We’re two days away from Mother’s Day. The great majority of the readers of this blog have or have had mothers. I want to hear about them. Specifically, what are some things that you learned from your mother?

I’ll start, acknowledging first that I learned so many things from my mother that there’s something quite arbitrary about choosing any one thing. But here’s the one thing I’m arbitrarily choosing: My mother taught me to pay attention to the world around me. She wants to know everybody’s story, and not in a gossipy way, but because she finds people endlessly fascinating. She is genuinely interested in details that I would never think to be interested in–who exactly said what to whom in an exchange that happened years ago between people I remember only vaguely. One legendary dinner-table conversation involved a James and a Jeems and trying to remember which one was the father and which one was the son (or was it uncle and nephew?) and which one lived in the brick house and which one lived in the house with siding and how exactly they were connected to our old neighbors–to the extent that we forgot exactly why we were talking about Jeems and James in the first place.

Because my mother is interested in these stories, I come to realize that the stories–and the people in them–are indeed interesting. In a world full of people who long to be interesting, the person who is interested is a treasure indeed. That’s one of my mother’s gifts–being interested–and it’s a gift that she gives to the world around her.

So, what have you learned from your mother?

  • Sally Apokedak
    11:13 PM, 6 May 2011

    My mother’s gift to the world was not as helpful as your mother’s, Jonathan. In fact, my mother unleashed the exact opposite thing, I’m sorry to say.
    I don’t remember this, but she tells me that when I was very small I started stuttering. Concerned, she studied me, trying to figure out what the problem was. She discovered that every time I tried to speak, I was shouted down by my five noisy, older brothers and sisters. Little Sally, apparently, couldn’t get a word in edgewise. So my mother told my siblings that the minute I started to speak they were all to fall silent and listen.

    So the next time you are reading one of my long-winded comments and your eyes are glazing over, blame it on my mother who taught me to believe that there’s a world full of uninteresting people whose main pleasure in life is to hang on my every word.


    OK, sorry. That is the truth, but she also did some good things. She was a fairly young woman when she and my father moved with their several small children to Taiwan to be missionaries. I remember my mother feeding the old headhunters who would come to visit and I remember riding with her in pedicabs to go visit rich Chinese ladies. I learned that everyone is of interest to God, and life is meant to be lived in service to God and to others.

  • Gina
    12:37 AM, 7 May 2011

    One thing I really appreciate that I learned from my mother is that when you’re in the kitchen, you should clean up as you go. It may seem a small thing, but it has made me more efficient in there. There is less time cleaning up after a meal and more time to be with my family. I value that. I learned lots more from her, but for today…that is the one that is standing out.

  • Melinda Speece
    1:12 AM, 7 May 2011

    Everybody’s watching Return of the Jedi, so here’s my chance . . .

    My mom has an uncanny ability to know what you need and give it to you before you even knew you need it or could think to ask for it—from a Diet Coke to a new sweater to a mini-van (“I just knew you wouldn’t be able to fit three car seats in the back of that Mazda”). Don’t know if I’ve learned it yet, but here’s to hoping.P.S. – Did you read Rick Bragg’s essay on the last page of April’s Southern Living? It has to do with Great Southern Writers and dead mules. Thought you (all of you) would like it.And congratulations on the nomination, Jonathan!

  • Loren
    1:42 AM, 7 May 2011

    I’m done being Mother Climbing Wall for the day, so I’ll take a few and write about MY mom 🙂 .

    My mom comes from a line of extremely strong women, to put it mildly. She’s no exception. That said, it’s a strength strongly tempered by a deep love of Christ and a desire to be Christlike, so that even though she’s done some amazing things in my book, she is also a godly, submitted wife to my dad. I suppose that that’s the greatest lesson I’ve learned from her, though I am very different in some ways personality-wise. She’s a type-A and I’m still not quite sure what type I am!

    Despite our different personalities, she has also always encouraged me and my sisters to be our own selves. She abhors hovering to the point that sometimes I selfishly wish I could get my kids one of those grandmas who’s always available to babysit. But not really, when it comes to a point.

    I love to read because of my mom, I stand up straight because my mom would stick a (gentle) knuckle on my spine if I dared slouch (she’s six foot and stands like an elegant beech), I love to discuss things with my kids because my mom never shied from questions we asked….

    So that’s what I got from my mom (for starters!).

  • Charles Atkinson
    7:14 AM, 7 May 2011

    When we moved into our house there was three things at the top of my parents’ checklist: lots of light, hardwood floors, and mum has to have her garden.
    So my brothers and I spent one of the moving in days digging out 6 inches of ground, to be later filled with gardenable soil, all around the front and side of the house and edge of the yard. 6 inches sounds pretty easy until you try. The ground can be very inflexible and this soil was filled with gnarly roots as set in their ways as the staunchest conservative.

    While we boys grumbled away my Dad kept thanking us for the help (he was always pretending involuntary labor is voluntary) because it’ll make mum so pleased. I wondered why it was such a big deal (after all, it was a lot of work, and does mum really need a garden right now so badly?) but mum was adamant about it. In a very matter-of-fact way she knew exactly what she needed and I think she looked out from the living room window, where she was unpacking boxes, with satisfaction (and a certain amount of humor at the threats of “When I’m 18 I’m suing mum and dad for slave labor”) as the little bit of order she required from the world to get by took shape.

    Now when I go home that labor continues bearing fruit. Fresh tomatoes from the garden in the salad for dinner. Rhubarb pie made with tangy rhubarb right in the backyard for dessert. And now I am able to see that gardening is important to my mother not just as food for her body but, much more importantly, of which she was aware with angelic and determined patience the whole time we were complaining, food for her spirit.

  • Fellow Traveler
    4:40 PM, 8 May 2011

    I will always be grateful to my mother for teaching me how to write. While relatives were chiding her for pointing out my errors in early childhood, I was quickly grasping the essentials of spelling and grammar through her guidance. As I grew older, I learned more by the year. She was always utterly frank with me, and her red pen pin-pointed all the places where I needed improvement. I started writing small research papers in elementary school, which gradually became longer and more polished as I got older. Today, I look back with tremendous gratitude, knowing that I am entirely in her debt for my understanding and appreciation of how to wield the English language. Thanks Mom. By choosing to homeschool me, you gave me a gift beyond price.

  • My Mum « Modern Letters
    5:03 PM, 8 May 2011

    […] J. Rogers asked: “The great majority of the readers of this blog have or have had mothers. I want to hear about them. Specifically, what are some things that you learned from your mother?” […]

  • Micah Hawkinson
    5:22 PM, 8 May 2011

    The most important thing my mother taught me was that any time is an appropriate time for scripture.
    I can’t count the number of times that I heard “No discipline is pleasant at the time, but painful” on the way to the woodshed. And any time I started showing off my knowledge too much, it was “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.” If one of us started tooting our own horn, she’d say, “Let another man’s lips praise you and not your own.”

    My mother loves using that living, active, razor-sharp, double-edged word of God. And thanks to her, so do I.

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