It's Mother's Day this Sunday; that's Sunday, May 12, make a note, call your mom! These are the women who made us who we are, the women who brought us up, the women who have kept on bringing us up no matter how adult we claim to be.
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Moms are great, and there are no shortage of great tales about great moms, from people ranging from the famous (Stephen Colbert, Patti Smith, Barack Obama) to your own mom. In honor of the upcoming day, I asked an array of writers and Internet folk to share stories that demonstrate the awesomeness of their particular moms. Moms: They've copy edited our work, made us the tacos that we like, hugged us into feeling better, made sure we were alive, inspired us in our own careers, made us laugh, and generally tried to make us better people. Without them, we would be nowhere. Yay, Mom. Yay, moms.
Our Mothers, Our Happiness-Protectors
David Cho, publisher, Grantland: When I was six, our family had no money at all, and a treat for me then (and tbqh, I still love it) would be a trip to Taco Bell for a Mexican Pizza (two hard, flat, corn tortilla shells, with refried beans and ground meat in between, with melted cheese and diced tomatoes, black olives, and scallions on top). It was the best.
Then, one time, my mother, who is incredibly nice and just wanted me to be happy more regularly than the occasions when they could take me to Taco Bell, swallowed her pride and asked the worker at Taco Bell if she could buy just the corn tortilla shells for me so that she could make the Mexican Pizza for me at home. The worker doesn't know if that's allowed, asks his manager, and they're all just like, "Sure, why not." We get home and my mom goes through all the trouble to make this whole thing, and gives it to me. It tastes pretty good! She asks 6-year-old me how it is, and like the completely unaware assholes that 6-year-olds can be, I say, "It's good, but not as good as the one at Taco Bell!" I don't remember much, but I have a very vivid image in my brain of how much her face sunk in disappointment.
Twenty years later, I was randomly talking about this story with my mom and I told her I was sorry for being such a jerk (it hadn't come up before then). But my mom didn't remember the whole, "not good as Taco Bell," part of the story and just recalled that I liked it. And this is precisely why moms are great, because not only will they do anything they can for you to be happy, but they'll do it while also actively forgetting instances when you are a dickhead.
Our Mothers, Cool Even When They're Mortifying
Stephanie Anderson, Head of Readers' Advisory at the Darien Public Library and daughter of author Laurie Halse Anderson (that's them dancing at her sister's wedding): In my junior year of high school, my mom had become pretty well-known thanks to the release of Speak, and my English teacher invited her to come speak to my class about being a writer.
I stayed home, having suddenly become very sick with oh-my-god-what-will-she-say-itis. At first, my fears seemed to have been misguided. The next day, everyone kept telling me how cool my mom was. "You are so lucky," they all said, but wouldn't say why at first. Eventually I convinced someone to tell me. Somehow, and I don't ever want to know how this was relevant to explaining the life of a writer, my mom launched into her standard speech about having a safe and healthy sex life. This speech includes bon mots like, "There are plenty of fun things you can do instead of intercourse. Like oral sex!" She also talked to them at length about condoms. Possibly other things that I have blacked out. The brain tends to shut down after hearing one's mother has used the phrase "mutual masturbation" in the classroom. I was completely mortified.
In retrospect, of course, I can see that my mom is actually pretty cool, and that her day in that classroom was probably the most educational sex ed class that school building has ever seen. What's more, I can see that at that time she was starting to be overwhelmed by the fanmail response to Speak, which as you can imagine, can be devastating, and was beginning to inspire her to be the lady who talks to teenagers about things like feeling safe in your sex life, and the importance of consent, and condoms. To this day she works pretty tirelessly on behalf of survivors of sexual assault, which is something I wish she didn't have to do at all, but I am proud that she keeps doing it even though it is heartbreaking work. All the same, I continue to avoid any situation in which I think she might talk about blowjobs.
Our Mothers, Our Editors
Jeff Bercovici, staff writer, Forbes: My mom is my best copyeditor. She's got an amazingly keen eye for typos. She's one of those rare people whose eyes actually see what's there on the page rather than what the brain tells them to expect. She reads everything I write and calls me whenever she catches a bug. A few years ago, I was working at a startup news website, she took it upon herself to proofread the entire site every day and email the changes directly to our copy chief. She was basically an unpaid part-time employee. Also, I don't think any profession I could have chosen would have made her as proud as journalism has. Either that or she does a really good job of faking it, which, if true, I appreciate just as much.
