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My Momma Could Fold a Fitted Sheet

I recently read a magazine article written by a woman in her late twenties lamenting that “lifetime achievement awards” were only granted to older folks with long, established careers. I had to chuckle at the logic: how else can you amass a body of work significant enough to merit recognition if you haven’t lived?

When I think of growing older, my thoughts turn to my mother. To me, she was quite beautiful, reminding me of Polly Bergen, a starlet in the 60’s. (Google her.) Of course, she never saw herself that way, saying that beauty is a burden because it is fleeting. I was skeptical: as an awkward teenager, I was willing to chance it to have the power to open doors with just a smile. (Yes, I blatantly stole that line.) But as I grew older, I understood the permanence of more important things, like values and skills. She taught me that kindness, along with a sense of humor, were much more powerful. I try to remember that.

Momma was a planner. She kept a calendar filled projects that she aspired to complete, and she made a to-do list that she kept on the kitchen counter to be reviewed each morning over a cup of strong black coffee. By the end of the day, she noted what she had accomplished as she anticipated what was to follow. When she passed away, I found baby blankets she had lovingly crocheted in a bin labeled “to my future great grandchildren.” I cried over that discovery. And in many ways, I am like her in that regard. I tend to look ahead, a skill I fine-tuned once I became a mother myself and was charged with the task of keeping young humans alive. Yep, Momma could do anything, including the superhuman ability to fold a fitted sheet. Her linen closet was an organized thing of beauty. Unfortunately, she didn’t pass skill that along to me. I gave up trying to create a neat little package ages ago.

It’s hard not to look in the mirror and recognize the way cancer has changed me, my face a roadmap of experience. Age and chemo can be a pretty transformative tool and not in a good way. But then, I hear the words from my mother: the only advantage to aging, she would say, is that it gives you a past, a big story to tell, filled with happy and sad times. And I agree. We are all working on an autobiography, one chapter at a time.

She taught me a lot, and I am grateful for those lessons.

And my advice to those young women? Be patient. Life happens, the years passing by far too quickly. And if you are lucky, someday you will have a lifetime to celebrate, too.


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