Mother. It’s a six-letter word that holds so much meaning – protector, teacher, advisor, confidante and friend.

As young children we know mothers can make everything okay. They are there to impart the wisdom of the ages in sage advice such as “Don’t run with scissors in your hands,” or “Your face is going to freeze like that.”

Well, maybe not the wisdom of the ages, but those are things I did hear during my childhood.

Moms teach us the fundamentals of life. When we are just toddlers, exploring the world around us, they keep careful watch. They begin teaching us early – telling us simply “Don’t touch” when we reach for a hot stove or to “look both ways” before crossing a street.

They spark our curiosity by getting us to try new foods and new activities and to take on challenges. They know that if we are curious we will continue to learn throughout life and if we meet challenges head on we may stumble but we will grow in character and fortitude.

Moms are whom we turn to when life gets overwhelming. Whether it’s a fall off our bike when learning to ride or the heartache when our first boyfriend or girlfriend breaks up with us. Moms are there to comfort us, listen to our woes and to help us realize there are ups and downs in life and most are not the end of the world, though they may feel that way at that particular moment.

Moms also teach us how to interact with other people in our lives. They teach us the Golden Rule and how to be considerate and respectful of others. While Dads may teach us to hold our ground and stand up for our beliefs, moms teach us to be forgiving of others and more understanding because we don’t know what someone else’s life is like or the struggles they face.

And while we all go through that stage as teenagers when we think we know more than our mothers do, it is as we mature that we find they were so often right about so many things. We forget that they were once our age and that life experience has taught them to view our struggles from a different perspective. While we often may think, “if only I knew then what I know now” when we look back on our lives, we forget that moms know exactly that. They are in the position of looking back with years of knowledge to draw upon.

It usually isn’t until we’ve gotten older that we understand that moms are so much smarter than we realized.

My relationship with my mother went from good to even better as I grew older. I’m not saying we didn’t ever argue but I don’t remember it happening often. Being the only daughter, we had a special relationship. Dad would drive us to Pittsburgh and as he went on about his day, calling on customers for the print shop, Mom and I would shop either Monroeville Mall or downtown Pittsburgh, depending on where his calls were that morning. In the late 60s, Pittsburgh was the place to go for shopping. I can’t say we even bought a lot of things, but we had a great day out, just the two of us.

We continued that trend when I graduated from college and returned to the area. Mondays were a regular day off at one time in my career and that became Girls Day Out for Mom and I. It was a day of shopping, lunch or maybe even visiting friends or family.

Mom’s been gone since Sept. 8, 2002, and I still, at times, find myself thinking of asking for advice or about family history or the millions of other little reasons that pop into my head. Not longer after she passed I actually found myself picking up the telephone to call her to ask about a business or something that had been located in DuBois back when she was just a girl. Then reality hit and I remembered that those days of picking up a phone and hearing her voice were gone.

I used to smile when Mom would tell us kids, “You only get one mother.” She’d usually say it when one of us wasn’t listening to her and she had had about enough. She’d usually add, “Once I’m gone, you’ll wish I was here.”

How true those words are to me nowadays. But I still smile because she is still there when I use her recipes, or remember her advice. She is where she has always been, held safely in my heart.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers, mother in laws, stepmothers, grandmothers, etc.

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