An excerpt from Laura Brown’s Everything That Makes You Mom: A Bouquet of Memories

April 12, 2013

My friend and colleague Laura Lynn Brown has a book out, Everything That Makes You Mom: A Bouquet of Memories (Abingdon Press, $12.99), and if you’re in Little Rock, she’ll be at Wordsworth Books from 1-3 p.m. tomorrow. Stop by and tell her a story about your mother.

She’s graciously allowed us an excerpt from the book.

By Laura Lynn Brown


(From the book’s introduction:)
There’s something about a mother’s love that inspires gift giving. “Mama” is the first word some of us say, surely a gift to her ears. And she might have been the first person we gave something to, not for any occasion, but out of the desire to bestow something in the twin impulses of “I love you” and “I see you.”

Maybe it was abstract art in the medium of crayon, which she displayed on the gallery of the refrigerator door, hung low enough for the artist to appraise. Maybe it was a bunch of dandelions, relaxing in your hand on the trip between the yard and wherever she was.

This book invites you to give your mother another bouquet, a little more time-taking in the picking but longer-lasting and more varied than those drooping blooms of long-gone summers.

About definitions: We have all kinds of families, and some of the women we know as Mom did not carry us in the womb. There are stepmothers, adoptive mothers, foster mothers, neighborhood-it-takes-a-village mothers, and other kinds of mothers for whom there’s no easy or agreed-upon terminology. So maybe yours didn’t know you and feel you within before you were born. Maybe you could hold a conversation in complete sentences by the time she met you. But if you consider or call her Mom, then Mom she is to you, and this is for her too.

There are books that invite the users to interview their mothers, filling in the blanks and filling out a record of moments large and small in the mother’s life. Questions are a good thing, and blessed is the grown child who wants to ask, and marvelous is the mother who enjoys answering. This book is different. Here, the questions are for you, the daughters and sons.

Take the time to wander through the gardens and greenhouses and fields and abandoned lots of memory. Maybe you’ll even want to fill this in, together with Mom, talking through each flower of the bouquet. There are questions here, and you get to consider them, and delight Mom with your answers.

Most of this book is yet to be written. The sentence-vignettes that begin the course are my own memories. These sentences, though, are just the ferns and baby’s breath in this bouquet. Let your own sentences be the blooms.

(From Chapter One: “Mom in the Home”)

There she is in the kitchen, cooking a birthday dinner, making gravy with glee, upholding holiday rituals, fighting grime … And there she is on the porch, and in the yard, doing whatever she did to make a house a home that we loved to live in and would want to return to, so naturally that we probably didn’t even notice.

She bought a gravy whisk that we saw in a specialty kitchen store not so much because she needed a gravy whisk, but because its packaging claimed, “It scoffs at lumps.” She gave it a new name: lump scoffer. When she made gravy, she whisked with glee, scoffing at those lumps herself with a single “Ha!”

How was your mother persuaded by advertising?

What kitchen tasks does she relish?

Does she have nicknames for any of her gadgets?

In her kitchen, a cookie jar occupied the central place that a coffeemaker would have in other kitchens. Her favorite store-bought were Keebler Pecan Sandies and Archway Date-filled Oatmeal. Her favorite homemade were date-nut pinwheels, one of a dozen kinds she would make at Christmas. She was a dunker – in tea, not coffee.

What sweet treats does your mother favor?

Coffee, tea or something else?

What has a place of prominence in her kitchen?

The time I got so mad that I announced I was running away from home, she asked me to pause long enough that she could note what I was wearing, so she would know how to describe me to the police when she filed a missing persons report. I made it three houses away before my resolve melted, but went all the way around the block just to save face.

Did your mom ever deal with a fit by pretending to take you seriously?

How has she made it hard to stay mad?

Has she blessed your independence in ways that make you want to come home?

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