Our Mothers, Who Taught Us to Take a Minute to Iron
Rembert Browne, staff writer, Grantland: My mom loves to iron. It's her calming, therapeutic getaway from the chaotic life cocktail that is work, bills, society and me. But while she despises few things more than a wrinkled shirt, I've watched as she place the hot metal slab atop a piece of clothing that was already pressed, starched, and ready for the world. So I know it's less the final product and more the act of ironing. In peace.
This used to drive me insane, because there was never any "running out of the house." More of a quick first step out of the gates, and then promptly sitting in a chair, pouting, for nine minutes. At the time, I didn't understand the peaceful, slowing down of time-quality of ironing a shirt, until I found myself incorporating it in my life. All the time. Yes, practically, but more as a way to slow down my New York life to a rural New Hampshire crawl, even if for a few peaceful minutes.
I am, truly, my mother's son. Yes, she birthed me, and we look alike, so that goes without question. But the ironing is what makes it the most real.
Our Mothers, Our Personal Superheroes
Rosie Gray, reporter, BuzzFeed Politics: My mom is a superhero, basically. Some examples: When my brother's daughter was born, my mom literally made a huge bouquet out of baby socks — she rolled the socks into little rose shapes and stuck them onto wires and it was amazing. For the two family dogs, she slow-cooks their dog bones herself. They sit there on the stove stewing for hours. It's like some artisanal butcher shop in Brooklyn. She buys my cat treats and toys even though she doesn't even like cats and insisted on getting him an organic hemp scratching post. And despite the fact that we're all in our 20s and 30s, my mom still sends me and my three siblings themed packages for every holiday — literally every holiday: Easter, Halloween, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, you name it. Usually the packages have themed socks in them. She is so next-level it's insane.
Plus, she gives the most comforting hugs ever.
Our Mothers, Our Keepers (in the Best Possible Way)
Maureen O'Connor, staff writer, The Cut: When I was in high school, I stayed late to work on a project one day, but forgot to call my mother to tell her where I was. She called my friends, who did not know where I was. Finally, around 9 p.m., she called the cops. I came home to find a patrol car in the driveway. Tearily, my mother described searching dark roads of our town with a flashlight, in case my dead body was lying in a gutter somewhere. It was saddest and funniest event of sophomore year.
My mother says she no longer fears for me, even though I live in New York City. This is because she follows me on Twitter and Facebook. (If I am silent for too long, she calls to check in.) She reads my blog posts everyday. (If I use a sick day, she knows.) She treats Gmail like a personal comments section, providing me with daily feedback, fact-checks, and LOLs. She emails when she likes my stories. She emails when she sees stories she'd like me to cover. She emails when she thinks I'm being "ripped off." (The optimism of mothers: they think our jokes are original.) After a multi-year ordeal in which she emailed every time someone talked shit about me on the Internet, I realized that my mother had a Google Alert set for my name. The Great O'Connor Google Alert Intervention took many months; eventually my brother got into her account and shut it off. We all agreed it was best never to turn it on again.
An avid consumer of online media, my mother keeps me abreast of her daily reading routines. And so, Mom, here I am—and here you are, too! Thank you for supporting and inspiring me. Happy Mother's Day to the best gossip blogger ever to write for an audience of one, her daughter. Let's talk by email tonight.
Our Mothers, Who Pushed Us
John Jannuzzi, contributing digital editor, Lucky Magazine: My mother alway pushed me, harder than anybody else. She was tough on me my entire life. One of my favorite stories that my brother and I often reenact is when I was failing in school. To rebound all my bad grades, she berated me till my homework was finished. One day, there was an extra credit assignment and when asked about it I sharply replied, "it's extra credit, mom." Her answer? "Don't give a shit!" I was maybe 12. But did I do the work? Yes. She never stops pushing me, to this day.
Also, it appears I have inherited her colorful language. A family heirloom, if you will.
Our Mothers, Arbiters of Taste
Sarah Horne Grose, executive editor The Upswing, a soon-to-launch online magazine (her mom is the one in the awesome coat): My mom taught me to be insanely frugal about boring, everyday purchases, and insanely extravagant about the stuff that matters. To this day, when my mom goes to a fancy coffee shop, she will take a fistful of those little packets of raw sugar, then turn to me to ask if I too would like to steal a fistful, so the packets can burst in my purse. She does this somewhat furtively, as if the baristas are onto us (and they probably are.) This whole melodrama saves us each about a buck. She is big on other sorts of freebies too, like, say, the little bottles of L’Occitane Verbena Body Lotion you get at hotels. I now have some 200 of them under my bathroom cabinet, and can’t resist taking more every time I go on a trip. It’s probably genetic.
