in love. In these stirring tributes, readers share their most poignant memories of this gentle matriarch’s comfort, wisdom, and kindness.
My mother gave one hundred piano lessons in her home every week and had dinner ready promptly at six o’clock every night. But it is her sewing that prompts this homage. She and her cousin Clara created outfits for me that were sublime. I still own a blue cotton skirt with three rows of white rickrack and lace, embellished with 475 French knots that were stitched by hand. My prom dress one year was a black velvet halter paired with skirts of red satin and black net fabric—a unique ensemble for the time. Despite Mom’s acumen as a seamstress, a store-bought creation was not out of consideration. Twenty-five dollars for a lovely dark blue shantung dress was expensive in 1952, but Mom felt it was definitely worth the price. She was right; I was still wearing it nearly a decade later for my job teaching music!
SONJA ANN STEPPERUD
New York, New York
My mother grew up during the Great Depression and was widowed at a very young age; those factors combined to make her extremely frugal. As the sole provider for three children, my mother employed diversionary tactics to make scrimping an enjoyable game: She often served meals by candlelight and regaled us with our favorite stories. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that one of the reasons that my mother talked during mealtime was to distract us from the fact that she wasn’t eating. Money was scarce after my father died, and my mother often sacrificed her portions so that my brother, sister, and I would have more on our plates.
West Lebanon, New Hampshire
I lost my 34-year-old husband to leukemia in 2001 when my boys were just three and five. The thought of raising them alone as a single mother was a daunting reality. There were certainly some difficult, lonely years, but I always knew I could—and would—get through this challenging period because my own mother had overcome seemingly impossible circumstances after her husband, my father, died when I was just eighteen years old. My mom became the pillar who supported me like no one else could. I convinced myself that because she went on to have a wonderful new life with a second husband, I would someday have joy and happiness again, too. Mom gave me the hope I needed to get out of bed on the days I didn’t want to. She lovingly reassured me often that the most important job I would ever have was being a mother. I am so thankful for the guiding wisdom, prayers, and comfort she has given me over the years. I am now very happily remarried, and life is good again! Mom and I remain very close, talking on the phone or texting almost daily.
My favorite memory of time spent with my mom was our Monday trips to downtown Cincinnati from our home in Covington, Kentucky. I looked so forward to our weekly adventures. I learned a lot from those trips, all the while bonding with my mom in a special way. We would don our Sunday best, as in the early 1960s, that is what you did to go “downtown Cincinnati.” Mom did not drive, so we would catch the bus and ride over the Suspension Bridge into the terminal building and exit the building in downtown Cincinnati. That in itself was definitely a learning experience.
Mom loved the Cincinnati-based department store McAlpin’s, so we would walk the two blocks and window-shop along the way. She taught me how to always shop the sale racks first and demonstrated how adept she was at finding really good deals. We usually had dinner at the McAlpin’s Tea Room, and I remember how grown-up I felt. I learned how to interact with strangers as I observed my mother; her sweet smile and friendly demeanor made others smile. I learned how doing simple things could bring the most pleasure and that a girl didn’t have to spend a fortunate to look like she did. I learned proper table manners in the tearoom.
When we were done shopping and eating, Mom would call Dad, who would come and pick us up, as ladies were not to ride the bus alone at night. I was very proud of my mother and wanted to be just like her. Mom and I carried on our Monday nights in Cincinnati even after I was grown and married. She passed away a long time ago, but I will always cherish our memories.
My beautiful mother has Alzheimer’s disease, but when I look deep into her cornflower-blue eyes, I see the mother she used to be … the one who sewed beautiful Easter outfits for me, knitted soft and fuzzy sweaters to keep me warm in the fall, made gifts from St. Nicholas appear magically beside my bed every December, baked everyone in the family their favorite birthday cake. When I came home from camp one summer, she redecorated my entire bedroom. I still remember the pretty pink-and-blue flowered wallpaper. And while my heart breaks for what once was and never will be again, I know how lucky I am to have had such a selfless, loving, and devoted mother.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
My mother has been a steadfast, loving, and comforting presence in my life these past forty years. I’ve been thinking about her a lot recently, as she just said her earthly goodbyes to her own precious mother this past fall. She cared for my grandmother diligently for nearly twenty years, setting aside her own desires and ambitions and pouring her love into her dear mother’s life. As a result of this amazing care, my grandmother lived 102 years of a very happy life. Prior to those years as a caretaker, my mother spent twenty years of my childhood doing the same thing—setting aside her own needs and wants to fully minister to mine, to build me up and train me, to bring me joy and happiness on every day she possibly could. I’m so grateful for her selfless example to me and for all the comfort and wisdom she has imparted to me throughout my life. I thank God for the gift of my mother.
LAURIE BETH TROCKI
Greenville, South Carolina