50 Ways to Say I Love You

If you ever ask my mom how she feels about getting older, she’ll say, “It’s better than the alternative.”

…which is not exactly a glowing review of aging, but is a very accurate answer. It’s probably the kind of thing I’ll say as I get older. And when I say “kind of,” I mean “exactly.” It is probably the exact thing I will say, and, if anyone asks, I’ll say I learned it from my mother.

I’ve learned a lot of things from my mother. As she reminds me. Once, my brothers and I were teasing her (good-naturedly, of course) about something, and she told us we couldn’t make fun of her, bursting out in self-defense: “I taught you how to use a spoon!”

You did. You did do that, Mom. And given that you somehow had to teach squishy, germy, 100% helpless babies how to use utensils means that we definitely don’t have any solid grounds on which to tease you. About anything.

(In case you were wondering: Yes, that quote is on my list of all time favorite Patti sayings ever.)

But my mom has done so much more than teach me how to eat like a civilized being. She taught me left from right and she also taught me—the infinitely more difficult—how to tell the left shoe from the right shoe. She taught me how to put on mascara, how to use a curling iron, and, come to think of it, she probably taught me how to brush my hair in the first place. She taught me to put salt in the water before boiling pasta and to run the cooked noodles under water so they don’t stick together. She taught me how to draw a star, how to do laundry, how to cut a pineapple, how to use baby oil to take off the sticky residue from price tags.

But she taught me so much more than that.

She taught me the intangible things, like to always believe in myself and take no shit. (She would use a different word though.) Most importantly, she taught me to love fiercely and wholeheartedly. Let me tell you, the love and generosity of this woman is astounding. And I don’t just say that because she’s “given” me lots of clothes over the years. (Ma, you’re never getting that green jacket back, by the way…) I say it because she gives all of herself every single day. When she was born, she brought a whole lot of love into the world, and with every year she finds a way to make more of it.

For this milestone birthday, I wanted to tell my mom 50 ways I loved her. But I couldn’t. Not because there’s a lack of things I could say. Not at all. I could say, “Mom, I love you because you took me to a zillion dance classes without complaint and sewed the ribbons on my pointe shoes even though you hate sewing.” Or “I loved that one time when you laughed at me and peeled an orange for me because I was so hungover I literally couldn’t do it myself.” Or “I love how you always get so excited when you see children because you’re such a natural caretaker.” Or “I love that you always write such meaningful, sentimental cards.” Any of those things would be fine. Fine, but not quite right. It would be incomplete.

The reason I can’t think of 50 ways to tell Mom I love her is because, when it comes down to it, I really only love her one way: wholeheartedly. (She taught me how.)With all the DNA in my body and all the feeling in my soul, I love my mom for being my mother, my friend, and for bringing so much light into all the lives she touches.

So, Happy Birthday, Mom. I wish you fifty more years filled with the craziness that makes this life worthwhile. I wish you happiness. I wish you love. You deserve it.


John Lennon wall

The first image is Mom making her mark on the John Lennon Wall in Prague. The last photo is what she wrote.


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