Mother, Touchstone, Friend

We mothers – we are merely rudders, guiding our children’s ships through the storms and over the turbulent seas of life – we guide them as steadily and as best we can, but we are not the only influence that determines the outcome of the journey…

Who am I today? I am a woman, a daughter, a wife and mother, a writer. I am confident with unexpected moments of self-doubt, calm with occasional thunderstorms, selfish but generous, affectionate but reserved, intelligent with a few Swiss-cheese holes in my brain, rational but prone to flights of fancy, a dreamer with her feet planted on the ground – and I see none of that as contradictory. I am my mother’s daughter.

mom-childMy mother nurtured me with love and learning. My parents married young, with the understanding that both would attend and graduate from college. Did having a baby at nineteen deter my mother from her commitment? No! She told me once that my earliest bedtime stories were chapters from her college Psych texts. If I am determined, efficient, and able to multitask, it’s because I was raised by a woman who could study, cuddle an infant, and read to her child simultaneously!

Astrologers might argue that the Pisces child, born on a Sunday, so near the pull of the ocean’s tides would naturally be gifted with creativity and a vivid imagination. But I contend that any innate creativity and imagination I possessed was nurtured by a mother who got down on the floor and played with me, allowing herself to be cast in the thousands of roles I invented for her. My love of writing was sparked when she installed a bulletin board in my room, and daily pinned a writing prompt – a quote, a photo, some whimsical item – to it, and supplied me with endless reams of paper and a variety of pens. She later insisted that I learn to type; much, much later, I thanked her for it.

SLS-Gr1-croppedI have a great appreciation for languages. If I can’t speak fluent French today, it’s not my mother’s fault! My mom’s answer to a whiny eight-year-old who cried out, “I’m bored!” was to enroll her in private French lessons at Berlitz. Latin was a 7th grade elective; my mom elected it for me. If I believed that college was just an extension of a child’s compulsory education, it was my mom’s doing – she was still working towards her Master’s degree when I was twelve! She made reading and studying seem as natural as breathing, as essential as eating. Blame my mother for the fact that I started college at age twelve – the early French lessons, her schedule of classes from Kent State lying open on the bed, and my natural curiosity combined: “Do you think they’d let me take French I?” Well, why not? With three years of French under my belt and both of my parents there to support my request, doors opened – and I was enrolled in summer school!

mom-deb-portraitOkay, maybe I can’t speak French fluently today, despite eight years of lessons – but I have learned to entertain myself! If I love Oldies, it’s because my mother handed down her 45 RPM records and a phonograph; if my tastes are eclectic, it’s because she also made sure I attended the symphony and the ballet, met Beverly Sills, saw Linda Ronstadt and The Irish Rovers in concert, and took piano lessons. If I can appreciate fine art, it’s because one of my mother’s most cherished books was Jansen’s History of Art – and because she saw to it that I got to tour the Louvre.

While my mother built my confidence and self-esteem, she took care never to talk down to me, never to sugar-coat the truth, never to inflate my ego unrealistically so that the world at large could tear down what she had so carefully built. All her life, I could rely on my mother to be a trustworthy touchstone: she was an honest critic as well as a staunch supporter. If I am happy, content with who I am, it’s because my mother never allowed me to believe that my best wasn’t good enough. If I am able to appreciate constructive criticism and learn from it, it is because I had a mother who dished it out with love.

Twenty-six years ago, I became a mother, myself. When I held my daughter in my arms, I realized the awesome responsibility my mother took on at the tender age of nineteen. For the first time, it hit me just how much I was loved. And that’s when I knew that the debt I owed her was marked “payable to my grandchildren,” and I know that it’s probably one that I can never fully repay.

july-2001grandpaWhen my mom died – on Valentine’s Day, 2002 – I lost not only my mother, but my best friend. Though she always insisted “It’s not my job to be your friend – I’m your mother,” she couldn’t help but be both. I miss her, especially on Mother’s Day, but because of her, I am strong enough to wipe away the tears, smile, and go boldly forward in my own journey of motherhood.

It’s a wild ride, with all the crazy ups and downs of a world-class rollercoaster. But I am thankful for every minute of it, and I am so proud of the people my children are becoming.



Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at For more information on her children's books, please visit
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15 thoughts on “Mother, Touchstone, Friend”

  1. Beautiful tribute to a wonderful woman. You feel as I do, like I truly did luck out in the Mom lottery. Thank you for sharing about your mom, she was truly special, and I can see she did a good job 🙂

    1. How very kind of you to think that, Peter! I’ve made sure my KIDS know what 45s are, and that they at least have some passing familiarity with Latin (know that it exists, anyway), so that in another twenty years, their arcane knowledge will allow me to pass for a vampire. 😉

      My favorite music is “before my time” (my daughter always deemed classical about the only thing worth playing on the violin – until she took a class on Frank Zappa, and I had my son listening to Dr. Demento, Tom Lehrer, The Irish Rovers… well, you get the idea! Long live anachronisms!)
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    1. LOL! Thanks, Mitch. Funny how people immediately say, “You look just like your Dad!” but people who know my personality better, and know my mom’s, will often say, “You look just like your Mom!” I’m definitely a mix of the two, but at a glance, I DO look more like my dad: tall, blonde, hazel-green (used to be blue) eyes. It usually takes knowing me better to see the resemblance to my mom (who was a good 5 1/2″ shorter than me, had dark hair and olive skin, and was quite thin – which I have never been). My daughter, on the other hand, LOOKS much more like my mom – if my mom had been about 8″ taller!
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  2. Hi Holly,
    This is so touching. Such an inspiring salute to your mother. I was also raised by a mother who played 33 and 45 rpm while cooking and checking my school bag. When our phonograph was almost in its retiring age, she taught me how to put a few coins on top of needle holder to prevent it from jumping so the music / song could continue (and not repeating a certain part of the record over and over). I guess that inspired me to think that there’s always a solution to any problem.

    I love your story and it made me remember my days with my mother when I was a child.

    Thanks for the write-up.
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  3. Well, well, well! I, too, am a Pisces child, born on a Sunday! What a coincidence. I loved your tribute – touching, eloquent and spot-on! It brought a tear.
    You’ve inspired me to write more. Have a bit of work that must get done, then I am going to enjoy the snow day as an opportunity to put “pen to paper”, as it were.

  4. Very touching. Thank you, for sharing with the world, your tribute to your mother.

    Mothers are special. I remember, when I visited Pakistan for the first, and the only time, since leaving her seventeen years earlier, she sent one of my nephews to the market to buy some fresh guar beans, my favorite, as soon as she was informed that I had landed at the airport.
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  5. Happy Mother’s Day, Holly.

    I have a daughter 24, so I know what you mean (the boys are 30 and 27).

    I checked out of curiosity: I’m a Saturday child – and I share a birthday with Arnold Palmer which, my dad, a golfer, would have found cute. ‘Saturday’s child works hard for a living.’ I don’t believe in astrology, or children’s rhymes, but I’m a Virgo, too.

    I hadn’t thought to look in all these years to see what day I was born on. Huh. I was my parents’ first child, born 5 years after the War. They were each the eldest in their families, and I am the oldest of 42 grandchildren.

    Plus we have a family story: my mother’s mother married my father’s father (after they were both widowed). It is unusual.

    Funny little quirks about people.

    Today (and several Sundays this year) I have had the pleasure of singing Latin hymns with my daughter in the tiny Aquinas Institute choir in the Princeton U. chapel. There were six of us, all women today – whoever shows up for practice before sings) – and the hymn was Jacques Arcadelt’s Ave Maria (

    I grew up in Mexico pre-Vatican II, which means I knew all the Latin from church and school when they decided to switch to the vernacular. And have had enough Catholic education to feel comfortable with the beautiful lyrics and melodies to so much that has survived (the good stuff).

    I love singing – when I can’t negotiate the stairs any more, I will be very sad (the crypt is 33 steps down under the chapel, and no handicapped access that is convenient).

    But the joy of learning another one of these beautiful pieces, and being able to sing parts with the younger singers and the organ, is worth the trip I have to make to get there.

    One of our singers today was expecting her daughter to deliver a second grandchild any minute – life goes on, music goes on, women go on.

    Do you sing?
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  6. “A Mother’s Love is True Love and rest of love is a lie”.

    Ma, Mom, Mother, mumma, mommy all start world among these words. For some they are just words but true meaning of these words are not less then god. I never understood why we search god in monuments, if god is somewhere, then it must be with us at home. Mother do a lot for us and not even expect anything for us. It doesn’t matter for her, whether you become rich or stay poor. This can’t effect mother’s love for you. Not because you’re her child, just because she is attached with you emotionally, mentally and a true sole mate. If their is heaven on earth then it must be in mother’s heart.

    The pain, she suffered during your birth was like hell for her but she forget everything after she look at you. Mother never complaint and never ask you to return/cost her love and affection.

    She always use to speak !! eat more!! !! eat more !! even after you’re not hungry. She know once you grow up. She get very less time to stay with you. Asking you to more was just an excuse, so she can spend more time with you.

    Mother was only person in life, who always take stand for you, even if it’s your mistake.

    It’s not her fault, This is mother’s love !!

    I never tribute my mom…May be !! this is the right time to do.

    I never so expressive, but It feels me showoff, if I tribute her on mother’s day !! we have whole year to let her feel like a queen. I always try to help her with let her know. because if she get to know, I am doing something. She came to me and start saying you are still kid, can’t do these kinds of work. Go and study 🙂 I love you mom…

    Thanks Holly for the post, it really remind me many things !! At the beginning I tried to write a poem but May be I am not good in writing… 😀

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