Sunday, May 12, 2013

Things My Mother Taught Me

Most parents teach their children; it's part of the job, after all.  But along with the things they consciously set out to teach you -- potty training, how to dress yourself, the manners you need to get along with others, responsibility, respect for others -- there are the things you learn by observing them and what they do.  Some of those lessons can be profound, while others just help make you the unique individual you are.

I learned a lot about tolerance and acceptance of others from both of my parents, but I think especially from my mother.  When I was about 5 years old, my father's ex-wife and my half-sister came to live with our family (my parents, my brother, my sister, and me).  Not exactly what most women would be willing to do!  But we all got along fine.  My mother worked a graveyard shift, so my dad's ex-wife would get us up in the mornings and ready for school, and my mother would get home in time to see us before we left.  My half-sister and I even went to the same elementary school for a while, and the administrators sometimes got the two different Mrs. Sellerses confused.  Even after they moved out to a place of their own, we visited often.

Long before multiculturalism was talked about, our family had a wide range of friends -- black, Hispanic, Indian (from India), and even gay.  We children were taught open-mindedness and acceptance, and that people are just people.  And I grew up knowing that Rock Hudson, Raymond Burr, and Montgomery Clift were gay, though I've never figured out how my mother knew.

My mother always told me I could do anything I wanted to do and be anything I wanted to be, from the time I was little.  She told me I could succeed on my own and didn't need someone to help me.  I believed her and have carved out my own unique corner of the world, first as an editor and now as a genealogist.  (When I did follow my own path as an editor, though, she couldn't understand why I didn't want to work for the CIA or the UN, and why I wasn't rushing to get married and give her a granddaughter.  So not every lesson is perfect!)

My mother loved to watch movies.  She taught me how to listen to the actors' voices and recognize them, which gives me a nice party trick today.  She explained how to watch actors who were portraying musicians and what to look for to see if they were really playing the instruments.  She also explained that it took someone who really knew what he was doing to portray a character who didn't.

My mother loved to play with words.  She taught me to do crossword puzzles, which I still enjoy.  She would flip words around, like spoonerisms, so we had chublip stamps (Blue Chip Stamps) and chotato pips (potato chips).  I still tell people to have a happy "oneth of the month" when a new month rolls around.  And she taught me an appreciation of foreign languages, which definitely influenced my choice of a major in college.

I don't think my mother met a cuisine she didn't like.  We grew up eating Chinese, Mexican, and Indian food; if Thai and Vietnamese had been available at the time, we probably would have had them also.  My mother used to call us kids the vultures -- there was never any food left on the table after a meal.

Unlike the stereotype that is prevalent even today, both of my parents enjoyed watching sports.  As soon as she walked into the house, my mother would turn on the television, often to sports.  So we watched football, baseball, basketball, golf, boxing, car racing ... if it was on television, my mother would watch it.  I find that I still tend to be a minority among most women I know because I enjoy watching sports and have a good working knowledge of most of them.

If my mother were still alive today, I like to think she'd enjoy my working as a genealogist, since she's the one who started me on that path by telling me stories about my family.  Thanks, Mommy.


  1. This is a wonderful tribute to your mother. I wish I had gotten the chance to know her.


All comments on this blog will be previewed by the author to prevent spammers and unkind visitors to the site. The blog is open to everyone, particularly those interested in family history and genealogy.