May 2007
Thanks, Mom

by Annie Fox, M.Ed

…people, including our own parents, come into our lives for a reason.
Cup o'orchid

My mom, Martha Scolnick Larris, has been gone for more than a dozen years. Memories of her pop in unexpectedly throughout the year… her impressive vocabulary, her love of sales, her incomparable matzoh balls! But it’s in spring, when I spend more and more time in my garden, that I think of her most often. The very fact that I have a garden and take so much pleasure tending it is a direct result of being my mom’s daughter. That woman knew her flowers! And I’m really grateful she transmitted that knowledge to me.

Maybe it seems like a small thing to know a freesia from a forsythia, a gardenia from a gladiolus, a hydrangea from a hyacinth. But to me, this special awareness offers constant opportunities to notice what’s around me… to celebrate the beauty and the incredibly variety in nature. If I thought they were all “just flowers” I wouldn’t be able to enjoy them nearly as much as I do. So thank you, Mom.

I’ve been thinking about the legacy each of us received from our mothers. I wondered if, given the chance, people could describe what they had been given. In honor of Mother’s Day I sent out a questionnaire asking friends and family what “life lessons” they had learned from their mom. I want to thank everyone who took the time to respond. I appreciate your help, your honesty, and your insight!

Here’s a sampling of what people had to say:

What life lessons did you learn from your mom?

  • Dahlia - Photographed by Annie FoxDon’t take too long to shuffle the cards. It drives people crazy.
  • Don’t be so dramatic.
  • Don’t be like me.
  • Don’t waste money, water or electricity.
  • It can’t hurt to ask.
  • Be kind to children.
  • Always put your best foot forward whatever you do.
  • Go for whatever you want in life.
  • Creativity is a good thing.
  • Do for each of your children what they need.
  • When you go to dinner at someone’s house, bring some cake.
  • When you get a gift, write a nice Thank You note. Do it now!
  • Taste it, you might like it.
  • Enjoy life today, you could be hit by a bus tomorrow.
  • Honesty, loving kindness, selflessness, humility, femininity, grace.
  • Aging is in the mind of the beholder.
  • A women needs to be educated, to have a career and a profession. You never know what is going to happen to you, you always need to be able to support yourself and to stand on your own two feet.
  • Primulas - Photographed by Annie FoxLive in and enjoy the moment. That became an internal positive tape – that I can do anything and that I’m beautiful.
  • Due to my mom’s inability to handle her own life, I learned to do many adult things and my opinion was heavily relied upon even as a small child – the positive, of course, is that it greatly prepared me for taking on responsibility as an adult and taking for granted that I could do those things.
  • My mom taught me about unconditional love and acceptance. She was very tolerant/accepting and allowed me to experience things for myself without judgment. She also was accepting and helpful to many of my friends during my adolescence – something I tried hard to do as well for my kids and their friends!
  • Mom had two distinct personalities, one usually light and happy, and one dark and unhappy, so I had to make adjustments in the way I thought about her. I began to see the light and dark sides in others, also, but with others, the line of separation was not as distinct. As I grew older, I learned how to fight the dark influences from others and enjoy the lighter sides that people offered.
  • How to listen without projection or attachment and lovingly to others, especially those you love. Trust that they will find the right way for their unique path.
  • At my mother’s funeral an actor who’d worked with her on stage in her later years (she started out on Broadway before she met my father) told of a local parade where the cast was asked to participate. This actor was resistant to doing it. My mother chided him “You’ve got to love it!” He said it shifted his attitude completely and that he’d learned much from working with her as a professional actress. This is a side of my mother I never knew. I now throw myself into projects with more abandon remembering her words.

Mother and DaughterI’m not naïve enough to believe that all mothers are at all times a positive influence on their kids. But I do know that people, including our own parents, come into our lives for a reason. Even in a less than wonderful childhood I believe there are positive lessons we can take from our relationship with our mothers.

As you take a moment to look back, see if you can find something you learned from Mom that’s been helpful to you. Acknowledge that contribution in whatever way makes sense. Now think about the long and short-term choices you make in relation to your own children… that’s a legacy you’re handing to them. Hopeful it’s a life-affirming one.

(NOTE: Next month, in honor of Father’s Day, I’ll be writing “Thank you, Dad.” If you’ve got any life lessons from your dad and any from your mom that you’d like to share, please email me at . I’ll be posting them (anonymously) on a soon-to-be launched new section of my website,, as an inspiration for all parents.

In friendship,

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