Mom and Nina

My blog has been alive for a little over three years, and I don’t think I have written more than a couple posts without mentioning Mother at least once. In a way, my site is a collection of memories, anecdotes, funny and not so funny events from my past and present, and she had one of the leading roles in this dramatic piece called life.

She lost her battle with cancer last July, and ever since I have been thinking an awful lot about her. Oh, she has always been present in my thoughts, as she was watching from afar over one of my shoulders, either unapologetically scolding me for doing something wrong, or lovingly praising my efforts and victories. But I don’t have the luxury any more to roll my eyes, sulk, throw back a sarcastic repartee, cry the wounded tears, argue for hours, smile out of pride, or plant a loud kiss on her soft cheek.

Mom with Anya and Zoe

And now that she cannot give me her unsolicited advice, I ask myself several times a day what she would have done or said. Every time I have a decision to make, I have to remind myself that I cannot click on her name in my Skype list of contacts and pray that she is not deeply involved in a game of Zuma or Shapez and able to coach me (if I caught her in between her favorite TV shows).

I have to admit that I flippantly pushed aside many of those moments I would have cherished now, impatient to move on with my own life, thinking of “no more” only in the most abstract and metaphysical sense, lulled in a make-believe conviction that my mother is immortal.

But those moments of regret are rare. When I think of my mother, I remember everything she tried to teach me. Now that I am a mother myself, even the lessons I refused to take to heart actually make sense. I repeat her words to my girls, although I made a silent pact with my teen-self not to torture my future children with her admonishments. I realized that she wanted to help me, rather than prevent me from having fun and enjoying the life to the fullest.

I would need several hours and many pages to list my mom’s sage advice, so I had to pick only a few:

Clean after yourself: It’s easier to keep the room tidy, saves time, preserves clothes, and contributes to overall harmony.

You can have too much of a good thing: For years I tried to fight this one, as it started when I began dating. Mother always stressed moderation and I finally had to accept it, too.

Keep smiling: This advice came to me naturally, as my smile was the best defense against shyness. There are people in my home town who recognize me by my smile after decades.

Help those in need: I don’t have to try too hard to implement this one. Sometimes it takes less than a minute to hold the door, pick up a dropped item, or answer a question.

Have pride in yourself: As a perfectionist, I took this one a little bit too far. It is still not too late to accept imperfection and learn how to be proud.

She would smile smugly if she could hear my daily diatribes and lectures. I love my girls, just like she loved me, my sister, and my brother; I want to guide them, protect them, teach them, and pass my experiences to them, in hope that they would learn from my mistakes and my successes. I meet their defiant words with a snicker, knowing that one day they will be standing right here, lecturing their precious babies, with an invisible line of wise women behind them.

The one thing Mother did not teach me is to drink plenty of water. She sipped, and big amounts of liquids made her uncomfortable. She drank herbal teas and Turkish coffee, small glasses of homemade juices and soda water. I had to teach myself how to avoid dehydration, going against the flow in my native Serbia, where water was looked upon as necessary evil, the beverage of choice only in the dog days of summer, preferably faucet temperature, and never after exercising.

My girls know better. Even though it annoys me to find half-empty and empty water bottles at random places all over the house (in their beds, under the dining-room table, in the bathroom, in their backpacks, hidden in a pile of stuffed animals), I know that drinking water comes naturally to them and my lessons on that topic are not necessary.