An Ode to My Mother

Last year’s mother’s day post apparently brought my mother {and several other mothers} to tears, so I’ll do my best to avoid the sentimental this go around, though I find a less effusive ode to my mother challenging if not impossible.  I can’t help but speak of her with the most earnest and wide-eyed respect, adoration, and love.

My mother has taught me many things, whether by example {I strive for her selflessness in relationships} or brute force {“Jennifer, say thank you.”}  Here, a few of the major legacies and lessons I have received from my mother, the most ladylike of the bunch:

1.  Do your own bidding. I was something of a shrinking violet as a child {quiet, shy little thing…I was always very, very petite, with a little voice to match}, and I owe any iota of assertiveness and poise to her consistent message of self-empowerment.  This is a semi-inappropriate anecdote, but bear with me: when I was little and having trouble with moving from diapers to “big girl underwear,” she would urge me to repeat “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” when I was in prime accident-prone territory.   Nowadays, I repeat that mantra more often than I care to admit; the message resonates all the more powerfully in my late 20s, now that I’ve fully flown the coop.  She taught me to rely on myself, my own devices, in order to get where I want to go.

2.  Listen. I don’t know how she does it with 5 kids on her hands, constantly vying for her attention, sympathy, and advice, but she is the most patient friend on earth.  She’ll sit and listen to me vent until the cows come home, knowing that sometimes you don’t want advice or feedback or commentary — just a friendly soul to share your thoughts with.  I need to take a page out of her book on this one.

3.  Say “yes” as often as you can; only say “no” when you mean it. My mother claims this as her parenting technique, but I’m fairly confident that she’d apply this to just about any relationship in her life.  Her generosity of spirit is humbling.  May also explain why she is freakishly busy at all times of the year, and why she needs to “pencil me in” for lunch dates.

4.  Read as much as possible. One of the best days of the first ten years of my life (hands down) arrived when my mother took me to the DC Public Library to get my own library card.  I was ecstatic, even though I could hardly sign my name in cursive, and I can remember the months of rapid reading that ensued.  I must have torn through an extra book or two a week just to be able to return and check out the newest “Boxcar Children” under my own tab.  My mom reads an average of an astonishing 2 books a week — by far the most impressive bibliophile I’ve ever encountered.  Must.catch.up.

5.  Never put yourself down. When I was about six years old, I got in trouble with my parents for something or other.  I was so sickened and upset about the whole scenario, I whispered angrily: “I hate myself” under my breath.  My mother whipped around as though I’d taken the Lord’s name in vain and said: “Don’t you ever say that about my best friend.”  My eyes were wide as saucers as I contemplated the unexpected gravity of the words that had so easily rolled off my tongue and pondered the meaning of being my mother’s “best friend.”  (Was it possible for a 6 year old to be best friends with her mother, a real, live adult?!)  The moment truly shaped me — I shy away from the word “hate” as a general proposition and have never since applied it to myself.

OK, and SCENE.  I’m imagining my Magpie Mother tearing up now, so I’ll quickly switch gears to a few fashion-related legacies she’s passed along.  I listed several of her most salient styling tips in last year’s post, but here are a few more gems:

1.  You can never have enough cardigans.

No, really.  She insists that you can never have enough of them.  Think I’m exaggerating?  She literally is the Imeldo Marcos of cardignas.  I swear she buys a new cashmere cardigan every day of the year.  She also constantly advises my sisters and I to “pack a cardigan in case you get cold.”  As a result, I have my own fledgling rainbow of cardigans, many of them the J. Crew Jackie ($62 each), which I must own in about 12 colors already.

{DVF, $355, Matches}


2.  Don’t be afraid of bold nail colors.

While my mom would never ( wear a dark color on her nails, I’ve seen her test-drive some intense pinks, corals, mauves, and reds in her time.  Corollary to this rule: always get your nails done.  She’s had a standing appointment every Friday at ILO Salon for the past 20 years of her life.

{$16/pop, DeborahLippmann}


3.  Wear as much color as possible.  Especially if it’s in the peach color family.

My Mom chastises me for wearing too much black.  While I’m Eeyore in mourning (grays and blacks galore), she’s like a little beam of sunshine, in her coordinated peachy-pink-centric wardrobe.  She’s loving the BRIGHTS trend this season, and — admittedly — for good reason.  Color really brings a lot to the table, and can really illuminate you from the outside in.

{Balenciaga, $880, Matches}

{Adam, on sale for $78, TheOutnet}

{Top three pairs of flats: $45/pair, BCFootwear; Bottom pair: Bloch, $165, Net-A-Porter}

{$45/clutch, GraphicImage}


{Top: Robert Goossens, $150, Vivre; Middle: Bounkit, $75, Charm and Chain; Bottom: $320, Bounkit}

4.  Dress like a lady.

Ripped/frayed pants?  Distressed jeans?  Low-rise pants?  Midriff-baring tops?  My mom doesn’t want to hear about it or see it.  She’ll forever swoon over a fuller, longer skirt, and she’s always advising us to over-dress.  The risk of under-dressing is a far more serious threat.



{Earrings: $45, Oliphant; Dress: Adam, $197, TheOutnet; Shoes: $285, KateSpade; Clutch: $58, J. Crew}

5.  Stay organized.

My mom may well be the most organized woman on the universe.  She probably has a dewey decimal system in place for her closet, and her handbags are carefully-orchestrated feats of orderliness.  {By contrast, my bags are black holes of debris and clutter.}  This tendency towards organization extends to all aspects of her life, but most especially her kitchen.  My sisters and I joke that she’s installed GPS devices in each and every one of her bowls, glasses, serving platters, and tupperware containers, because if we dare “borrow” one and neglect to return it, we’ll receive weekly emails asking after its whereabouts.  All jokes aside, that’s some impressive organizational skill — and I could use some of that.  Perhaps I’ll begin by investing in some eye-catching tupperware ($32, FrenchBull), to keep my ps and qs in order.

In short: I love you, Mom, for all of the lessons (practical, styling-related, motivational, and otherwise) that you have taught me.  HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!


DRUMROLL: The winner of the GraphicImage giveaway and recipient of an AMAZING personalized iPad cover is: Erin!  She wrote that her mother taught her that “less is more,” and that “a flattering hemline and a well-tailored fit can truly make an outfit.”  Love it.  Erin, I’ll email you to get your details so we can get your iPad cover to you!  THANK YOU to GraphicImage for this generous (!!!!) giveaway.

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