Mirror, mirror on the wall

by +CrystalThieringer    @cdthieringerMom

My beautiful Mom celebrates her 80th birthday today.

She was raised on the Saskatchewan prairies during the Depression, when families who needed $16 a week managed on $10. That environment made her believe people shouldn’t spend their hard-earned money on her, even though she consistently denies herself necessities in order to give Christmas money to kids, grandkids and great-grands.

It pretty much drives me crazy.

It isn’t that I don’t admire her selflessness, for I do. It’s just that every time I try to give her something, she’ll respond with a variation of, “Oh no, dear, don’t do that, you haven’t enough money.” This may or may not be true, but having survived more than half a century myself, I feel I have earned the right and responsibility to manage my own budget. No matter how many times we’ve discussed it, Mom can’t let that feeling go.

As kids we, too, lived in small-town Saskatchewan. Mom remembers those days fondly, wishing she’d never had to give it up for bigger city job-transfers that caused our move to the province next door. She thrived in that environment, it seemed. It suited her personality where everyone knew her, and she delighted in knowing the goings-on of everyone else. It is one of several ways in which we are different. I am more private, more introverted than she is, and small-city living suits me. 

Yet we have much in common. Christmas and birthdays, gift-giving and music. Mom knows all the lyrics to anything Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote, I’m sure. She loves to dance, whereas I like to watch.

She can be fierce, and I can match it. That doesn’t always serve us well if we’re facing off against each other, but it has helped us both survive other circumstances. I’m proud of her.

Many years ago I had the task of giving a speech to honour my parents. I sent them a series of questions that included things like, “What was your first impression?” (Mom thought Dad looked like a married Hutterite who talked too loud and too much, whereas Dad wrote that she was “Not a bad looking babe”).

The last question was, “Is there anything you regret?”  At first, neither answered, but the next day Mom sent back a life-altering response.

“Actually,” she said, “I wish I’d earned more respect.”

There is an abundance of wisdom in those six sadness-tinged words. Whether she intended it to or not, they have formed the most important lesson Mom has taught me. Simply by virtue of her position as my mother, I feel she deserves my respect, but respect offered to a position isn’t the same as respect earned. By writing those words, Mom-the-person earned it fully.

Honest words are seldom easy.

Every person makes mistakes in life. It’s unfair to expect it to be any other way, either of ourselves or of others. Mistakes will be made, and we must offer grace when faced with them. We do the best we can with what we know at the time and though we all have the days we wish we could have back, it’s what we do next that matters most. I believe Mom was reminding me that how I live my life will be reflected back in the way others treat me.

It isn’t all on them. It has to start with me, with making choices my soul can live with.


The challenge of course, is that my choices are often not hers. Tis a good thing indeed that respect can overcome conflict.

When I married my husband, a four-year-old guest confused Mom for me and was momentarily upset. She thought the bride would be wearing white instead of purple. It remains one of my favourite wedding-day memories, for Mom looked especially beautiful that day.

Occasionally I hear myself speak and inwardly groan. Of all the things I never thought I’d say…and here I was, sounding just like her. Other days, especially when I’m trying to string Christmas tinsel as she does, and sending out birthday cards or remembering how important it is to care for people, I hear her whispering near my shoulder.

Mirror Mirror on the wall–I am my Mother, after all. I hope I always keep the best of her as part of me.

Happy birthday, Mom. I love you.

18 thoughts on “Mirror, mirror on the wall

  1. What a lovely tribute to your mom. She was a good looking babe indeed – and still looks wonderful! Happy birthday Crystal’s Mom and thank you for teaching her important lessons.

    1. I’ll post some new pictures hopefully in a couple of weeks when I see her. She’s still beautiful 🙂

  2. Beautiful. I love the pictures of your mom and the way you described her history and approach to life. The two quotes from your parents made me laugh for the truth they reveal. Such a lovely tribute to you mom. Happy Birthday to her.

    1. Yes, I think they were very honest when they responded to that question!

  3. Very nice Crystal. You are so fortunate to have a mom you respect and love. Your words are very thought provoking. Be sweet and Happy Birthday to your mom.

  4. Crystal, I enjoyed reading about your mom this week. Mother’s are such selfless creatures. I lived this:

    “We do the best we can with what we know at the time and though we all have the days we wish we could have back, it’s what we do next that matters most.” That is the thought of grace I offer my parents, and I hope my children will offer it to me.

    1. I hope your children offer it as well but from what you write of them, it seems they already do. You seem to have a blessed and full life indeed.

  5. Oh goodness, how I saw my own relationship with my mom in this, and I also catch myself sounding exactly like her. This is a beautiful birthday tribute to your mother, so well said, as always.

  6. What a wonderful tribute to your mom. I thoroughly enjoyed reading such a warm, loving post. Beautifully written. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  7. Oh, Crystal, this is such a well-written tribute. It’s like sitting down to coffee with the two of you, looking from one pair of smiling eyes to the other. Ah, but why do I have the idea that you and your mom share not only uncanny perception, but also a wry sense of humor?

  8. Hi Crystal, I’ve been thinking of you 🙂
    Before sending you an e-mail message, I had a thought which for me was rather shocking: “Why not check Crystal’s blog?” I’ve only remembered to do so once before 🙁
    The tribute to your Mom is so well written, deeply reflective, and so you. What a precious glimpse of the mother daughter struggle and joy you have experienced!
    Elizabeth xo

    1. Thank you, Elizabeth. I’m so glad you stopped by! I sent you an email to catch up.

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