Happy Mother’s Day to biological mothers, chosen mothers, adopted mothers, and all the wonderful people who have mothered others- for a moment of caring, for a short time,  for years, for a lifetime, whether in person or at a distance.


A memory from 10 years ago that still makes me smile:

I recently started walking at the mall with a friend. We share the time it takes to do several loops. The faster we walk, the more we talk, mostly about relationships, particularly mother-daughter.

We both had our share of conflict with our mothers. I had been a rebellious teenager in the 1960s; breaking rules seemed the only way I could ‘separate’ from my parents. Fulfilling her mother’s high expectations had made childhood difficult for Candy too.

Our relationships had mellowed as our mothers got older and we gained insight into the perspective of our 1950s moms; perfect children equaled perfect mothers and imperfect children…. Well, you can see how it went.

Candy and I found the mother conflicts were replaced by our growing maturity and the common experience of caring for our aging mothers. We witnessed these independent and often difficult women move into various stages of illness and vulnerability that come with aging, sometimes with cranky or bitter resistance, sometimes with a sense of grace that was astounding and inspiring.

As Candy and I aged, there was also the realization: we were so much like our mothers. Now both our mothers had died; mine two years ago on Christmas Eve; hers this past winter. We are motherless daughters.

“I have my mother’s hands,” Candy said, spreading her fingers in front of her as we walked. “Arthritis,” as she touched the bumps near her joints.

“Me too,” as I located the age spots that speckled the backs of my hands.  “And all those years I vowed I’d never be like my mom.”


One morning, post walk, Candy beckoned me to her car. “I want to show you something.”

Out of the trunk of her car she produced a needlepoint pillow, a kaleidoscope of colors sliding across in a vibrant collage.

“Wow,” I breathed. I knew Candy did needlepoint, but I’d only seen delicate patterns on pristine white backgrounds.

“Yeah, different for me,” she chuckled. “I got the colors from my mother.”

“Your mother?” I asked. Wait, this was embarrassing. I was pretty sure her mom had died. I had sent a card, a book.

“Oh yes, she died six months ago,” Candy said. “I miss her so much.”

Candy looked off with a smile as if she saw her mom in the distance, maybe walking toward us.

“When Mom died, my sister and I went to clean out her house. My sister found this box of needlepoint with Mom’s unfinished work and said there was more of a chance that I would make use of it than anyone else in the family.” Candy looked at me and chuckled. “After years of resisting my mother extolling the benefits of needlepoint work to calm nervous thoughts and hands, I had reluctantly tried it. It worked.”

She glanced down at the reminder of her mother. “My mother did needlepoint for years,” she said as her middle-aged hands smoothed across the pillow. “She had to stop when her arthritis became so painful. Maybe she thought she would start again, that’s why she saved all this.”

Candy’s eyes met mine. The same thought occurred to us. Maybe something made her save it for someone else?

Candy continued, “When I went through the mix of threads and pillow forms, I found this one. It struck me because it was so colorful and had already been started. That’s why I say my mom gave me the colors. I just continued the pattern, but…” she said with a final pat, “we did it together.”

“You know what I mean?” Candy asked aloud. Behind her words I sensed ‘Do you understand how I feel?’ I did. What a lovely gift from your mother, I thought.

The usually bubbly features of my friend’s face softened as she bent over to pull out a second unfinished memory. I could see in her face the girl, young woman, and now middle-aged woman who loved her mother as deeply as I had grown to love mine.

“Look at this. Green and red, almost finished. I like to imagine she was doing this one for me. I’ll do this one next—just in time for Christmas.”

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Zoom gatherings, and anywhere there’s a Zoom mic.