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Open Letter To Mom: 12 Truths You Taught Me

Dear Mom,

By now, you've probably opened the package I sent for Mother's Day. If not, SPOILER ALERT: I got you those leggings you wanted (like mine) and an oversized tunic to match.

My mom, before she was my mom. London, 1970.

Cute? Yes.

Thoughtful? Kinda.

Special? Not really.

Even the card I sent was ordinary. A few months ago, I picked out the perfect one, but then I forgot it at home on Tuesday, the day I had to USPS it all to arrive on time. #mothersdayfail

Mom, you are anything but ordinary.

So, I've been thinking. Why do we even send Mother's Day gifts and cards in the first place? What we should be doing is writing thank-you letters.

I have so many reasons to thank you. I don't even know where to start, but I feel like it's important that I do. Even though I tell you I love you, I wonder if you know that I know how fortunate I am, how much you shaped me by being the person you are - by being a scholar and a caregiver, a feminist and a cheerleader; a speaker, a listener, a confidante.

This is in no way complete, but here's a list of beliefs I have - things I know to be true - because of you, Mom.

1) I'll participate. When I was in seventh grade, it was your idea to skip whatever we were doing and go see Bill Clinton on his whistle-stop tour. And in high school, when a local politician guy blew me off, you encouraged me to write a letter to the editor. You know that organization for kids called Do Something? You were (and still are) my 'Do Something'. You empower  and inspire me to make a difference by doing.

© Matt Pendleton Photography -
Mother-daughter jump!

2) I'll laugh out loud - loudly. When something tickles you, people know it. I used to get embarrassed, especially in public ("Mo-ommmm!"), but now, in my third decade as your daughter, I just join you. It's a lot more fun. Who knew?

3) I'll ask questions. You taught Leslie and me to speak up, always, but I can't remember that ever being a formal conversation. We learned by listening to you. More recently, when Pop Pop's health was failing, you refused to take "I don't know" for an answer. You called his doctors and his aides and his nurses yourself, advocating with persistence, confidence, love.

4) I'll plant flowers. Remember the black-eyed Susans and tiger lilies across from the old house, on that fence in front of the cornfield? I do. It's why my Brooklyn stoop garden exists. (The snapdragons say thanks.)

© Matt Pendleton Photography -
Mother-daughter jump, take II! Photos by my talented bro-in-law, Matt Pendleton.

5) I'll be good to my body. I've never smoked a cigarette, and I've never felt tempted, even through high school and college. When I was in preschool, possibly before then, you told me they were dangerous and that was The Word. You taught me to respect myself and my body and your wishes, and I heard those messages loud and clear. How'd you do that?

6) I'll make a scene. Part of living is doing what you feel like doing, even if it's silly to other people. I learned this from you, too. I'm specifically thinking of our power walks through your neighborhood, when we pump our arms like an aerobics class, as if we're in front of a mirror and not passing by dining room windows.

7) I'll jump. Related: Remember when we were in Budapest, at the baths, and you didn't skip a beat when it was time to bare all and take a dip? Eeep! All of a sudden, I was all self-conscious and you were all "When in Budapest..." You're right. Your why-not attitude that day, and years leading up to it, inspires me when I'm out of my comfort zone. You help me go, leap and live how the moment requires.

8) I'll never work a nine-to-five. You love your job, and I love that. It's not "work" to you. You believe in what you do and how it impacts other people's lives. You've always been proud and supportive of my career moves, and you've helped me come to realize that a career should also be a strong, true passion.

9) I'll go heavy on the exclamation points! You're enthusiastic via email, via text, via life! Refreshing, you are!

10) I'll introduce myself, thanks. Let's revisit that parents' council meeting at my very-southern college, when everyone went around the circle and the men introduced themselves and their demure wives ("I'm Jay Donough and this is my wife, Pamela." "I'm Thad Carlton and this is my wife, Virginia."), and then you stood and piped up, "I'm Dr. Hahn!" Go, Mom.

11) I'll serve salmon loaf. And honey ginger chicken and apple crisp. No, not at once! And yes, I'll remember the 2 T of Tapioca to thicken the crisp.

12) I'll be a cheerleader. You're an optimist, and it rubs off. If I'm nervous, I call you. If I'm scared, you're there to say I can do it. I count on you for that, Mom, and you never let me down. You were a cheerleader in high school and in college, and you always say if it was a different time, you would have played sports... But what's wrong with being a cheerleader? You mother that way, you know. And I'll mother that way, too, when my time comes. All because of you.

Thanks, Mom, for everything. Love you, love you, love you. Exclamation point!

This Mother's Day, what would you like to thank your mom for?


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