The Huddle: What We Learned from Our Mothers


With Sunday being Mother’s Day, what better time to celebrate what we’ve learned from the women who raised us? This week, we’re sharing what we’ve learned from our moms.


Lucy Hallowell: I have a clone. She’s five years old and the spitting image of me in essentially every way (except for her love of tights which she must get from our donor). Having her has given me an appreciation for my mother that I never knew was possible. I knew was a difficult child but I never realized just how difficult. While my daughter, at times, feels like a karmic reward for being such a stubborn cuss, she has also given me the gift of seeing my mom in a way I never would have otherwise. I have come to realize that my mom understood me well enough to know that it was often too hard for me to tell people how I felt so she taught me how to make things for people who were important to me. Thanks mom for helping me litter the world with my shoddily made, but love-filled, handicrafts.

Dara Nai: Everything. Everything except how to program a VCR and parallel park. The former, I taught her. The latter… well, let’s just say we switched seats. A lot.

Ali Davis: My mom taught me the fundamentals of making amazing chili and spaghetti sauce — and then taught me that no two batches should ever be alike. The random what’s-in-the-pantry and what-do-I-feel-like elements are my favorite parts of cooking.

What I wish I’d been able to learn from my mom is her terrifying ability to negotiate, particularly for cars. One of her proudest moments in life is when a car salesman called her a maggot. Next time I buy a car, I’m totally flying her in.

And a shout-out to my awesome stepmom: I remember watching her play volleyball when I was a little kid. She was a good player, but this aggro guy kept leaping into her territory to make “saves.” She was polite about it for maybe five or six times, and then she started “accidentally” clobbering him in the nose or chest, saying each time “Oh, sorry! I didn’t expect you to be in my space!” or something like that.

It was a good lesson: Be nice and be patient, but go ahead and throw an elbow if it really needs to be thrown.


Dana Piccoli: There are so many things that run through my head on a daily basis that I realize I picked up from my mom: Mop the floors with apple cider vinegar, always put your napkin on your lap, go easy on the salad dressing, stay humble but speak up for yourself, buy quality shoes, be kind.

Karman Kregloe: My mother taught me three of my most relied upon life skills: reading, writing and driving.  She also taught me how to spot a bullshitter, how to laugh at myself and how to make gravy.   I wish I used the gravy-making knowledge as often as I do the other two.

Grace Chu: The two pieces of advice that come to mind immediately: (1) Maintain an excellent credit score and (2) Use a condom on your sex toys.

Trish Bendix: My mom, in one word, is selfless. Ultimately what she’s given me is the want to be just like her in that way, even if I can never come close to how much of herself she’s given to my sister and me. In her complete lack of selfishness, I’ve been able to go after the things I want in life without considering if they are possible. They simply were, and I credit her for that, completely.


Valerie Anne: It’s not something she taught me, but something she showed me. Thanks to my mother, I know people can change. Relationships can be mended, wrongs can be forgiven, mistakes can be forgotten, people’s hearts can open more than even they thought they could. You can love someone and not like them, but you can also grow to like someone you love. My relationship with my mother isn’t perfect, but it’s so much better than it used to be. It’s good now. There was a point I thought it was irreparable, but I was wrong, and I’m so glad I was.

Heather Hogan: When I was ten years old our Brittany Spaniel, Skeeter, didn’t come home at her usual time, and my mom just had this deep feeling that something was very wrong with her. She stayed out all night driving around and calling for Skeeter and waiting on the porch for her and walking through the neighborhoods and surrounding woods and stuff. Early, early the next morning, she saw Skeeter dragging herself home with her front paws. She’d been hit by a car and broken both of her hips, and she pulled herself all the way home because my mom was calling and calling her. Skeeter was OK! I mean, she had two hip replacements and everything, but she was OK! She lived for 12 more years after that! So what my mom taught me is that dog love is the best kind of love in all the known universes.

Elaine Atwell: For some reason, all I can come up with is “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” She seemed to feel that was a very important piece of advice to impress upon me.

Jenna Lykes: My mom taught me to always send a thank you note. Always.

More seriously, I’ve learned (am still learning) that I can’t please everyone all the time. That sounds pretty depressing, but it’s super true. When my mom dreamed of having a daughter, that imaginary girl was certainly nothing like me. I spent a lot of years and a lot of energy trying to be that person for her, but I’ve figured out that just being me is better. I still have the occasional internal freak out when I think someone doesn’t like me, but I’ve gotten a lot better at letting those things go.

Oh, also, my mom taught me a bunch of (probably made up) Italian-ish words. I can now call you a slutty drunken liar and you’ll have no idea what I’m talking about.

Anna Pulley: It’s OK to cry. And it’s pronounced EXPRESSO.

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Bridget McManus: My mama taught me how to bake delicious chocolatety goodies, a mean coffee-marinated pot roast and fabulous, rich ricotta-filled Italian entrees.  She also instilled in me that “sticks poke eyes” and that she’ll be proud of me no matter what.


Jill Guccini: The other day I was sitting in a teacher’s lounge and the teachers were all talking about their college experiences, and a few of them mentioned how they had to go to their local state school because it was the one place they could semi-afford, and they hated it because it was full of the same people they went to high school with, and they had always had dreams of attending some private East Coast school. This made me think of a few things in rapid succession: 1) College tuition is a fucking crock, and 2) ohmygod, my family couldn’t afford a private East Coast college either, but my mom sent me to one anyway.

I know this post is partly full of privilege, because if my parents had never saved for our college educations at all, it probably wouldn’t have been possible, and we probably did qualify for more financial aid than other people, but in any case, they never, ever told me there was a place I COULDN’T go — whether it was college, or a job, or a state all the way across the country where I moved just for the hell of it. Sending me to Emerson College put all of us in debt for the rest of our lives, but it was where I wanted to go, so that was where I would go. And Emerson College was where I found myself, my wife, my life.

My mom and dad both still live in the tiny town where I grew up, where they grew up, where my grandparents grew up, where my aunts and uncles and cousins grew up. All of my mother’s children have since spread around the country, with no real plans of ever returning, and I know it breaks her heart — the distance from us, our lack of loyalty to place. And while I always knew I wanted to get the hell out of Dodge, the more I think about my mom recently, the more I understand how much more selfish my choices are. How there is something that I left behind in my small town that my mom values, that I will always miss somewhere inside myself, that there is something more courageous about sticking to a place and trying to make it better than just leaving it.

So I guess what my mom taught me is to let your children believe they can do anything they want and go anywhere they wish to go, even if it breaks your heart, because you love them, and sometimes that’s how love works.

What did you learn from your mom?

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