The most amazing part of a 10-kid family is without question the woman who birthed, raised, taught, watched over, cried with, comforted, and tenderly loved all ten of her wildly rambunctious spawn.
Mom is crazy petite – 5ft flat, somewhere shy of 90lbs. She cries easily, laughs even more quickly, and when she’s mad enough she’ll call you out by your full name. Luckily, in her flustered state, it can take her a bit of time to land on the right name from among the other 10 options – I’d say there’s a 50/50 chance you make it out of the room before she hits upon it. Simple math would show that mom was pregnant for much of my childhood and I clearly remember that right around the last couple weeks of pregnancy she would get these incredible urges to deep clean the house, and that’s when I’d walk into the kitchen to find her standing on a chair organizing the kitchen cabinets or wiping down the top of the refrigerator. Heightened pregnancy senses also meant that there was no sneaking back into the house late at night pretending that you had just gotten up for a glass of water. Nope, mom could smell the remnants of that night’s vices. My brothers kept an air freshener canister in the bushes at the entrance of our apartment but I knew mom could still smell the cigarette smoke through the chemical concoction masquerading as “meadow rain”.
Mom didn’t go to college and never worked in a corporate environment (although I’m pretty sure raising 10 kids is 100x harder than any office job!) and these vastly different life experiences means that when challenges at work or career decisions arise, I don’t automatically pick up the phone to vent or seek guidance. If I had kids of my own she would be my greatest resource, but I don’t. Mom is a traditional woman, and on that point we can butt heads. I once ducked out of our house early in the morning cause I didn’t want to deal with my (kind of) boyfriend who had spent the night. Mom woke up and cooked him pancakes. She used to call to make sure I was being nice to my boyfriend (now husband). She raised her daughters to be good partners. We cook, clean, hem pants, sew buttons, are skillful with an iron, and always know to separate colors and check all pockets before doing the laundry. Mom thought we’d all be young brides and mothers – but I’m the only married daughter and none of us have kids. However, mom has passed on a few traits that I see in myself and each of my sisters: Passion, stubbornness, generosity, determination, a highly tuned bullshit radar, and fierce loyalty to family.
Mom, I love you. Thanks for always trying to bring out my softer side. As you know, I’m not great at describing emotions so I’ve enlisted the help of the Stirling clan to help me celebrate this Mother’s Day and let you know just how much you mean to all of us.
Sibling #1: You know the saying, “If dad says no, ask mom”? Well, in our family that was definitely the case with money. If you wanted a ride somewhere, dad was your ticket. But if you wanted to do anything once you arrived, mum was the only one who could make that happen. For as long as I can remember, mum was the one with a secret spending stash, a little coinage for special occasions or to satisfy the 12 AM munchies of a hungry teenager. Not only was she great at hiding an emergency money stash somewhere in the house, she taught that very valuable lesson to us children. As soon as we had summer jobs, you could be sure mum would be around making sure that you squirreled some away. As Frank (sibling #3) refers to in the example of the “guess the furniture game”, mum was like that with any money in the house as well. It was always a challenge to find out where she had hid it. Most amazing though, is that after you thought you found her first, or sometimes even second stash, you could bet that somewhere else in the house was an envelope or shoebox hiding the third or fourth. With 10 kids looking, I think that qualifies mom as a magician.
For all the love you’ve brought to our family, & and the little life lesson you faithfully taught by example, we acknowledge you on this, Our Mothers Day! XX
Sibling #3: Mom is so amazing and she loves keeping things fresh at the house. Every time I come home there is something just a little bit different. We’ve even turned it into a bit of a game called “spot what’s different”. Usually she’ll have moved a piece of furniture or a painting around or purchased a new lamp. Sometimes everything is changed and you can hardly recognize the room. Most recently I came home and started looking for what it could be. I was looking for something small like the saltshaker or something. 20 minutes later I realized it was the whole living room couch set! Well-played mother.
I love you mom and I love all your crazy ideas and home improvements (especially the beanbag chair). Happy Mothers Day!
Sibling #4: Granola, probably one of the weirdest sounding words out there. However, when I hear it I only think of one person, Mom. I would love to sit and watch her make this tasty breakfast treat at least once a week, usually late in the evenings when all my little siblings were sound asleep and I could finally have her attention to myself. She would mix the oil with the sugar and blend it in with oats and sunflower and sesame seeds so that each piece was covered in a soon-to-be bite of sweet deliciousness. After this process she would throw it in a wok and place it on a low flame and roast it till it was lightly brown. She would then put in some coconut and finally raisins. The method was consistent every time and has never changed except for perhaps the addition of a new ingredient now and then.
Thanks to you mumsie, I will never buy granola in a store. Breakfast cereals, no matter how crunchy, nutty, or crispy, will never compare to that first bite of warm granola and milk. Most of all though, I will treasure the memories I have with you and granola.
Sibling #5: Some of mom’s wonderful attributes really bothered me as a young teenager: intuition, impeccable attention to detail, loving concern for her children… geez!
When going through my early rebellious streak (a phase I’ve clearly passed), I remember a time when she caught me with cigarettes in my purse. I had just come home and put my purse on my bed and within 5.5 seconds she was in my room and had the pack in her hand. Magical but also unfortunate since I was grounded for… I can’t remember how long. (Maybe an hour, give or take a few minutes – my stubbornness must have won that round).
I remember clashing a lot with mom when growing up. We were both strong willed, stubborn, and proud. Now that the years have passed – and I like to think I’ve developed a bit more maturity in life – she’s become someone I turn to for a listening ear or sagely counsel.
I love you Mom. All 5ft. and zero inches of you. Thank you for always being there for me.
