Things My Mother Taught Me

11 Feb

IMG_0639Today is my mother’s 89th birthday.  Next month will mark five years since she died. As many of you know from reading this blog, my upcoming book, Welcome to My Breakdown (March 2015), is a lot about my mom. Obviously I think she was amazing, but lots of others share this view.  I purposely don’t write a lot about her here because I want you to read about her in full in the book. I also need to get writing this post over with so I can stop crying and get on with the other work I have to do today. I still miss her. I always will. It’s what you learn when you lose someone you love. Of course you miss them on the big occasions:  holidays, graduations, birthdays, but for me, as time passes, it’s the little things I miss the most. I miss her voice, the funny, sharp, brutally honest observations she always made, the way her hands felt when she held mine. Her crazy intuition.

This morning I jotted down some of the things off the top of my head that my mother taught me:

Don’t take it personal–She didn’t actually use these words, but it was how she conducted herself. If someone did something to her that was hurtful or mean, she would chalk it up to the transgressor’s stupidity. “She just don’t know no better,” she’d chuckle. She was so often clear that the transgression had nothing to do with her and everything to do with the person doing it. She didn’t hold grudges.

I can’t say that I’ve fully learned this one, but I’m working on it.

Stand up/Stand for something. My mother was warrior. She fought for kids in public schools in Newark to have the same level of education as their suburban peers. She believed in fairness, in this country’s promise of justice for everyone and she was unafraid to fight for it.

It’s okay to be afraid, but do it anyway.

This was how she approached so many things, small and large. One small, funny one was my mother going to Broadway, to the theater. I don’t how, but as a young woman, she discovered  that she loved going to the theater. She would save her little money to buy a ticket. When she first started going , she’d get off the bus from New Jersey without a clue how to get around in Manhattan. She’d have no idea even which direction to walk, only that she’d figured it. When I was 9 or 10, she would take me to a matinée and didn’t seem to  think twice about taking me out of school. She understood that she was giving me an education.

Choose your friends wisely anwidely

“You’re lucky in life if God gives you two good friends,” she’d always say. It was impossible to believe her because she was surrounded by dozens of loving and devoted friends. While her girls–her do or dies– were Aunt Thelma and Aunt Eva and Miss Rose, her circle of friends was vast: all ages, shapes, races, ethnicities, backgrounds and religions.

I have my do or dies, too and I also have a wide assortment of friends. I’m richer for it.

How to make collard greens

She was an excellent cook and I am not, but I do make some good collard greens. My nephew Kamal, her much beloved grandson, used to say that Grandma’s food tasted so good because there was so much love in it. Yep.

As a mother, you can’t love too much

This one speaks for itself and as for learning this lesson, I got it.

Happy Birthday Mom

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11 Responses to “Things My Mother Taught Me”

  1. Jean Gatto February 11, 2014 at 9:12 pm #

    I love your post about your Mother. She reminds me of My lovely mother who I miss every day. I am looking forward to your book. You know I read everything you write. Hugs.. Jean Gatto

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Benilde Little February 11, 2014 at 9:36 pm #

      Thanks love! I knew we were some how connected. Miss seeing you around town.

    • shannon February 12, 2014 at 9:54 am #

      Your Mom is amazing, and her fruit didn’t fall far from the tree. Baldwin and Ford have an amazing mom!

      • Benilde Little February 12, 2014 at 3:40 pm #

        Thanks–I so need to hear that.

  2. Gifty McGifty February 11, 2014 at 11:57 pm #

    I feel honored that I got to meet your Mom, and I feel honored to know you. Back in the day when Black World felt (sometimes) homogenous and herd mentality, you always heralded authenticity and uniqueness. I can’t wait to read your book.

    • Benilde Little February 12, 2014 at 3:46 pm #

      Oh Veronica, that’s so beautiful, thank you. I remember bringing you to my parents house to meet my Mom. I loved having you at my side during those Essence years. Even as a very young woman, your insights were intriguing and your company fun.

  3. deborah February 12, 2014 at 4:23 am #

    Yes, Happy Birthday to your beautiful Mother. This is a lovely entry. I miss mine every single day, too…xo

    • Benilde Little February 12, 2014 at 3:43 pm #

      I know you do and in your great mothering, your mom lives through you.

  4. Benilde Little February 12, 2014 at 10:43 pm #

    Gwendolyn Smith I WILL NEVER FORGET YOUR MOTHER. AFTER I HAD MY SON, SHE TALKED WITH ME OR SHOULD I SAY TO ME. SHE TOLD ME TO ” HOLD MY HEAD UP AND NEVER WALK IN SHAME” SHE SAID ” YOU ARE NOT THE MISTAKE AND NEITHER IS THAT BABY ” I SO APPRECIATED HER THAT DAY
    Yesterday at 4:34pm · Like

    Gwendolyn Smith TEARING UP JUST WRITING THOSE WORDS SHE AND MR GELLER THAT DAY HELPED ME STAND A LITTLE TALLER

    • Benilde Little February 12, 2014 at 10:47 pm #

      Dear Gwen,
      My mother didn’t judge and I can tell, all these many years later, you felt that from her. She wanted to help whenever she could, especially young people. So happy to read your tribute to her and that your son and his wife and their children are all leading such productive lives.

  5. deborah lansing March 21, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

    A beautiful piece, and a beautiful tribute to your Mum. So happy to have met you!

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