My mom always found us hand-me-downs to wear and when she could, she made us beautiful clothes. And being the clothes horse that I am, she always made sure I had some nice little things, even if it was a fancy, frilly, ruffled white slip. We ate homemade lunches and I never had name-brand things (other than the Stride Rite shoes that they replaced when I wore straight through the soles happily skipping to school). My childhood was happy and I didn't really miss a big color TV. Mr. Rogers was just as comforting when viewed on a tiny black and white set.
One Christmas, my parents decided that they wanted to teach us a lesson about giving. They were always very generous with presents for us, but they wanted us to see that Christmas was about more than toys and consumption and getting, getting, getting. They decided to take the money they would have spent on a live Christmas tree that we usually had (one of their splurges, I think now) and donate the money. I don't remember who they donated it to, but it was someone worthy. Our Christmas tree that year was made out of crepe paper stretched over a triangular frame. Very third grade art project and it was beautiful. I remember how the lights looked shining through the translucent crepe paper.
I remember my mother in the kitchen and presiding over a table full of loud and happy children. I remember all the guests we used to have, even though it must have been a financial strain to be feeding so many extra people. I remember the Bible studies they hosted and the happy sounds of laughter and singing. My mother taught me that the value of what is in your home is not in the objects, but in the people you fill it with and the love that spills out of it.
I hope that I have taken that with me as I have left my mother's house. I hope that I am able to be gracious with plenty and with very, very little. I hope that I am always able to share every last morsel I have with those I love. Generosity is admirable, but I see how much it must have cost my mother and I am even more appreciative. It wasn't that she told us, but she showed us that food is better when shared. A treat is that much more special when divided among people you love. Gobbling down the only Snickers will guarantee it will stick in your throat, but it will taste better if you have a tiny sliver knowing that everyone has a bit as well. I tend to be a hoarder and a gobbler and selfish by nature, but I often am reminded of the spirit that my mother has always had to share whatever, whenever, no matter what. I would be honored to be half as generous as she has always been. Love isn't something you feel so much as something you do. I am grateful for my mother's example and for being a recipient of that generous love.
My mom and I in 1986 with my most prized possession-- the most recent copy of Seventeen magazine. She was raising four kids and had just gone back to grad school and I prized these moments together. Remind me if I ever have kids, that this is what's important.