Mom’s Recipe for Life
I have a lot of Mom’s recipes in a blue 1)tin box where all my special ones 2)reside—the pumpkin pie she made during my growing up years, the light and 3)yeasty 4)dinner rolls that were family 5)faves. Even so, the recipe I 6)treasure most is not on any 7)index card, nor did she send it to me in a letter. On the contrary, she lived this recipe all of her life, but I was too blind to see and appreciate it until her final years.
My mother grew up in a small 8)coal mining town in southwest Iowa. My grandfather once told me that she knew no stranger; she considered everyone in that community her friend. That attitude continued wherever she lived for the rest of her life.
As a 9)tween and teen, I 10)cringed every time my mother 11)addressed strangers in the grocery store or on the city bus. She talked to everyone and offered a smile. In my 12)naiveté, I was embarrassed.
Mom had a cheerful greeting for everyone she 13)encountered and a question of some sort that 14)triggered an answer and more conversation. She spoke to the mailman, the grocery store 15)clerks, and the girls who worked in the neighborhood bakery.
I noticed that she smiled at everyone she passed in the store’s many 16)aisles. Almost all of them responded with a bright 17)beam of their own. Some spoke, others 18)nodded their heads at this elderly woman who brought a little light into their day.
What really 19)sold me on Mom’s approach to life was her experience on the senior bus, a story I’ve repeated to others many times. The weeks I could not be there, she used this low-cost transportation to the grocery store. After her first trip, I asked her how it went.
“Ha!” she said, “I got on that bus and what did I see? Thirteen little old ladies and one old man, and not one word was spoken.”
I wondered how long it would be until the 20)somberness on that bus would change. On my next visit, Mom mentioned the girls on the bus and something one of them had told her.
“Oh, are you talking with them now?” I asked.
“Of course,” she said. “One day I climbed up the steps of the bus and before I looked for a seat, I gave them a big smile and I said, ‘Isn’t it a wonderful day?’ I noticed a few shy smiles.”
Mom didn’t give up. She greeted them all each time she got on the bus and before long, the whole group was laughing and talking to one another. The bus became more than just transportation.
When we went to the various stores, I observed as she smiled and chatted with 21)perfect strangers. Some of them looked like the 22)sourest person you’d ever met, but once Mom smiled at them and started a conversation, most responded favorably. My mother didn’t embarrass me any longer. I found myself admiring her.
She’s been gone for ten years but I’ve carried on her recipe for life. I smile at people as I walk by and often begin a conversation in the checkout line. Silent, 23)solemn people respond with smiles of their own and a bit of 24)chatter. All it takes is for one person to 25)initiate the smile or a greeting.
It was me who had done the smiling first and all those people had responded. My mother didn’t lecture but taught me by example. She’d given me a recipe for life.