When my birthday rolls around each year, I feel the desire to: eat cake, get a massage, and share my thankfulness for having another birthday. I also want to honor my mom for: giving birth to me; giving me a cabbage patch kid; not strangling me when I came home from a party or two or ten a little tipsy; not scolding me for talking back to her; sending me on Semester at Sea; understanding my decision to leave UMASS which was much closer to her house and move all the way to California with my boyfriend; watching my kids when I need a break; helping me pay for graduate school; and a whole host of other reasons.
Here are some things I have learned from her:
1) Call your mom and or mother-in-law, and if either one get a little nutty in their old age, love them anyway and bring them their chocolate and preferred beverage (which very well could be gin or scotch.)
2) Smiling and being friendly makes you and everyone else around you feel better. It may even entitle you to a free bottle of wine on a plane, a cute Italian waiter flirting with you all throughout dinner in London, and a lot of support and love when life gets bumpy. When I was home last month, the sweet man who takes care of my mom’s lawn saw me driving her car and asked with a worried expression if she was okay. This same man even drove to her house to make sure she was safe the day after hurricane Sandy.
3) Make up songs and sing them often. It is a really efficient way of fighting off madness. Your children will love the songs when they are little, think you are crazy when they are teens, and then will sing those same songs themselves in their 20’s and to their children for the rest of their lives. (“Chicarina Soup” and “Casadilla” are two of my favorites.)
4) Spending time with dear friends, having a cocktail in the evening for “medicinal purposes,” shopping, going to the movies, reading an engrossing book, and being on the beach = good therapy.
5) Have crackers, port wine cheese, processed cheese food, chips and salsa, and cocktail napkins with funny sayings in the house at all times for when people stop over for an unexpected visit and stay through dinner.
6) Babies should be held as much as possible. You cannot spoil them.
7) Send cards, especially birthday cards, because everyone likes getting a card in the mail. Sympathy cards and get well cards mean a lot too. Emails and texts just aren’t the same.
8) Have a dog and preferably give it a name ending in the letter “y.” Before my time there was Chumley. Then growing up there was Becky, Buffy, Lucy, and now Polly and Betty. My dog is named Poppy. Then treat your dog like the most treasured part of the family because they are great companions and “don’t talk back.”
9) Travel with friends and family.
10) Know how to make a really delicious desert that no one else in the world has ever heard of like “Grasshopper Surprise” or “Chewies.” (Chewies are extra special because they are easy to make with grandchildren.)
11) Jersey corn and tomatoes are the very best.
12) At night, close the blinds so neighbors and the like can’t see what is going on inside the house. Lock all of the doors. And maybe even hang some bells on a door so if it opens you hear them jingle.
13) Play bridge because it is “good for your brain.” And watch Jeopardy because it is “good for your memory.” I cannot do either, but perhaps I will learn, although it seems daunting. (She is really skilled at both by the way.)
14) There is no bodily ailment that a little Epsom salt and hot water can’t help. Gargle with warm salt water for a sore throat, and basically salt is always a good idea.
15) Drink lots of water. It helps with the salt consumption.
16) Be brave and take one day at a time with grace, courage, and a sense of humor when dealing with really scary things like cancer, losing your husband, and your best friend.
17) Open windows when possible because fresh air is good for sleeping and sit in the warm sunshine because “it’s good for what ails you.”
18) When your body is craving something, it is a sign you need what it wants. Fortunately, for me, this includes, but is not limited to, crunchy cheese doodles and Hershey’s kisses.
19) Listen to music as much as possible and especially jazz…Susie likes jazz.
20) And lastly, putting on red lipstick and earrings after major surgery does a world of good. Sometimes looking put together on the outside helps you feel put together on the inside.