My mom used to say a lot of things that all mothers do, like – brush your teeth, pick up your wet towels, do your homework, clean your room…
More often she would say, “Just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean you have to do it.” That was always a tough one to hear, especially as a teenager when you would do almost anything to fit in.
She also used to say, “You are getting my dander up”, when she had just about enough of whatever rambunctious and inappropriate stuff my siblings and I were doing. When we heard, “You are going to send me to the boobyhatch and she shook her hands over her head”, we knew we better settle down or our world might just come to an end.
But, the #1 thing my mom used to say when I was growing up that made the biggest impression was…
You gotta have style! Spunk, charisma, gusto, charm!
This is exactly what my mom preached to us every day.
She was born and raised in Brooklyn and worked in Manhattan before moving to Philadelphia to work. That is where she met my dad and then settled down.
As kids growing up in suburbia, we would get embarrassed sometimes when we were out in public with her. She didn’t dress or drink like Auntie Mame, and was not quite as worldly, but was very much like her in spirit. Not shy to get the attention of a sales clerk, she would step on her tip-toes, raise her arm and wave her hand in the air as she would call out, “Miss…Miss…” for all to hear. As kids we would just want to shrink, hide, and pretend she was not our mom.
She never apologized for what she called, “her New York ways”. It was just her style. We knew going into an event that she would be the first one standing and enthusiastically applauding while the rest of the audience stayed seated.
When my siblings and I were older and brought home pop music (in the form of vinyl records), she loved listening to them. She would dance around the living room trying to get one of us kids to dance along. She would call the songs – “numbers” – like they were in a Jukebox, not by the song’s name. One of her faves was Sara Smile by Hall & Oates. She would always say, “I like that number, play it again.”
On Mother’s Day we knew better than to buy a purchased stiff floral arrangement at a florist. She truly disliked them. She much preferred cuttings from the wildflowers in the field across the street or a vase filled with the forsythia and lilacs that she had planted in the yard.
When we were older, we would buy things using our own money – say a pair of new shoes that we were all excited about. She would always say how nice they were, but then add – “you have more shoes up in that closet than you can shake a stick at”. She always wanted us to save and spend our money wisely. It was her way of saying we didn’t need the item.
Way before it was popular, my mom loved white as the base for everything. We ate off of white dishes, had white drapes and white walls in most rooms except the bedrooms where we were allowed to show our style. When she picked out a colorful wall-to-wall striped rug for the open concept living/dining room that resembled a Dash & Albert rug, it was the talk of the neighborhood.
I thought it was so cool. It was so different from what anyone else had at the time. She could put anything in the room and it would work. She moved things around constantly. It was always fun to come home from school to find the living room completely rearranged. My siblings and I would jump all around and sit on every piece of furniture, just to see how it felt in its new spot.
Now looking back on these moments, I can only smile as they were what made my mom, my mom. We are all individuals, but are shaped and influenced by our mothers in one way or another. She lived as authentically as she could. It was what she wanted for her children the most – for us to live with style and gusto, to just be ourselves and go out and live the best life for us alone.
It is what I try to do and teach my own daughters. You can tell how much I was influenced by her, by what I named my blog – In My Own Style.
Photo: A Country Farmhouse
My mom is no longer living, but her words will stick with me forever. This photo hangs in my dad’s apartment. I blow her a kiss every time I visit. XO
I am going to head out to the garden center to pick up flowers today – lilacs – her favorite. Seeing them in a milk glass vase on my kitchen island will be one way I can fondly remember her this Mother’s Day weekend.
I know if my siblings are reading this – they are smiling now!
What did your mom always say to you?
Happy Mother’s Day!