Over the years we’ve bought my mom just about every kind of Mother’s Day present you can think of. Together with my sister and brothers, we’ve gotten her spa visits and fancy lunches, clothes and cosmetics, jewelry and perfume and one misguided year I believe my brother bought her a fancy iron. From my recollection, that didn’t go well. Mama Bella don’t play that.
And I agree with her completely – Mother’s Day shouldn’t be about getting your mom a present that reinforces household duties. It should be something she’d love, that allows for pampering and indulgence. To me, Mother’s Day should be a day where your Mom doesn’t even have to think about lifting a finger.
This year I found myself at a loss for a Mother’s Day gift idea. Normally I can come up with something cool, something she needs. In terms of material things, I think at this point she’s pretty much got it all. I asked Mama Bella what to get her, and she asked me to write a post dedicated to her.
So this post is for you, Peggy Aura Arlene Grell. We’re alone now and I’m singing this song for you. These are the top 5 things I’ve learned from you.
— How to Be a Lady (and still be yourself).
People who meet my mom describe her as “elegant.” “Regal.” “Dignified.” She carries herself with a regal bearing, and she certainly is all of those things and then some… but those of us lucky enough to love her and know her behind the scenes know she can be hilarious, bawdy, naughty, and FUN. But here’s the thing – not everyone earns the right to experience 100% of Peggy Grell. That comes with earned trust, reciprocal friendship, and time. Which brings me to thing #2.
— How to Recognize Friend from Foe.
I still tend to have a very trusting spirit and that can lead me into situations where I’m taken advantage of. But thanks to my mom I always keep Trinidadian adages at the forefront of my mind. “All skin teeth is not grin,” for example. Through the years she’s been steadily showing me who’s really my friend to the end, and who isn’t. And through the years I’ve been arguing with her about it, and then reluctantly having to admit she was right about certain people in my life. Ugh. That old adage is also true — Mother really does know best. Most of the time.
— That I Really DO Look Beautiful in a Nice Skirt.
In my teen years, I was QUITE the tomboy. I was sure to be in sneakers, jeans and a teeshirt, no matter where I was going. It drove my mom crazy. “You have gorgeous legs! Why not wear a nice skirt?” she would implore. “How about trying on a dress for a change?” I didn’t get the memo until sophomore year of college, when I started incorporating maxi skirts into my wardrobe. The uptick in male attention was mindblowing. I’ll never forget the first time my then-friend, soon-to-be-boyfriend, now-husband, saw me wearing a skirt. “Hey! You look so…feminine!” he said. And it was about more than just how I looked – or how I looked to boys — it was how I felt. Wearing a skirt or a dress makes me feel instantly aware of my feminine power. And now that I’ve grown up…I love it. I’m still not like Mama Bella, who would be happy wearing floral dresses every day of life, but over time I’ve learned how to play up my attributes and love the way I look. Thanks to her I know I can wear just about anything I want, and find a way to make it work for me.
— That Taking Care of Myself is Essential.
My mother has a regimen for every moment of the day. She wakes up in the morning and doesn’t so much as go downstairs without having “made her toilette,” – meaning she’s showered, brushed her teeth, dressed nicely and put on a little makeup. She’s still more fastidious than me in that department, I’m working on it. I’ll get there. But from my mom I learned how to be beautiful, and how to cherish and celebrate your beauty. Just as she grew up watching her mother and her aunties getting ready every day, I grew up watching her. She taught me the difference between eau de parfum and eau de toilette. She took me to fashion shows at an early age, and introduced me to the world of hair salons when I was just a child. I got into facials and body treatments when I was a teen, and manicures and pedicures came soon after. And aside from all the external attributes, she also reinforced that “beauty is as beauty does.” I do my best to behave accordingly. Without those seeds being sewn in me so early…I wouldn’t be Afrobella today.
— Work Hard. Play Hard.
My mother is now in her seventies. And I can honestly say, I’ve never known a time in my life where she hasn’t worked. She worked at the same job for more than 30 years, and after she retired she became a consultant and built her own business. When I was a preteen, she briefly owned a lingerie and casualwear store called Lounging. And despite always working hard to keep the lights and the phone on, and to keep food on the table…she still managed to raise a family of five kids, and have a full and fun social life with my dad. My parents party more than I do — especially now that they’ve retired, my dad has a running joke that every day is Saturday. They’ve never been stick in the mud parents, our house has always been the spot for annual birthday parties and the epic Old Year’s Night celebration. From my parents I’ve learned that personal achievements are important, and celebrating those achievements is equally important. Now when I work, it’s not to run some kind of imaginary race with anyone else. I work hard because I want to be proud of everything I do, and I want to build a bright future for myself, my husband, and future afrobella babies to come. And when I celebrate, it’s because I’ve worked hard and I deserve it. As it should be.
Mom, there’s no doubt that you made me who I am today. From watching you and listening to you, I learned from you. Nothing makes me happier than knowing that I’ve managed to make you proud. Happy Mother’s Day. I love you very, very much and I miss you!
Bellas, please feel free to share with me – what lessons have you learned from your mother, that stand you in great stead to this day?