I had a pretty amazing mother. If I think about what people most admire about me, or what I most admire about myself, the answer is clear. My mother taught me the good stuff that people admire and those things I admire in myself.
My mom didn’t stop moving. My sister Wendy and I laugh that we never saw her resting or taking a nap – something we both do regularly. So clearly she didn’t teach us every good thing we now do. But we both believe, she taught us our central values – to be loving, to be kind, to be a giver and to be a doer.
My mom worked when others mother’s didn’t. She modeled being self-sufficient, motivated and focused on many important things, not just being our mommy. A strong work ethic and a drive to be successful in a meaningful way was the result of that.
My mom was older than other peoples’ moms – she had me at 40 in 1950 (slightly younger when Wendy was born) – considered highly risky if not down right disgusting from conventional wisdom of the time. She worked into her 70s and was very lively and fully fabulous over 60 – some of her most productive years. Ditto us Gill girls.
My mom loved great food and great clothes. Hard to have these two passions – one tends to make wearing the other tougher. But somehow I do love pasta and wine even as I work like hell to keep myself in shape and wear great clothes – and not the same ones – my mom was fashionable for a long time and I picked up that drive to look stylish in a current way.
“But the greatest of these is love”. From first Corinthians, the Bible and my mother said it over and over. It stuck. If I have a choice of calling a sick friend, or finishing my new book; remembering someone’s birthday or having an early cocktail – it is my mother’s words and life that made me the women who makes the call, writes the note, or tries to be helpful and useful to others.
My mother drove me insane at times. She wanted perfection in some ways I just could not accomplish. She wanted standards adhered to that I came to see as ridiculous. But I wouldn’t trade my Mom for anyone else’s. She made me who I am—the kind woman who is still a bit compulsive. And while not a biological mother myself, I do a good deal of mothering I think. And any good I do, I owe to her legacy of thoughtfulness that helped me create my own version of being there for those I love.
I still miss her. Not all the time of course. But on Mother’s Day, I have to pause and remember how lucky I was in the “mommy lottery”. Someone once told me my grandchildren had won the grandmother lottery getting me as one of their grandmothers. I hope that is true, and if it is, I owe most of my great grandmothering skills to Magdalina Maria Manganiello or Mrs. Gill as she loved to be called. I realize now at 66 I didn’t always appreciate her, and in some ways I feared her. And, I never did get her feelings of certainty about all things. My mom was different… and special. I feel she made me, and Wendy, the same way. Thanks to my mom and to yours – they did a very fine job.