The Simple Life

The Simple Life

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom

The Simple Life

Children need love, especially when they do not deserve it.
~Harold Hulbert

My mother has always lived by a few simple rules: Go to church every Sunday, help people in need, don’t worry about things you can’t change, and bake an apple pie whenever you need to feel better. These simple rules have allowed her to live a very simple and contented life, and in doing so, she set an example for her children to follow.

Of course, I had broken all of these rules by the time I set off for college.

It was September, and I should have been ecstatic as I stood on my college campus saying goodbye to my parents. The other kids in my class were smiling and waving their parents off so they could embark on their new independent lives. I, on the other hand, was quietly crying, holding on for dear life, petrified of the approaching moment when my parents would get into their car and leave. I had never been away from home without family. I was one of five children, and although I wanted to escape from our small and crowded house, I never wanted to be far away from my mom. So I stood there frozen, not ready. I felt like an idiot, but that did not make the tears stop falling. My mom tried to reassure me to no avail. “We’ll come back to get you next weekend and you can come home for a visit!”

I held on to that promise like a lifeline.

My homesickness made my freshman year in college difficult, and I comforted myself by plunging into my academics. I spent all of my time studying, including weekends when everyone else attended parties and made new friends. I had always been a good student, in fact a perfectionist when it came to my grades. I would not settle for anything but an A, and when I got a 4.0 my first semester, a friend said to me, “That’s great, but you can only go down from there!” Suddenly, I was more driven than ever.

My mom was worried about my social life. She was happy that I got good grades but had always told me there was more to life. What about faith? What about helping others? What about all the worry? She encouraged me to go to church. She believed that weekly attendance was the answer to my pathetic social situation. If I could meet even a couple of nice Lutherans, everything would be better.

During Easter break, I decided to stay on campus to work on a term paper and some other projects that would put me ahead when classes started up again. This seemed like a good idea at the time, and besides, it would save my mom the incredibly long drive. She kept asking me if I was sure I would be okay, alone on a holiday when most everyone would be gone. I assured her I would be fine and keep very busy with my schoolwork. And I was fine—until everyone actually left and the campus was quiet and deserted. Then the holiday came. I could not believe I was alone.

I can still picture this vividly in my mind. I was on the phone with my mom, crying because I could not hold it together for one more minute. The weekend was almost over, so it was too late to make a different decision. I was feeling sorry for myself, and counting the hours until friends arrived back on campus. The dining service was closed, so I had to eat packaged food that I bought at the mini-mart, the only place that was walking distance from campus. I was literally stuck there because I did not have a car. My mom didn’t hesitate on the other end of the phone. She emphatically said, “Make a dinner reservation at the nicest restaurant in town. I am driving up to take you out to dinner!” That was absolutely crazy, but exactly what she did. Three hours later, we enjoyed a delicious holiday meal together. Then she got back in her car and drove home.

I have never forgotten that amazing act of love and selflessness. She would have been perfectly justified to use this as a lesson. Next time I would surely make a better decision. But my mom could not bear to see me suffer. There would be time for lessons later.

Sometimes, I find myself being critical of my mother’s simple ways. It is difficult with three kids and a busy schedule to go to church every Sunday. And while I admire my mom’s ability to help anyone in need, I complain that I do not have as much time as I wish to follow her example. I worry about everything else (some things never change), though I wish I did not. I sense my mom questioning my priorities and my faith—in God and myself—though she never judges me. She remains centered. She sees things with clarity. She has strength of purpose. She is the same woman who drove all the way to get to me on that April night so many years ago. Her simple rules have served her well, and though I don’t follow them as much as I should, they are there like a beacon, calling for me to follow. And someday, I just might.

For now, I think I am going to bake an apple pie.

~Julie Bradford Brand

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