Introduction

Introduction

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Amazing Mom

Introduction

Did you ever notice that MOM spelled upside down is WOW? That’s because our moms are just AMAZING.

~Author Unknown

I worked on this collection of stories while living through the final “firsts” after losing my mother a year ago: the first Christmas without her, the one-year anniversary of her death a few days ago, and today, the one-year anniversary of her funeral. I worked through a lot of my grief as I edited this book, meeting all the amazing moms in these pages and feeling the same happiness, sadness, and pride as their grown children—the talented, selfless writers who shared these personal, moving stories with us.

It was a difficult, but enlightening experience, and when I posted about it on Twitter I got a thoughtful response from one of our long-time Chicken Soup for the Soul writers—James Warda. He shared a wonderful piece of wisdom from his sister. After their father died, she told James, “I feel his absence but feel his presence more.” Isn’t that brilliant? And so true.

A mother’s influence never stops. Whether she’s in the trenches raising young children, or she’s counseling her grown children, or she has passed on, the kids will always feel her support, try to make her proud, and follow her advice, even if they pretended not to be listening when they heard it. And that applies to grandmothers, and stepmothers, and mothers-in-law, and all the other mothers in our lives, all of whom are represented in these pages.

What a wide variety of tales you are about to read! In Chapter 1, “Just What I Needed,” you’ll see how Timothy Freeman’s mother-in-law gracefully stepped in to the role when his mother died, telling him, “You’ve still got a mom when you need one.” He says he started crying when she told him that, and I did too!

Chapter 2 is about “Lasting Lessons” and it’s for all the moms whose sons and daughters are still rolling their eyes when their mothers try to share some wisdom and guidance with them. Laurie Carnright Edwards confesses that her mom embarrassed her terribly when they went car shopping together, insisting that there was a better deal to be had and forcing Laurie to stride out of that dealership even after two price reductions. But Mom always knows best. That car salesman called Laurie later and met her mother’s terms.

Everyone’s mom or grandmother or mother-in-law or stepmother is a bit crazy, in a wonderful way, and we have one wacky lady after another in Chapter 3, which is called “What a Character!” Jill Keller tells us about the wild day she had when her mother insisted over and over again that Jill was pregnant—because she had dreamt it. Jill knew she wasn’t pregnant but her mother saw confirming “signs” all day long. You can guess who ended up being right!

We all have our favorite mom or grandma foods, and we have a whole chapter about that, too, but these “Recipes for Life” go deeper, because there’s usually a backstory to these kitchen memories. Beth Krone-Downes tells us how she finally came to understand why her great-grandmother’s recipes were so variable as to ingredients and so imprecise as to measurements. She had been a refugee who escaped to the United States from Germany and went through many tough times. Beth realized that her great-grandmother never knew where she’d be cooking next, or what would be available to her, so her recipes were fluid and flexible, adaptive to her circumstances. Great-Grandma Johanna never told Beth how hard her life had been—it was the recipes that revealed the truth.

Talk about struggling—we have numerous stories about mothers and grandmothers who bravely went through tough times and came out the other side, and we shared many of those stories in Chapter 5, “My Role Model.” Savannah D. Cassel is one grateful daughter who recounts how her single mother struggled financially to raise her. But as soon as their situation improved, her mother turned around and filled up her car with groceries for another family going through a tough time.

Many of our stories are about children whose mothers never made it obvious to them how difficult their lives were. Chapter 6 is called “The Sacrifices She Made” and it’s filled with stories of children having epiphanies about their selfless mothers. Elaine Herrin Onley, for example, always had the right clothing for school and social events. It wasn’t until she came home from a party one night and spotted the ragged nightgown that was usually hidden under her mother’s robe that she realized how much her mother had been sacrificing to keep her children looking good.

We all become our mothers, right? And once we’re old enough, we welcome that. In Chapter 7, we share all kinds of “Special Memories” of good times with Mom, including a cute story by Dorann Weber about how hard she resisted learning her mother’s hobbies—knitting and crocheting—to the point where she refused to even wear the sweaters that her mother knit for her. But then that moment that all mothers wait for occurs: Dorann became a mother herself. And everything changed. She donned one of the sweaters her mother knit for her and she started knitting herself. That’s the sweet revenge we all talk about, right? “Just wait till you have a child of your own . . . .”

I learned to just soldier on, dispensing that unwanted advice while the kids were growing up, and smiling occasionally when they’d quote my own advice back to me as if it was something they had just thought of themselves. So every teenager should read Jocelyn Drawhorn’s story in Chapter 8, “Thanks, Mom.” Jocelyn tells us about a very wise teacher, Mrs. D, who was always available to help her during the school day, especially during those awkward times when her so-called friends were being mean to her. Mrs. D told her not to let her friends’ problems become her own, saying, “Never let the insecurities of others determine who you are.” Jocelyn says she has carried that advice with her throughout her adult life, thanks to Mrs. D, who, she reveals, is her mother.

We close out the book with Chapter 9, “A Lasting Legacy.” This was the hardest chapter for me to edit as it kept reminding me of all the good things that my mother did and the lessons and characteristics that are her legacy to me. One way to keep a mother’s legacy alive is to support her favorite cause at her funeral. In my family, we did that by requesting donations to the local animal shelter in lieu of flowers, and that’s why I included a story by Xochitl E. Dixon in this collection. Xochitl and her family asked the guests attending their mother’s memorial service to bring coats and gloves and hats to honor her, a teaching assistant who had always made sure to equip a few of her students each winter with the outerwear their families couldn’t afford. At their standing-room-only service, they collected hundreds of coats, hats, and gloves for their mother’s students.

I guess that is symbolic of all our mothers—they are the providers of the coats and hats and gloves that we need as we navigate life, and I’m not really talking about clothing. I’m talking about the emotional outerwear they provide when we leave our homes and interact with the world—the comfort and support and morals and strategies for life. Our mothers are our cheerleaders, our chief advisers, and our role models for how to be the very best human beings that we can be. This book is a great big thank-you to all the moms out there. You are truly appreciated by your families.

~Amy Newmark

January 7, 2018

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