Style (or Mother-Daughter Disconnect)

Dec 23, 2014

I wrote this post five years ago today for the Purpose Driven Connection. If my mother were alive today she would be 101. 


I’ve done some cooking for groups this week–an intimate meal of stew for six last Friday and a staff party of chicken lasagna for twenty-two yesterday. Both preparations involved lots of chopping, browning, and assembling. Between crashing around in a warm kitchen with pots and knives and listening to Christmas music on the radio, I like this sort of feast-making in December. It makes me feel like I’m creating my own version of a Norman Rockwell winter. It also puts me in touch with Christmases past–real and imagined.

Yesterday, I had a huge epiphany. I have always thought I had a better handle on cooking for crowds than my mother did.  She worried about the details–whether the napkins were ironed, the kitchen door was closed so guests could not see the messy preparation, the salads were meticulously arranged on her best china plates,….

I brag that “She entertained, but I have people over.” I confess to feeling superior. My laid-back version of cooking and having friends hang out in the kitchen feels more authentic than her formal, showy dinner parties. But what struck me yesterday was that although I didn’t catch on to her fancy, sometimes frazzled way of entertaining, she taught me about hospitality. A rare weekend went by without people in my parents’ house for dinner or games. My mothers’ friends were important to her and she wanted to honor them and make them feel comfortable in her home.

For years I’ve thought my mother and I were from different planets. We disagreed about lots of things. But the Christmas gift I received this week is a deep, almost pregnant knowing that the most important things in my life (and hers) were given to me by my mother–dance, art, hospitality, home, and a relationship with God. Why we always clashed in those areas was strictly a difference in style. We loved the same things but expressed our love differently. We were just from different neighborhoods, not different planets.

I want to rush to the phone and tell her what I learned this week, to thank her for those gifts, and maybe even talk, instead of argue, about our different styles of drawing, feeding friends, and worshiping God. The phone call is not possible. But I think as she celebrates the birth of Jesus from her heavenly vantage point, she knows and smiles about my Christmas epiphany.

Dinner Plate Collage Resized


  1. Hi Sybil-
    Just have to tell you that your words are inspiring! I started last year honoring my mothers gifts to me by turning them into Christmas cards. I took pictures of the paintings that each Christmas she would give to us and made them into my holiday cards. In sending them out I wanted to share her love for the arts with my friends and family. This year I attached a picture of her from her LEC college days. I did this to share how lovely my mom was as many of my friends only knew her in her last years. My mom had gone through a lot of pain and yet always kept a positive attitude. One person that I have communicated with over the recent years has been Rev. Phillip Schaffer. He was but a young priest at St. James in the late 50’s or early 60’s who tried his best to help save my parents marriage. Rev. Schaffer has recently returned to St. James while visiting in the area. Although I wasn’t there that week, he told Mother Vanessa of a conversation I had in confirmation class asking why “Women couldn’t be Bishops and Priests”! Surprise, surprise! I love your dishes as I think they are the same as mine!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *