Thanking my mom – Julia Ann Matthews Talbert – on Mother’s Day

I have zero complaints about my childhood. I know I am incredibly blessed – my mom loved and cared for me. It was a wonderful family of five children and two parents (who will be celebrating 61 years of marriage later this month). I am lucky to be the oldest child of Judy Talbert.

As a child, my mom was my personal seamstress, using her talents to dress me in beautiful and stylish clothing. In fact, she made everything I ever wore until I got married. (Correction, she whipped up maternity clothes when I needed them.) When I say everything I wore, I mean it. She made dresses, pants, winter coats, swimsuits, nightgowns, sweaters, capes, prom dresses, and Halloween costumes. She even made clothes for my Barbie dolls (I guess I’m going public on that). When Larry and I got married, she made my wedding dress, my veil, my sisters’ bridesmaid dresses, and the silk flower bouquets we all carried in the ceremony. I’m nearly certain she made her mother of the bride dress.

Mom and Me

Mom and Dad

I’m pretty sure my mother invented the concept of “teachable moments.” Or at least she was using them very effectively before anyone else was. At all the right opportunities, she would connect the dots for me…helping me understand what motivated people’s actions and how I should respond. A keen observer of people, my mom can connect with anyone at any time in any place. She’s authentic and funny, and people are naturally drawn to her. Because of her, my heart has some measure of those same qualities. My ability to establish strong relationships in the workplace comes from her.

I’m also grateful to my mom for developing my leadership abilities. Her work at church and in the community was part of the fabric of our lives. She baked, she donated, she showed up. She always stepped up when volunteers where needed (she still does). She fully supported my early leadership efforts in Girl Scouts and student government. My first brainstorming sessions were with my mom as we came up with ideas for everything from crafts to party games to fundraising projects. My mom is a creative leader and aspects of my own leadership style are modeled after her.

My mom made it look easy. (Now that I’ve raised two children, I know the real deal.) She designed a place of warmth and beauty for us to live in – with great desserts and outdoor spaces and colorful bedrooms and Christmas elves (before there was Elf on the Shelf). No one tells you about the pain you’ll experience as a mother. If you do a good job, those kids are outta there with hardly a backward glance. In particular, I think about my own decision to spend the spring semester of my junior year in college studying in Valencia, Spain. In January, my parents drove me to JFK and put me on a plane. I flew alone to Valencia to live with a family I’d never met. It was 1981 so I didn’t call/text/email my parents when I landed. I did send them a letter sometime during the first week I was in Spain (letting them know I got there). That’s how it was then – we only talked once during the five months I was away. That had to hurt – sorry, Mom.

My mom has always respected my choices. She never questioned my decisions in college or my plan to get married at 22 and move far away from home. Now that I think about it, I don’t remember her offering a lot of advice – unless I asked for it. She did give me some excellence counsel right before my wedding. I remember her saying, “When you wake up the first day after you come home from your honeymoon, you might get the idea to get up early and make breakfast for Larry. And when that happens, here’s what I want you to do: Turn over and go back to sleep.” In all seriousness, my mother helped me understand that marriage relies on both an enduring love and a mature partnership.

A lot has been written about the relationship between mothers and daughters. It’s complicated, right? A time or two, I’ve heard a friend or co-worker say in frustration, “I just can’t get my mother’s voice out of my head.” Not me! Instead, my head voice says, “I just can’t get my mother’s voice out of my heart.

Thanks, Mom. You gave me a heart I can live with for the rest of my days.

I love you. Happy Mother’s Day!

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