Real Simple

WORD TO YOUR MOTHER

From what they cook to how they drive to when they buy jewelry, six writers share the unique, loving, and everyday ways they honor Mom.

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Six stories about inspiratio­nal moms—and how their daughters celebrate them

I Wear Pink

WWE LOST MY MOTHER to breast cancer 18 years ago, when I was 33—and she was just 60. Mama was a big-hearted, colorful woman who would turn a person she met in the waiting room of a dentist’s office into a friend for life. She raised me to look out for other people, even strangers. She once told me, “Go out of your way to be kind. You never know who’s in line in front of you at the grocery store, and what’s been going on with ’em.”

Mama’s nurturing spirit was never more present than when it came to our Southern family. We were a large, blended group that included Mama and my stepfather, Wayne; me and my sister; my three stepsiblin­gs; and an extended family of

It was as if we all wore our love for her—and for one another— the whole day.

aunts, uncles, and cousins. She was the glue that held us together, planning family reunions and gatherings and making sure we all showed up for weddings and holidays, especially once my siblings and I were grown and living far from our childhood home in Alabama. She called me at least once a week to fill me in on what various family members were up to. She sent birthday cards to us and expected us to send birthday cards to one another.

When she died, we tried our best to stay connected, but it was tough. We did OK at first, but as the years went by we saw each other less and less, getting together only when Wayne had a big birthday and, channeling Mama, insisted we all turn up. I felt sad, especially because I knew Mama would be so disappoint­ed in us. There were all the typical excuses: a busy job, a new baby, scheduling. But in hindsight I realize that, no matter how much I loved them, I felt that seeing my extended family would just be a painful reminder of what we’d lost, a visit defined more by her absence than by who was present.

Then, a few years ago, Wayne had a fun idea. On what would have been my mother’s 74th birthday, he invited our extended family to wear pink (the color of breast cancer awareness) all day long. Family members and friends in five different states joined in, and we were thrilled to have 100 percent participat­ion. More than a dozen loved ones were decked out in pink: my sister-in-law Samantha in hot pink calico, my cousin Conner sporting a bushy beard and cotton-candypink plaid. My 6-year-old son, Harold, seemed like he was going for a prize, wearing hot pink glasses and a sparkly metallic fuchsia wrap. We spent the whole day in a joyful group text, sharing pictures of ourselves in our pink and catching up.

The photos and texts felt more intimate than comments on each other’s Facebook posts. It was a living, visible, and vibrant connection, as if we all wore our love for her—and for one another—the whole day. Every time I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror and saw my pink outfit, I thought of my family and felt warm. It strengthen­ed our lines of connection and made me double down on my commitment to keep in touch, whether by getting on a plane to Alabama, hosting family at my home in New York, picking up the phone for a catch-up call with my sister, or sending texts to my nieces. On what would have been my mother’s 80th birthday, I’ll put on my rose-colored glasses and head up the effort for another family day of pink remembranc­e.

I know Mama would love it.

—Catherine Burns is a host and producer of the Moth Radio Hour.

I Buy Myself Jewelry

MMY PARENTS SPLIT UP before I hit kindergart­en, so it was “Mommy and me” for real, from early on—and it was epic. There are so many reasons to love her, to laugh with her, to learn from her, but for now, I’ll just tell you this: My mother is one of the most generous people I know. Conversely, my father is one of the most miserly people you could possibly meet. My mother loves jewelry. During their years together, my father gave my mother a wedding ring set and a charm his sister strong-armed him into buying. That’s it. And so, starting at a young age, I’d accompany my mother to jewelry stores, where she’d buy her own damn jewelry. Men? Totally into them but not sitting back to wait for them to define her. (Turns out, that’s a lesson that goes well beyond gemstones.) I’d watch her adorn herself, whether for a workday or an event. The jewels were an enhancemen­t but also an advisory: You are about to tangle with a grown-ass woman. Proceed with respect.

—Michele Edwards is the owner of MissMickst­er, which sells rare and vintage jewelry.

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