Not far from the tree

My sister-in-law called my cell phone the other night around 8:30 pm. And my first question after hello: Is everything OK?  I don’t know why I jump to the conclusion that people are calling with bad news. It wasn’t midnight; it was 8:30 pm for God’s sake. I do the slightly panicked voice to my husband on occasion. Paul will sometimes offer a preemptive strike if the telephone call is out of the blue: “Nothing is wrong,” but just checking on … Sometimes he calls just to say hi. Imagine that.

In my effort to spend the year acting more like my mother, I have come to discover how much I already act like my mother, in ways big and small. I would never call my mother at an unusual time of day (or at work) without first assuring her that everything is fine. As kids, if one of us was not home and she happened to hear sirens in the distance, she would assume one of us was in a car accident. And now that my oldest daughter drives, I sometimes do the same thing.

But there are little things too. I cut butter the wrong way, just like my mother. I used to think everyone sliced the stick horizontally across the top in a thin layer until a high school friend commented on my unusual technique. I discovered that, in fact, most people cut butter in a vertical motion, as in pats of  butter. But old habits are hard to break and I never retrained myself to cut butter the proper way.

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Her influence extends far beyond the refrigerator. My kitchen windowsill is lined with glass bottles and usually a few flowers, just like my mother. I keep the dining room table free of clutter. Before a party, I shove things into closets to make the room look neater. There is an abundance of throw pillows on our bed.  All very Alice Flynn.


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If I come to a sudden stop while driving, I use my arm as an extra seat belt on the occupant in the passenger side. Every time an ambulance races past, I say a prayer for the people inside. My mother taught me that. Whenever I talk to someone on the phone to make a reservation, or ask a question on a bill, I always ask for a name.  I don’t like to waste my day by sleeping late.

For good or bad, many of us act like our mothers in more ways than we probably realize or are willing to admit. We have to decide for ourselves what we want to do the same or set out to do differently. I want to worry less than my mother does. But I’m also grateful every day to still have someone so deeply invested in my life.

The other day my mother happened to pick up the phone at the same time as my Dad. She didn’t catch the caller’s name but heard him asking my father about making an appointment to check his fluids. My Dad’s had a tough winter of colds and coughs, but my mother worried why  the doctor was calling now? Were they hiding some bad news from her? She kept listening to the conversation as my father scheduled an appointment to come in to have his fluids checked, with the auto mechanic up the street.

My mother couldn’t stop laughing at that one. Neither can I.












7 thoughts on “Not far from the tree”

  1. So we must all act like Nana Kelly because everything you mentioned I do too. Although the flowers are because of my Mother in Law and a little vase she gave to all of us who were Moms one Mother’s Day. They were to put the flowers in it, that our children gave to us. It is something I cherish.

  2. This week’s blog hit home! There was a time (my 20s-40) if someone said “I am just like my mother” I took it negatively and became defensive. Then something changed and for the good. I started traveling with my mom in 2007. We went to Ireland, Italy, France, England, Scotland, Spain, Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Our last trip was Sept 2014 a week in Rome discovering its history. That was the last trip, which during she showed signs of declining health. But it was on her wish list and she made it. 2015 was a tough year for her healthwise and I am so grateful that we made that last trip. Yes, I am very much like my mom, but less anxious and less obsessed on keeping things tidy (ok, slightly less). Today if I hear “you are just like your mother”, I smile and say thank you. I will keep traveling even though she can’t go with me, she will be there in spirit.

  3. 🙂 what I have decidedly inherited from my mother is her knack of sighing and other self affirming sounds in the early morning. I confirmed this while traveling with her in Italy several years ago. But I too shoot my right arm out protectively when the car stops short, say a prayer when an ambulance goes by, and keep the dining room table clutter-free and an abundance of throw pillows on the bed. Hmmm …

  4. Susan, I too cut butter horizontally. Thanks for bringing this childhood memory back to me. To tell the truth, I think everyone in my family cuts their butter this way. And, there are eight of us.

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