I can’t remember how I learned to swim. I’d like to think I gripped my mother’s hands with my pudgy baby fingers as she bounced me up and down in the water of some muddy, Midwestern lake until I was floating — still grasping one finger until I let go.
In reality, I was likely tossed between brothers until they dropped me in the water and waited to see if I burbled back to the surface.
Ah, the life of a little sister.
Regardless of how I learned to swim, I do recall my busy mother (She had six children: my four older brothers and one younger sister) helping move my pencil along lined notebook pages to write the alphabet in cursive letters.
And teaching me how to cut fabric with a tissue-paper outline to create the base pattern of a blouse.
And how to hang laundry and make smooth, tight hospital corners on bedsheets.
And knitting. She taught me how to knit.
All of these tasks seem so old-fashioned. In today’s fast-paced, computerized world, these skills could be considered obsolete. And yet, I look back on these lessons as if they’re encased in amber.
It was rare to have my mother’s undivided attention and witness her (mostly) tireless patience.
Those are the real skills I hope I learned from my mother:
To listen closely with empathy and without interrupting.
To say “let’s take a break” when roadblocks seem insurmountable.
To open the umbrella and take a walk when it rains.
To be grateful that I somehow learned to swim (in spite of my brothers).
And to be thankful for my mother’s lessons — both obsolete and timeless.
Happy Mother’s Day.

— Mary Kate Leming, Editor

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