Mothers & Moms


I know that my mother and I are alike in a lot of ways, but there’s one memory that really stands out for some reason: I’m seventeen and preparing to go to Montreal for the weekend for a big Model United Nations Convention omg I’m so sorry to have to tell you what a horrible nerd I was in high school!! The funny thing is that the only reason I signed up was because my then-boyfriend (now-husband, lol, hi Daniel) was going, and the thing about being on a really nerdy school trip is that the teachers all kind of leave you alone because they assume you’re too much of a nerd to do anything and Montreal’s legal drinking age is like 12 or something so *millions of sunglasses emojis*. That was a great weekend.

ANYWAY. My point is. I was clearly not even a little interested in the real convention, but I was trying to be responsible and organized, or at least enough that the teachers supervising would think I was responsible and organized, and so I printed out all my notes very carefully on some color-coded index cards and clipped together all the handouts and research I had prepared in the order I thought I would need to reference them in, and then I decided to staple together a few of the loose sheets, so I went downstairs to my mother’s office where she was working to get her stapler, and when I walked in I saw she had laid out her carefully color-coded index cards and clipped together all her handouts and research for a case she was working on in exactly the same manner that I had lain out my work upstairs, and she saw me looking and was like, “…what?” And I just kind of shook my head and took the stapler and went back upstairs.

We’re alike in other superficial ways. I know our voices sound the same; when I was about twelve other mothers would call and start talking to me about picking their kids up and after awhile I would get sick of correcting them and just finish the conversation; they never caught on. I know we look somewhat alike, although it’s more that I take after her side of the family. I know we take too many pauses to think when we tell stories, which is an infuriating habit, I apologize on behalf of both of us.

My mother started her own business in our basement during a really, really dark time for our family; she worked all day every day at a job that she believed in, a job that made a huge difference to other families, not just ours. I know her filing cabinets are where I get my obsession with organization and efficiency, but I also know she’s where I got my (frankly disturbing) drive and ambition, my commitment to the people I work with, and my commitment to the quality of work I do on my own.

This week, in honor of a certain approaching Hallmark holiday, we’re talking about mothers; not necessarily our own, although we’ll certainly do that, and not necessarily the ways we’re like or unlike our biological parents, although that will come up. It’s more about what we think about when we think about a Mom with a capital M. Their presence is our lives is, I think, often familiar and unexpected, loving and troubled, funny and sad. I’m excited to share with you what some of our Hairpin contributors have written about their mothers and hope you’ll share your stories in the comments as well.