My mother died of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease seven years ago. One of my favorite memories of my mom, when she was declining but still living at home with my dad, is the rare moment when I answered “yes, ma’am” to her question. She responded sadly, “You don’t have to talk to me like that. We’re best friends. Or at least I thought we were.”
She was right. We were best friends. And we had been since I was in elementary school. But that relationship was slowly but surely taken away from us by dementia and then death.
I desperately miss my mother’s friendship, care, and guidance every single day. I came from her, and because of that, she knew and loved me better than anyone else ever has or ever will.
I loved her smile, her laughter, her sense of humor, and the way she said my name. I loved the way she made my birthday and every holiday special each year. I loved her enthusiasm for giving gifts, her affinity for celebrating the people she loved, and her struggle to keep fun surprises a secret.
What my mother did for me.
She took care of me when I was sick or got hurt.
She made me feel safe, secure, special and valued.
She left gifts on the end of my bed for Valentine’s Day, filled and hid Easter eggs in the front yard, and made my Halloween costumes by hand.
She wrapped the perfect presents and filled my Christmas stocking with treasures.
She taught me how to make meatloaf, stuffed bell peppers, and fried zucchini. She taught me how to bake homemade bread and make pie crust from scratch.
She taught me how to take care of animals, both wild ones we encounter and pets.
She taught me how to start a garden and tend to my plants and how to grow and use herbs for cooking and healing.
She taught me how to shop for groceries and pick out produce.
She taught me how to pluck my eyebrows in middle school. She bought me makeup and taught me how to apply it. She reluctantly showed me how to shave my legs.
She bought me my first bra and tampons and a padded, push-up bra bikini in high school so I wouldn’t be self-conscious.
She let me pick out the fabric and sewed and hand-beaded my dress for junior prom.
She taught me how to write and draw.
She showed me how to teach children effectively.
She taught me how to clean the bathroom and the kitchen and how to do laundry efficiently.
She taught me how to two-step in a Texas dance hall.
She showed me how to be a good friend, a devoted daughter, and a good citizen.
She tried to teach me how to drive. (Then my dad and an instructor took over.)
She taught me how to be reliable, responsible, silly, honest, and brave.
She taught me how to protect the vulnerable, question authority, and challenge the status quo.
She taught me how to be a woman in a male-dominated world.
My mother wasn’t perfect, but she was always and forever, my safe place to land until she got sick. She felt like home in a way that no one else ever could. She was my biggest fan. She was my guide, my teacher, my confidant, my mentor, my therapist, my cheerleader, and my friend.
My mother made me a better mother.
Now that I am raising two daughters of my own, I am beginning to understand how my mother felt about me. I am beginning to understand the infinite depths of her love for me as her daughter.
She taught me how to be a mother.
She taught me how to make sacrifices.
She taught me how to soothe and nurture.
She taught me how to be kind, patient, and gentle.
She taught me how to love and be loved.
Daughters need their mothers.
Daughters need their mothers because we would be lost without them. For better or for worse, they are an essential part of who we are. From the moment they meet one another, mothers teach their daughters how to love and be loved. If that crucial maternal love is missing from our lives at an early age, then we will struggle to learn how to love ourselves or anyone else well.
If we do not have that primary acceptance and approval from our mothers when we are children, we are likely to spend our whole lives searching for that depth of love in all the wrong places.
Daughters need their mothers because they teach us how to love.