When the boys ask me why I rest my hand on their father’s leg when he’s driving, I think about all the miles my family would travel in the car on summer vacations.  I remember looking to the front and she’d be sitting there with her hand resting on daddy’s leg.  They didn’t speak too much but occasionally they’d look at each other and smile.  When I touch my husband’s leg, or reach over and hold his hand in the car I tell the boys:

My momma taught me that. 

When I come down in the evening in my PJs and the boys come rushing over to sit by me, Sam will raise his head and say:

 “Ohhh….you have on that perfume don’t you?”

 I think about hugging my mom over the years; burying my head into her neck and smelling her perfume.  I remember it warmed me and made me feel safe and loved.  So when the boys snuggle down next to me taking in long breaths of whatever perfumed lotion I’ve slathered on, I think:

My momma taught me that.

When I give a stranger a couple of dollars  I remember watching my mom reach into her pocket book and pull out money at the grocery store.  She’d help the person in front of us if they were a little short.  I’d walk away from the register holding her hand, looking up at that beautiful face, and feeling so proud.   Charity is one of the things she taught me.

When I start to put together a meal, I think about all the meals that she made in our kitchen.  Meals weren’t just something you ate, meals were an event.  Meals were cornbread and pinto beans, collard greens with ham hocks and sausage gravy and biscuits.  Saturday dinner was a steak, always a steak, sometimes in the kitchen or sometimes in the dining room where you “dressed” for dinner and ate by candlelight.  The kitchen table was a place of ritual and family, sometimes heated discussions and always good food.  When people ask me where I learned to cook I tell them:

My momma taught me that.

When I stand on the porch and wave goodbye to family and visitors pulling down the driveway and I take a moment to say a little prayer for their safe journey, I remember all the times I left my home on May Avenue, watching momma wave to me as I pulled away.  I know how important that last wave is and I think:

My momma taught me that. 

Even as mom started her slow journey from us, even when she didn’t always know who I was or where she was, even then she’d hug me and tell me she loved me.  That was her nature. 

I wonder if I would want to live the last years of my life as my momma did.  I can’t help but think about how much comfort and joy she brought us by being there for us to visit, to touch and hug.  We’d sit and share a cup of coffee, maybe watch a cooking show or take trip out to the garden.  Sometimes we were strangers, sometimes we were her daughters but always her gentle nature recognized us as friends. 

She gave so much and continued to ask for so little.  I’d want to do that for my boys as well.  She allowed us to let her go slowly and when it came time to say goodbye, we did.  My sister was there when she left us.  As gently as my momma lived, she died.   

Many years ago, right after my grandmother died, I found my mom in her bedroom writing down her thoughts.

Through her tears she said:

“You can read this when I’m done.”

She wrote pages about the things her momma did that made her world so full of love.  

If you wonder why I thought it important to write these things down now,

through my tears I can only tell you:

My momma taught me that.

                                                            Janice Irene Austin (Barrett)

                                               October 17, 1923 to November 7, 2009

                                             Every good thing I am; is rooted in you!



15 responses to “Lessons

  1. Reblogged this on Random Thoughts While Parenting and commented:

    Today is my mom’s birthday. She’s not with us anymore but I wanted to post this … she was a pretty cool woman!

  2. Hi D – I just now read about your mom. I’ve been spending time visiting with my mom and dad since I’ve been in Ohio – realizing it won’t be long until they get their wings too. Thanks for continuing to write.

  3. Dianna,

    I am so very sorry for your loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  4. Lauri Murphy (Pearlstein)

    Dear Dianna,
    I’m so sorry to hear of your mother’s passing. I remember playing on your front lawn and your mother watching us. What a beautiful way to remember your mom by writing such lovely memories.


  5. Beautiful, Aunt Dianna. Your momma taught you well, and your learned flawlessly.

  6. My sincere condolences on the loss of your Mom.

    You are a talented writer whose words can move others, a talent of which I’m sure your Mom was very aware. I’m also sure she was very proud, and as you’ve described in a simple but powerful way, her lessons will forever keep her with you.

    • Thank you DCA. I remember finding my mom’s journal from a visit she made to me in Europe. Her words were beautiful and I’m humbled to think that perhaps that talent is with me also. I’m glad you visited.

  7. Oh Dianna – I am so sad tonight to hear of your dear mother’s passing. My childhood memories are wrapped so warmly with memories of you and your mom. I remember all that you speak of with such fondness that my my heart is both full and broken tonight. I will always remember the wonderful meals and warm welcome no matter how long between visits. May Avenue will always hold the key to my childhood memories. Your mom, my beloved Aunt Janice will forever be the the next best thing to my own mom for all those years we lived across the street from each other. You and I were both lucky to have had her. She was and will always be a beautiful example of motherhood. My love to you. . .

  8. That was so beautiful, Dianna. I am so sorry for your loss but blessed to be able to share in the wonderful memories you have of your mom. I have realized that the way we cope with loss of a loved one is to keep them alive in memories and to pass them along to our children. A piece of your mom will definitely be carried on to your sons! Take care…..Sharon

  9. What an honor to read this wonderful tribute and know that you are talking about our mom… it was a privilge to be her daughter.
    Thank you for writing this.. your words capture her perfectly…

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