Two Things My Mother Told Me

My mom’s not the meddling kind of mother. She lets her children find out things for themselves. She’s a good mother. So I cherish two pieces of advice she gave me.

But first a little bit about my mother, Algerina. Her parents came over on the boat from Madeira although not together. They met in New Bedford, Mass., worked in the mills, and then bought a house and some land in a nearby town. The family grew a large vegetable garden and kept goats.

It wasn’t an easy life. A lot was expected of my mother and her younger sister. My mother was forced to drop out of school to work in a textile mill. Her sister had to take care of the house.

My mother and me.

It’s a shame my mother had to leave school because she loves learning. When we were kids, she took us to the library twice a week for an armload of books she read in bed. (She still buys boxes of books at yard sales.)

My mom took adult education classes in such subjects as millinery — I wore feathered hats with veils to church — jewelry making, painting, you name it. She can make just about any costume, which entitled me to a starring role in my school plays. I still have my prom gowns she sewed, including the one with the glass beads on the bodice.

My mother is 88. She stays up late, playing solitaire on the tablet my kid sister gave her, does crossword puzzles and Soduko, and is lucky at Bingo and slots at the casino. She and my father enjoy being with my brother’s kids who live one street over. There’s a lot more to my mother than that but this is a start.

Now about those pieces of advice.

The first is that if you don’t have enough food you don’t eat in front of others. I remember I was eating something in front of another kid but felt I didn’t have enough to share. That’s what she told me.

The second is that it’s not always important to be right. I heard that one when I was a young adult. I can’t recall an incident that preceded those words. She said it casually.

I don’t know if my mother intended those two statements to resonate so deeply with me. But they do, and I hope I pass on something as useful to my own children.


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