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30 tips Mother taught me

The author Lucy Torres-Gomez and her mom Julie Torres  

Dear Mom,

It’s Mother’s Day and I would like to thank you for some of the many things I learned from you. As you read through the list, you’ll find that a lot are quite random — small things that, upon digging deeper, I want you to know for sure are bundled with bigger ones. Like the best of memories, I now know that parenting is not just about the big moments.  The smaller ones count for just as much. And what I have learned from you I try my best to also apply to Juliana.

I credit you with the way I manage to still see the rosy in a world that could sometimes be overwhelmingly filled with mean people, bad news and sad events. In the worst of situations, you still seek and see God’s hands, and you comfort us by always saying that He will take care that everything falls into place as it should, when it should. The way you live your life has shown me that kindness is a gift that keeps on giving, how it is not a crime to stay longer in bed if you don’t feel well, that laughter really is the best medicine. All the funny bones my siblings and I have are from your side of the family, and through the years it has infected Daddy, square as he is. Thank you for reading us countless bedtime stories while we were growing up, and for indulging our every fantasy — I would wear your thick gold bangles and already I was Wonder Woman; you’d make me go to dressmaking so that Tita Jeanette’s sastre could make me gowns and dresses like the ones I saw in The King and I and The Sound of Music.  You allowed me to have a rose garden even if I did not know the first thing about growing roses (and you did not scold me or make me feel like a failure when the roses eventually died!). You reprimanded me for not seeing through on school projects I had lost interest in, but you would pick up where I left off and coax me to carry on. 

You’ve always been an ally, a friend, the one who covers each family member in prayer. Sometimes you drive us crazy with this desire of yours to solve all the problems of the world but that is part of who you are.  That is your quirk.  I’m sure we can all live with that.

So here’s that list. I can go on and on but I am disciplining myself to write down just the first 30 that come to mind, in no particular order. Thank you, Mother. This one’s for you:

1. The best way to clean and wipe down glass doors and windows without any streaks is by using old newspapers. Using rags will leave telltale marks.

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2. Buwad bolinao, also known as dilis fried to a crisp, is good in a sandwich. Use sliced white bread, slather with mayonnaise. Pile on the freshly fried dilis. Cover with another slice of bread. Bite into it.  The taste is so simple yet so delicious. 

3.  Always clean the back of ears daily.

4. Pond’s Cold Cream. You got this from Lola Carmen, and Caren and I learned it in turn from you.

5. Always use a serving spoon, and a tray, no elbows on the table, bring the food up to your lips instead of slouching to meet it from your plate, use a knife.

6. Embroider towels with initials of each family member. Yaya Juling and Yaya Hilda used to do this in Ormoc, and I have memories of them talking about life and love and everything else in between as they did this in the afternoons.

7. Use lotion on hands and feet so they never feel like sandpaper.

8. Dili mag usik usik. Anugon. Magabaan ta. (Do not waste anything, it is a shame to do that.  It’s bad karma.)

9. Ask Mama Mary for a good husband. Devote Wednesdays for this. So even as little girls my sister and I had to attend Wednesday Mass. I used to pray: “Dear God and Mama Mary, somewhere out there is a man who will be my husband. Guide and protect him, until we finally meet.” Something like that.  Although, since I knew God was God, I went as far as describing what my husband should look like: tall, dark, handsome, with strong shoulders, very responsible like my dad.  “God Kung pwede, hawig ni Richard Gomez” my movie star crush then. 

10. Respect privacy. Never open letters, or read messages not meant for you.

11. Do not pass on a story about someone, especially if the subject is delicate, or can tarnish a reputation.

12. Bathe in water boiled with bayabas leaves to heal scrapes and wounds and insect bites.

13. Never play in shorts. Always wear long pants.  So if we fall we do not get scars from wounds.

14. Baby oil and baby lotion after we bathe in the morning. Sponge bath again before sleeping a night. Brush teeth after every meal. 

15. Persevere. During Pope Francis’ visit there was a point when I wanted to give up because the crowd was so vast and I could not breathe because I get claustrophobic. I felt like fainting. But she said angels would help us until we reach our destination. It was a very long and very wet walk. But — one step at a time — we made it. 

16. Always go the extra mile for others.

17. Be generous.

18. Pray the rosary.

19. Give thoughtful presents.

20. Be appreciative of everything. Mommy never throws away souvenirs, wedding giveaways, no matter how ugly or tacky. Always in Mommy’s mind, the celebrant felt this or that was nice, and they spent for it. Must. Keep. It. So if you go to our house in Ormoc, there is a shallow cabinet, two of them actually, that span an entire wall and inside, resting among shelves as if they, too were members of the family, are all these giveaways dating back to the ‘70s. Mementoes of weddings, birthdays, trips, etc. All these odds and ends that were given as souvenirs.

21. Love your family. And always treat the helpers like family.

22. Blue and White plates.

23. The househelp will always look nicer and neater in uniforms.

24. Kneel in prayer.

25. Always seek your parents’ blessing. My Lola Carmen was very strict. If it were up to her, we would never be allowed to go anywhere. So the deal with Mommy was, even if Lola Carmen said no, we could ask permission from her. And following certain rules and a curfew, Mommy would give us her blessing to go out. She always said that a parent’s blessing was very important so that the child is covered in prayer.

26. Value time with family. Knowing especially that family dynamics will change when the kids start their own families. Time with family is precious. 

27. Saying what you mean, and meaning what you say. I have heard Mommy say countless times to people, “I will pray for you.”  And I want those people to know that she really does. Those are not just empty words. She prays for strangers the way she does for friends.

28. Don’t let your prayer time be the last thing you do. Let it be the first, and you will find that you will be able to do all that you set out to do. 

29. It is healthier to get a tutor. It is not very productive when a mother tutors her own child. Mommy would get frustrated when she tutored me in math and she would morph into this high-strung woman. So she finally got a tutor and life was better. I understood my lessons better because I was not gripped with fear of agitating her, and the mother-child relationship was not strained.  

30. Prepare a glass of rich, powdered milk.  Put it in the ref for several hours until it is very, very cold. Then enjoy it as it is very, very good.



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