Sibling #6: “Honey, have you been taking care of yourself?”
“Umm ya, course.. Why Mom..?”
“You just look so healthy now!”
When your mother comments on your look using the word “healthy”, ideas of rosy cheeks and full breasts come to mind for some. For the Stirling girls it’s like hearing you’ve just crossed the line from life and happiness over to death and doom. Mom would never use the word “healthy” unless she felt we girls were headed towards being plump. Thus, the aversion when she’d throw out the H word with much affection.
She’s our very own gauge of how our physicality is working out for us. On the other hand, when we’d dip too low in weight she’d be right there, packing some nutritious meals to send away with us and keep us headed toward this mystical land where all her daughters would be happy and additionally rotund.
She always knew what was going on her girls’ life by eyeing us noes to toes – losing weight meant we were having man-troubles or too much stress, and if we gained, well, we were dealing with some other emotional workup or just living in Mexico (#sorrysharonIloveyoudon’thateme #itsthecheese).
Last September, three weeks into my first term of university, I took a photo to send home. Dad’s text came first with a tone of happiness for me and my new housemates. Mom’s came immediately after: “Are you even eating? Those cheeks don’t look very chubby!”. I didn’t realize that I’d been succumbing to stress and therefore living on power bars and coffee. Mom’s expert eye knew what was going on from one shady polaroid.
I love you Mommy. Thanks for noticing the little things – you can keep calling us healthy, we know your tricks now.
Sibling #7: Let’s be honest I’ve always been a hungry hippo! Noodles, rice, whole loaves of bread, small baby animals… pretty much anything I could get my hands on I ate. Some of the best memories I have are of food, and mom always played a role. She understood that my appetite was endless. Whether it was giving me some extra food before dinner, sneaking in some extra money for my lunch breaks, or giving me some of the hard earned steaks dad would buy for her at Costco, mom was the one I could ask.
Nothing says I love you more then giving someone your food when your hungry, and I can’t even count how many times mom has done it for me. I didn’t realize how much mother fed me until I started trusting other ladies to take on the daunting task of my hunger. And if I’m being honest, none of them have even made the bench, let alone become the star player and I don’t think that will ever change.
If I had to make sense of these little tidbits of my life, I would say that if giving food = love and happiness, then I’m the happiest, most loved boy in the world. Mom, you were the golden ticket that got me there.
Sibling #8: I don’t know how she does it. Mom always knew when something was up. Whether I was stealing cookies from the cookie jar, playing hooky at school, or sneaking out past curfew, mom knew immediately if not before. An all-knowing twinkle in her eyes and an “OK” was usually the reply to my elaborate regaling of guiltless excuses for acts I presumably did. I used to think that my siblings told her of my misbehavior but I’m coming to the conclusion that she never needed to ask. Let’s face it, Mom has a sixth sense! It’s out there, we’ve all experienced its effects, and it’s the only possible explanation.
Even though this super power has thwarted my devious plans many a time, it has also brought much comfort. Her extraordinary gift also allows her to see when I’m not feeling particularly great or when something has me down. Being the youngest boy, Mom never fails to baby me or to shower me with a little extra love in the form of rice crackers and seaweed snacks. On days where I wasn’t at my best, Mom was always there to have my back.
Mom, memories of your selflessness always make me smile and appreciate you more. When I was sick you would make me chicken noodle soup. When I was tired your shoulder was where I could rest my head. When I needed someone to talk to I could always come to you because I knew you’d be waiting with an open mind and listening ear. Thank you for always being there for me and loving me even though I still steal the cookies from the jar. I hope your sixth sense is letting you know from across the globe that I LOVE AND MISS YOU TREMENDOUSLY. Happy Mother’s Day!
Sibling #9: Food. One of the most coveted objects in the Stirling household. Every plan is based around what kind of food we want to eat later that day and how we will obtain that food. Mum is the saint who makes sure everyone constantly has food or has food saved for them. The first question that comes out of her mouth every day when I return from a long day of high school is, “Did you eat today?” This simple question shows how much she truly cares about each one of us, which is not an easy job because there are a lot of children to watch out for. I remember one time we went out to buy food and when we finally got past the long lines and made it safely to our car mum realized we had not gotten food for my older brother. She went back into that store and waited another long 20 minutes just to make sure that my brother got a good dinner. Her love and concern for us never ceases to amaze me.
Mum, thanks for always making sure that I eat enough food even though it is quite the struggle most of the time. I know you do it only because you love me :D. The dedication and effort you put into making sure that all of us are happy is one of the things I admire about you the most. I love you to the ends of the earth! Happy Mother’s Day! xoxo
Sibling #10: It never ceases to amaze me how mom manages to do everything: has time for us kids, and still has time to go above and beyond what she needs to. Now that I’m older I’ve noticed this one habit of mom’s: whenever one of us kids are out for the evening and don’t come home till late, mom stays up until we do. While dad will be fast asleep after one of his long days, mom will still be sitting up in bed waiting for the sound of the front door opening. After noticing this a couple of times, I asked her about it. She simply answered, “I can’t go to sleep I until my babies are safe, and it’s a mother’s job to be sure they are.”
Momma you’re so caring, kind, and always thinking of others first. You’re the best. I don’t know what I’d do without you. I love you!
Sharon, this was such a lovely post. I always enjoy reading about your incredible family – but this time, the stories about your mother are priceless. Thank you!
Mary, thank you so much for that kind compliment! I always enjoy writing about my family, but this time having all the siblings be a part of the process made it so much fun! And my mom’s response was, “I cried so much, I didn’t have enough tissues in my tissue box.” Priceless indeed!