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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Help! I'm Turning into My Mother!

Recently I renewed my driver’s license. As usual, I had my picture taken. When the clerk handed me my new license and I looked at the picture, I almost gasped. For smiling back at me was my mother! Or at least the lady (namely me!) looked a lot like my mother, Millie.

That incident got me to thinking. In what ways am I turning into my mother?  On a physical level, I have the same facial shape, I have relatively few gray hairs (for my age!), I have arthritis, and I’m slightly anemic—just like Mom. Like Mom I tend to worry about things: Will it snow on our Christmas get-together? Will my dumplings turn out today? Like Mom, I tend to worry about other people: Will the baby be healthy? Will so-and-so find a new job? What kind of a world are we leaving for our children’s children’s children? Like Mom, I tend to work hard too, sometimes buying into the maxim, “If you want it done right, do it yourself!”

But I hope I’m turning into my mother on a deeper level. For example, Mom loved people. All kinds of people. When I hear myself speaking pleasantly and respectfully to store clerks, waitresses, and the letter carrier, I hear my mother speaking. Mom served others graciously. Her idea of fun was a house and yard filled with family and friends. She baked every Saturday morning. She made us kids carry loaves of rye bread to the neighbors or an apple pie to the hired hand on the farm next door. The symbol of Mom’s serving of others was the apron she wore every day. She put it on before sunrise most days and she didn’t take it off until the evening when she sat on the front porch with my father. I pray I can serve others as joyfully as she did.

Millie and Melannie on Millie's 90th birthday.
Millie and Melannie on Millie’s 90th birthday in August 2005. (This photo sits on my desk.)

My mother’s pleasantness grew out of her strong faith in God, a faith shown in small, unobtrusive ways. Mom prayed. She had a little kitchen prayer taped above the kitchen sink. She sometimes prayed aloud spontaneously. When we pulled into the driveway after a trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s, for example, she would say, “And we thank you, Lord, for a safe journey.” When things seemed to go bad for us, she’d say, “The Good Lord knows what he’s doing”—even though she had no idea what the Good Lord was doing. In her later years, every day she watched Mass on EWTN and prayed a rosary. And once a week she bought fresh flowers to put in front of her statue of Mary.

Sometimes we fight against turning into our parents. When we’re young we think, “I’ll never say that to my kids!” Yet years later we find ourselves saying some of the same things our parents did. In truth, of course, we can’t really turn into our parents. After all, our parents have (or had) their own gifts and shortcomings, their unique challenges and graces.  And we have ours. I guess the trick is to know what things from our parents we should let go of, and what things we should hang on to for dear life.

Are you turning into one of your parents?

What things from your parents are you letting go of? Are there any things you’re hanging on to?

17 Responses

  1. Thank you, Sr Melannie, for putting into beautiful words just how I hope to emulate my mother. Your lovely writing reminds me we are all more alike than we know. Your mother could be my mother’s twin, at least in her Catholic faith. The best thing I ever subscribed to: Sunflower Seeds!

  2. Mel,

    What a great tribute to a wonderful woman from her daughter who shares that quality also.

    Mary Fran

  3. I knew I was turning into my mother when I was in my 20s and teaching a ceramics class. Some of the things the students would do (in terms of lack of cleaning up) were the same things that used to aggravate Mom. I could hear nearly the same words coming out of my mouth. I was kind of surprised I was “turning into Mom” so soon, but also was amused by the whole thing.

  4. I got choked up reading this! When I look at pictures of myself, I see not only my mother but also my aunt and grandmother! Yes, Help! 😉 I definitely got the worry gene and that does not serve me well sometimes! Although, I’m am quite fond of having relatively few gray hairs for my age too! But most of all I’m very proud to have had these 3 women in my life who have always been an example of kindness, generosity, and unconditional love. I can only hope to live up to their example.

    Your niece, Melannie

    1. Dear Little Melannie, yes, I definitely see my mother and my sister in you–and even myself. And the three of us are proud that you have become the kind and generous woman that you are! (I got choked up when I read what you wrote, Mel. I guess that’s another family trait: sensitivity!) Thanks again for writing! Aunt Dolly (BIG Melannie)

  5. Just found your blog, Melannie, via Twitter’s announcement of this writing. How serendipitous to read today. My mom died a year ago Feb. 15. She and my dad taught us to be grateful people. Thank you notes were insisted upon. Funny thing: just this very morning when I opened my email, there was a note from a “big shot” at one of the major Catholic publishing companies telling me she received my note of appreciation for something she had done for us at Pecos Monastery. She said, “I never receive thank you notes.” I feel that my mom — and dad — reached out when I paused to write that note to her about 3 weeks ago. I feel blessed to have touched someone’s life, someone who I would have thought was thanked repeatedly. We just never know, do we, when we reach out and bless another. Thanks, Mom!

    1. Dear Susan, I’m so glad you found my blog! Welcome! My sympathy to you on the loss of your mother…And I could identify with your mother’s insistence that you write thank you notes…And your story is a great one. We ASSUME people are being thanked for what they do. But I don’t think anyone ever gets too many “thank you’s.” How nice of you to write that note to that “big shot”–and how nice of her to tell you how much it meant to her. Thank you for writing, Susan! Melannie

  6. Hi, Melannie:
    Man, you hit this one right on the head! Wonderful depiction of your mom. Moreover, what a beautiful depiction of women of a generation “cut from the same cloth.” It seems that when I think of women like your mom or mine, I can’t help but think of their understanding of the fact that we’re are all together in this thing we call life. I often think of the people who attended my mom’s wake – Doctors, lawyers, professors, bankers, the grown children she baby sat. My mom only had an 8th grade education, but her wisdom and life knowledge was amazing. I pray God will grant me even a small portion. Yes, I am my mother’s daughter. I catch myself speaking or gesturing in her way. But when I want to spend time with her, I do something she loved doing – cooking a meal for her family, baking (always from scratch), listen to waltzes, or telling a great story. What greater gift can we ask for.

    1. Dear Diana, I like what you said about that generation of women understanding the fact that we’re all together in this thing called life. I think the world could use a better sense of that connectedness of all of us with one another. And I agree with you about being with our mothers by doing something they liked to do. I always feel close to my mother when I’m making one of her recipes. Thanks for sharing with us the goodness of your own dear mother, Di! Melannie

  7. Melanie,
    I wish I was the housekeeper my mom was and still is…God bless her! My dad could talk to almost anyone, appreciating the simple pleasures of life, like music and a good meal and someone to share them with.

    Your reflection on your mom’s constant faith reminds me of the book “Practice of the Presence of God”…very sweet and sincere…

    My parents were young …and yet they gave me the best gift of all, the seeds of my faith…thank you for reminding me of that!

    1. And thank you, Marian, for sharing your beautiful parents with us! How good it is for you to recognize that the seeds of your faith were handed down to you by your Mom and Dad. Melannie

  8. Thanks Melannie,
    I never thought of turning into my mother or father for that matter, but several years ago when my sister, Sr. Mary Catherine Cummins, OSU of Cleveland, Ohio gave a retreat to catechists and catechetical leaders in New Hampshire, I was told by most present that I was my sister. As I reflected on that comment I recognized that she embodied many of the wonderful qualities of both of our parents. How good it is to recognize the legacy that they passed on to both of us. Unfortunately Mary passed away in 2005 after 45 years as an Ursuline. The good news is that you stirred up some beautiful memories of days gone by. Thank you!

    1. Dear Larry, Yes, our true “legacy” from our parents often involves habits, dispositions, and traits passed down from one generation to the next. Your sister sounds like a beautiful nun! I’m glad I could stir up some beautiful memories for you! Thanks for writing. Melannie

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Meet Sr. Melannie

Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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