Hug Your Mother Today: Life Lessons from My Formidable Mother
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Hug Your Mother Today: Life Lessons from My Formidable Mother

This Mother’s Day marks my third holiday without my beloved mother, and no matter how I celebrate with my caring 18-year-old son, I will miss her.

My mother, Marilyn Wallace, passed away on December 12, 2020, at age 89. There are many days when something monumental happens – like my son excelling in school and at community activities that I yearn to pick up the phone to call her and share our big news.

Yet, even when I miss her the most, I realize the legacy she left behind. My mother, a lifelong learner, taught me many life lessons. She rarely complained or groused, and she did not want her three daughters to engage in fruitless, worrying behavior. She was a take-charge, get-it-done woman who raised us to be strong, independent, caring, and literally “Shoot for the stars!” individuals to strive for our goals.


When big obstacles came into our path, she encouraged us to work harder, study more, and find a way to achieve our greatest goals and ambitions. She believed that nothing was impossible with a strong work ethic, family support, and passion.

With all my heart, I miss the mother-daughter bond that we shared. Her absence makes me wonder in an Our Town type of way: Do we fully appreciate our mothers, and other loved ones, while we have them in our lives? Do we visit or call them often enough? Or are we too busy juggling work, family, and our own pursuits that we sometimes forget what we have while we have it?

My mother taught me many life lessons: to follow my heart, be prepared, and not look over my shoulder to have regrets. I also inherited her passion for live theater and a zest for appreciating the best of life – fine dining, travel, home design, fashion, and more.

Growing up in Chicago she frequently took my sisters and to the Art Institute of Chicago and Broadway shows that came to our city. I think of some of her favorite shows and the philosophy that went with them, “Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving, (Mame); and “Life is a cabaret, old chum. Come to the cabaret,” (Cabaret).

When I sit in a Broadway theater waiting for the curtain to come down, or browse the halls of an art museum, I can fondly remember enjoying these special artistic pursuits with my mother. I credit her for sharing her love for movies, art, theater, and so much more. Now, I eagerly share them with my son, who is currently performing in Mean Girls, and making lifelong friends in his high school drama club.

My mother married young, had all three of her daughters before age 30, and was the personification of a strong and caring mother and, later, grandmother. High standards, good manners, and a deep love for her family and friends were at her core.

My mom was a great friend to my sisters and I and she always had time for her many friends, to lend an ear and offer some sage advice; and women of all generations sought her counsel and guidance when they were getting married, divorced, having children, and undergoing many other life rituals of passage.

Although she had a soft and nurturing side, she was also a formidable woman. She instilled in her daughters the value of kindness and the belief that, if we worked hard, nothing was beyond our reach.

My mother went back to work full-time when I began college and forged a successful career in advertising in which she proudly won many awards and accolades. She mastered computer skills and other obstacles.

Lessons learned: It’s never too late to pursue your dreams and goals.

She also taught me the importance of giving back. As a child, I remember her raising money for the Jewish National Home for Asthmatic Children, among other charities to help provide children in need with education and health care.

One powerful memory was cheering her on when she starred in fundraising musicals where she donned a costume and belted out songs from Funny Girl. The shows were not only lively and fun for the audience, but also profitable for the charities.

I also remember her boldly calling major companies in and around Chicago asking for donations, and never giving up until she received a yes; her tenacity echoes my own when it comes to pursuing interviews with celebrities and business moguls.

When I asked my mother toward the end of her life, what advice she had for me, she responded quickly: “Take care of business!” What did she mean? Do not procrastinate. Don’t put off medical and dental appointments, taxes, legal affairs, etc. Keep up with home repairs and other responsibilities; regardless of whatever else may be on your plate. Basically, just get it done!

So, on this Mother’s Day, I urge everyone to tell their mother – or any mother figure that you care for, be it your grandmother, sister, aunt, best friend, or other loved one – what she means to you, and positively affects your life. I hope you will fondly think of my lovely, loving, and perfectly fashionable mother when you pick up the phone or knock on that door

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