40: Better than Cool

40: Better than Cool

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

Better than Cool

The more I live, the more I recognize that the teaching moments in my youth, especially those provided by my parents, have shaped my life and made me who I am.

~Robert D. Hales

Certain words always come to mind when I think of my mom. Honest and kind. A hardworking farmer’s wife. She is definitely a lady who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. However, there is one word I’m sure I never used to describe my mom: cool. Lord knows I wished for it — especially during my teen years.

My best friend had a cool mom. Patty’s mom wore stonewashed jeans and sang along to Madonna. I wasn’t sure my mom had even heard of Madonna.

Truth be told, Mom and I didn’t have much in common. I loved checking out the latest styles at the mall. Shopping gave her a headache. I enjoyed traveling and exploring new places. She was a homebody. In high school, I was captain of the pom-pom squad. She played the accordion.

However, there was one thing I always appreciated about my mom: she was a fabulous listener. Every day I came home from school and told her about my day. I could tell her anything — the good, the bad and the boring. She always listened, even when I told her things she didn’t want to hear. Like the night I went on my first date.

It was a double date, actually. Two popular boys had promised to take my friend and me to dinner and a movie. They pulled into the driveway and honked the horn. Of course my mom wasn’t okay with that. She crossed her arms and gave me a look.

“If he wants to date you, he can come in and get you.”

As it turned out, I should’ve left him in the driveway. The boy was a loser. The date didn’t go well. Later that night I returned home and marched up the steps to Mom and Dad’s bedroom.

“How was your night?” Mom stifled a yawn. Dad snored.

“Terrible,” I said. “They didn’t take us to dinner. We didn’t see a movie. Someone got alcohol and they spent the entire night driving around back roads, drinking beer.”

“What?” Dad mumbled, half asleep. Mom elbowed him.

“I swear I didn’t drink,” I said, plopping onto the bed. “I didn’t want to drink. I just wanted to come home.”

Thinking back, I’m surprised I even told her. After all, she had every right to be upset. Instead, she just listened. She didn’t overreact. Dad never learned to master this skill. Mom did it well, time and time again. So I kept telling her stuff.

After high school I moved out on my own. I called my mom often, mostly for cooking advice. Dad liked to tease me when he answered the phone.

“Is Mom there? Is Mom there?” he huffed, acting offended. “Doesn’t anyone ever want to talk to me?”

“Okay fine,” I said. “I’ll talk to you. How long does it take to hard-boil an egg?”

After a few seconds of silence, Dad cleared his throat. “Here’s Mom.”

Life went on. I went to college, got a job and met my future husband. Curt and I got married one beautiful day in May.

At the end of the ceremony, we faced the congregation and grinned as our pastor belted out an official introduction with his best preacher voice. “Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Mr. and Mrs. Curtis Zeck.”

There was something very symbolic about that moment. We had walked into that place on our own, but we would leave together. I squeezed Curt’s arm as we took our first step back up the aisle.

As we approached the first row, I glanced at my mom. She looked lovely — even with damp eyes and a red splotchy face. As mother-of-the-bride she wanted to look pretty. I thought about how she had struggled to find the right dress. She didn’t like to shop. She didn’t like many of the current styles, yet she wanted to make sure I liked what she wore.

Within a few years, Curt and I were expecting our first baby.

My husband was wonderful, but sometimes a girl just needs her mom — even if she is about to become one herself.

Between contractions I picked up the phone.

“Mom, I’m scared,” I said, whispering into the phone. “I don’t think I can do this. I’m totally exhausted. This is just too hard.”

Mom’s tone was sympathetic, but firm. “I know it’s hard, but you can do this. Labor lasts only so long and then it’s over. Think about holding your sweet baby.”

Six hours later I called Mom again. “She’s here,” I said, looking down at my beautiful baby girl. Mom was right. Joy had replaced pain.

It didn’t take long to realize I had no idea how to care for a newborn. Thank goodness Mom was only a phone call away.

“The baby has a bumpy rash all over her tummy. Should I call the doctor?”

“Should I give her some cereal before putting her to bed?”

“How many diapers does a normal kid go through?”

Mom always warned me that babies grow quickly. The years flew by. Two more baby girls joined our family. Today, I can hardly believe I have three teenagers.

If ever I needed Mom’s advice, it’s now. It amazes me how Mom managed to keep her meltdowns to a minimum during my teen years. I needed to know her secret.

“So how’d you do it, Mom?” I asked. “I told you stuff, but you never freaked out. How did you keep your cool?”

Suddenly, I caught myself smiling. After all these years, I had described my mom, and I used the word “cool.” So cool, in fact, I wanted to be like her.

“Oh, I definitely freaked out!” she said, laughing. “I just waited until later. I tried to stay calm when I was with you.”

Now there’s a skill I hope to master someday.

My mom never dressed in cute, trendy clothes or listened to popular music, but she always gave the best advice. She encouraged me through good times and bad. She’s my lifelong friend.

Today I realize what a special gift that actually is. Not everyone can say their mom is their very best friend.

I can.

And I think that’s pretty cool.

~Sheri Zeck

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