May 06, 2015
For most of our lives, our mothers are our caretakers, the people we talk to about our ups and downs, the women with whom we share our deepest fears and our greatest news. They’re the ones we tend to thank on national TV and who always seem to give us advice whether we ask for it or not.
In honor of Mother’s Day, a few notable Philadelphians shared their favorite stories about their mothers, who taught them what success first looked like, who gave them confidence and showed them how to stand out, make a difference, make us think, and in some cases, make us laugh.
I remember on my 16th birthday, my mother took me to New York to see The Lion King on Broadway. I had never been to New York before that, so it was the first time I was ever exposed to the excitement and the culture of the epicenter of fashion. I remember how beautiful the costumes were and how it sparked my love for the transformational ability of fashion. I'll never forget the way I felt that day.
My mother always reminded me to follow my own feet. She really encouraged my brother and I to be our own people and to never be followers. Learning that at a young age really helped me to become an independent and self-sufficient woman early on.
I think my favorite memory of my mother was her genuine outpouring of love for my partner, John. While she was always loving growing up, having her love and respect who I love really hit me hard, and in all the right places. My mother continues to teach me lessons – from appreciating each day for the gift that it is to learning that true happiness does not come from material goods, but from moments in time. Love the moment, live for the moment is what she has taught me.
I first got to know my way around the kitchen thanks to my Mom, Maggie. When I was in third grade, I started giving her a hand during the mad rush to get dinner on the table by the time my Dad would be home at 5:30 p.m. My mom would get back from work at 4:30 p.m. and say, “Ok, Josecito.” That was my cue to get to work prepping whatever ingredients were involved in that night’s meal, like peeling potatoes and carrots or picking cilantro leaves off the stems.
My mother taught me the importance of layering flavors in cooking, which I consider to be one the hallmarks of my cooking style today. In parallel, there are always layers to situations in everyday life, too. It can be important to be able to see beyond the outermost layer to get to the heart of a matter.
One thing I’ll always remember about being a kid is that we lived in a house that was kind of centrally located in our neighborhood, so all of the kids just ended up at our place, and my Mom would always be cool with that. It was just my younger brother and me, but I think my mom basically raised 20 kids. Every summer, our house was like a children’s commune, and my Mom was our leader. And she always had Kool-Aid.
A life lesson she taught me: Always invite everyone to your party. Don’t leave anyone out. At the holidays, we’d often have random people over our house who might not have had anywhere else to go. You could always tell they appreciated it. And my Mom would always be the gracious host. So I’ve tried to remember that. Subsequently, I've had some interesting people at parties I’ve thrown. And they've always been fun.
My mother wasn’t a person who spent a lot of time lecturing us. She taught by example. She taught me the value of hard work by taking the job of stay-at-home Mom seriously. I cannot ever remember her sitting around relaxing. She was always working, more, I'm sure, than if she had had a job outside of our home. I still marvel at the way she turned doing laundry into a science: meticulously mixing water temperatures and detergent amounts until each load was perfect. It was tough to live up to her standards, but I am glad she set the bar high.
I used to be in a punk-rock band. We toured the country and we played at little hole-in-the-wall places. My Mom lives in Arizona and when we played in Phoenix she showed up wearing my band T-shirt, which was so great and something I never would have expected her to do.
When I give lectures about my work and the organization, my Mom always gets a prop. She has always taught me to follow my heart and the rest will follow. My decision to become a photographer was not a fiscally sound one, or even to start a nonprofit. Any of these things I’ve done have been risks, creative risks, but risks. But I can always hear my Mom’s voice – if it feels right and I love it, it is right.
I was the youngest and my Mom was a character – she was a flirt. She and my Dad were always very demonstrative; they loved each other, hugged and kissed. But she was not above, if some guy whistled at her, smiling and giving him the eye. I remember how incensed I was at 4 years old, but she laughed at me and said it was just flirting. She wasn’t a prude. My mom always had a twinkle in her eye and it always colored my world and reminded me not to take life too seriously.
The thing I heard most often was the way she would say (with forbearance), “Oh, Stuart,” when I made a joke that maybe crossed the line. There was no one who didn’t love my Mom, because she was so accepting. I guess the thing she taught by example was tolerance. It is not an attribute that serves a columnist well. We are best when we are outraged. (Sorry, Mom.) Oh, Stuart.
She also taught me about having a work ethic. I’ve seen her work her way up from being a secretary (what she was called at the time) to being the administrator of the Liver Transplant Division at Einstein Hospital. I watched her go to school and take classes and work as many jobs as it took to grow in her career and take care of us. At the time, not a lot of women were doing what she did when I was a kid. But she never complained about it. Her only complaint is that I don’t call her enough.
Have a favorite memory of your mother? Tell us about it in the comment section below.