On the other hand, when my mother sees something she deems to be important: a limited edition art book so heavy it could double as a weapon, a rare Inuit sculpture of a walrus, or an antique child’s shoe from Japan, she’ll buy it without a moment’s hesitation. Even when these purchases extend into the four-figures, she will get a gleam in her eye that says, “I got a bargain.” She will, in fact, brag to me that she got a 7-pack of Tupperware at her local Walgreens for 99 cents, and in the next breath tell me I should start collecting art. This is probably why I will smuggle a bag of pre-popped Newman’s Own popcorn into the movie theatre in my purse, but don’t so much as flinch when I click purchase on the pair of tickets to India that cost more than a month’s rent. My 9-month-old son is often garbed in hand-me-downs, but I don’t think twice about a beautiful handmade baby book. To my mother, and now to me, objects of beauty and indelible experiences matter; plush paper towels do not.
Our Mothers, Our Inspirations
Alex Leo, head of web products for Reuters: Jacqueline Marie Leo (nee Jasous) wasn't expected to run magazines or write books or be the heads of things. She was expected to learn how to type and join the secretarial pool. She did learn how to type (I still can't do it properly but am an excellent hunt and pecker) but failed at making a career of it. Instead she began working at women's magazines and eventually founded Child when I was young (possibly because I was just too adorable to keep to herself?). She sold it and went on to become the editor-in-chief of Family Circle," the editorial director of Good Morning America, the editorial director of Consumer Reports, editor-in-chief of Reader's Digest, and is now the editor-in-chief of the Fiscal Times, a digital property that focuses on economics and policy. Believe it or not, I'm leaving things out. She was also a VP at Meredith for a while in charge of a bunch of stuff I can't even begin to explain, the president of the American Society of Magazines, and so on. The point is not to tell you how impressive this lady is, the point is that she's so impressive because she never stops adapting and learning (she jumped head first into digital decades before her peers) and that's the gift she's given me I'm most grateful for in life. (A version of this tribute first appeared on the Huffington Post.)
Our Mothers, All of Them
Foster Kamer, senior editor, Complex magazine: I am, if anything, really one of those "it takes a village" types. And while I've really only had one Dad, or fatherly, or paternal figure in my life, I've had a lot of moms. A lot. There's my mom by birth, Bonnie. Growing up, there were my moms in my family: a grandmother and two aunts, all of whom were equally critical and especially caring in ways my birth mom wasn't always perfect at. The moms of my friends: Jarrett's mom, Wendy; Rebekah's mom, Diane; Henry's mom, Mimi. There's an entire treatise to be written about the mothers of some of my girlfriends, whose daughters were only the beginning of a case for what incredible women they are. One of them, Patti, I saw more often after her daughter and I broke up, as she, her partner, and I became common brunch companions. Even today, my girlfriend's mom, Nancy, is a crucial center of gravity for grace, warmth, and humor in my life.
But the one person who embodies thankless humility and selflessness in my life, who maybe has some idea that it has taken a village—and embraced it—is my stepmom, Helen. Being a stepmother (or at least, being one in the early '90s, when every divorced couple was like War of the Roses) has to be the hardest job in the world. She was an incredibly accomplished woman (and a thrice-married one) by the time she met my dad. I've never asked her if they ever wanted children, and I don't think I ever will, because it doesn't matter: She took that role and ran with it, even when my brother and I were thankless little shits who were essentially programmed to see her as oppositional for a large part of our childhood. She was relentlessly kind, and relentlessly cold when she needed to be. Without her, I'd worry about some of the character attributes my Dad was so often too much of a self-proclaimed softie to instill; at the same time, she's taught me a hell of a lot about playing the long-game as far as kindness and empathy are concerned, and even though I still call her by her name—Helen, or H—it's just out of habit. She's as much a mom as anyone else, if not moreso in many ways. I couldn't find a picture, so I drew her here.
Our Mothers, Who Gave Us (Sick) Senses of Humor
Jen Doll (in the middle of the photo at right): Though there are many, there is one story that might example this best. When I was a baby my mother and father lived in Houston, Texas. My parents at that time had a big, white van (it was the '70s), and on one trip in that van, on a hot, dry day, we stopped by the side of the road so my parents could change my diaper. Someone in truck drove by and shouted, "Nice baby!" then asked if my parents wanted to trade said baby for a six-pack of cold beer. In my mother's retellings to me, her retort was, "We had to think about it for a few minutes. But we kept you!" followed by raucous laughter. Any of this could be true and it could be false, but I chose to believe it. The rest, as they say, is history.