Things I learned from my mother (a partial list, because there are many I am still learning to articulate):
1. Some of the best stuff in life occurs in the outtakes (witness the photograph above, from last night). Keep your eyes open to the stuff around the edges.
2. Don’t worry about the small stuff. Really. It takes care of itself. Keep a ferocious focus on the big stuff.
3. It is not a big deal to cook dinner for 14 people with an hour of notice. Or to routinely serve Thanksgiving to more than 30 people.
4. Use the silver. All the time.
5. Female friends are essential and are in many ways the single most important bulwark against life’s storms. Invest heavily in those you know you love dearly. Old friends are precious, and cherish them. Family friends are a genuine gift.
6. You can’t judge peoples’ insides by their outsides. Don’t bother trying.
7. When your new son-in-law brings you a whole pheasant that he shot to cook, just smile and make pot pie. Serve it for Christmas Eve dinner. It’s not a big deal. In fact, there is nothing culinary that is a big deal. At all.
8. Attitude is everything. When Mum was injured last summer she demonstrated this in spades, and I can’t count the number of people – literally, tens upon tens – who reached out to tell me that her positive spirit and energy were tangible and would carry her through. They did, and I admire(d) it.
9. There is a mysterious alchemy in the wind and the water that cannot be fully explained. I watch her at the helm and understand what that there is something truly intuitive and beyond logical thought about sailing.
10. You can and should play tennis until you are 90 years old. And possibly beyond that.
11. Don’t waste your time and energy on negativity. Of any kind. Focus on the good in people, in the community, in the world, and eventually that positivity will become your default.
12. Always write thank you notes. By hand. On paper. In the mail.
13. Look forward, not back. There are adventures to be had, gardens to plant, Scrabble games to play, trips to be taken, people to meet. So much lies ahead, and turn your energy that way.
14. I am not and will not ever be a good at cards. Somehow that gene didn’t translate. Mum is the best card player I’ve ever met.
15. People flock to those who radiate energy and warmth like my mother does. At an event recently a man I’d just met took me aside and whispered, “Your mother is a force of nature.” I know, sir, I nodded. I know.
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