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  • Writer's pictureKelli A. Wilkins

For Mother's Day - Little Lessons

In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m sharing an essay I wrote several years ago. I hope you enjoy it.


“I am your mother, and when I’m gone you’ll never have another.”

I remember my mother telling me that from time to time as I grew up. Maybe she said it because she lost her mother when I was five years old. Maybe she meant it to be a lesson, a precaution, a warning—people are special, unique individuals and should be cherished while they are here.

Most of life’s instructions are reflective. They come unannounced, without a proclamation declaring: “Here’s an important teaching!” They sneak up on you when you’re being, living, doing. How much easier would life be if we were told in advance, “Hey, pay attention to this and write it down. Don’t miss it, because it’s going to be crucial one day.” But that’s not how it works. Life has a way of happening to you before you realize it.

My mother is still teaching me, although now that we are both older, the topics have changed, and the subjects seem more serious. Now we discuss life, death, dealing with difficult people, what to do about a job you don’t like, or how to be happy.

She may not have all the answers, but she has sound advice and an opinion I value greatly. Somehow, mothers always know. I once told a friend that mothers must automatically be given all the information and wisdom they will need to impart on their child. She agreed. Is this a maternal instinct or merely the passing down of knowledge from generation to generation?

I learned many things from my easy-going mother, mostly from her sharing her life with me. There were no sit-down talks on how to live life or how to grow up to be a good person. No lectures or “I expect you to…” speeches.

There were no great tragedies or hardships in my life while growing up. We had plenty of food and a nice house in rural upstate New York. Everything wasn’t always roses and sunshine, but we were content. Maybe that’s why the values I learned and the lessons I was taught were simple. Don’t lie. Be nice. Take in abandoned animals. Act responsibly.

Perhaps the main thing my mother taught me was to be my own person, to develop my own sense of identity. Why do what everyone else does? “If they don’t like it, frig them!” she’d say. She still has that independent attitude.

My mother encouraged me to pursue my own hobbies and became interested in them without judgment. She went to concerts with me when I had no one else to go with. We listened to music together. She played her Roy Orbison and Jackie Wilson albums and told me stories about being raised in New Jersey. We were never bored and always had interesting diversions.

Growing up I’d often hear, “Let’s go have an adventure.” We’d soon be on our way to an indoor flea market, to visit one of her friends, or to shop at the record store forty minutes away in Albany.

Her parenting style was more liberal and hands-off than that of most other mothers. I was shocked to learn that many girls in my high school fought with, hated, and in some cases, never conversed with their mothers. To them, a mother was an authority figure, a demanding and restrictive parent. To me, “mother” meant friend and confidant, someone who loved and trusted me. Looking back now, I realize that I mostly kept out of trouble to spare her disappointment rather than because I feared her punishment.

I learned little things just by observing her in the kitchen or listening to her tell a story. Almost anything can be baked at 350 degrees in the oven; when making stuffed cabbage you have to roll them tight; and tar comes off your car windows with Coke.

Many teachings were more substantial. After supper on spring and summer evenings she’d say, “Let’s go outside and putter.” In our language, this translated into gardening.

Whenever we could, we’d go outside, sit on the front lawn and putter in the numerous flowerbeds. We’d plant petunias, move tulip bulbs, check on the impatients in the flowerbox, weed, and water. She taught me everything about gardening, explained the difference between annuals and perennials, and showed me which green thing was the weed and which one was the flower.

During these times we’d discuss life, relatives, school, her job, why people are the way they are, or whatever else came to mind. Again, I wish I’d had the foresight to write it all down and memorize every word, for I’m sure I missed a few lessons.

All of her knowledge and wisdom has been carried over into my gardens, my flowerbeds. Even to this day, there are times when I point to something growing and ask, “Is that a weed?” and she has the answer. Other people don’t know how to plant, grow, or enrich, but to me, it’s second nature.

Looking back, it seems that my mother was cultivating more than flowers in the garden.


In loving memory of my mother, who’s been gone for 6 years.



Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 20+ romance novels, and 6 mystery/horror ebooks. Her romances span many genres and settings, and she likes to scare readers with her horror and mystery stories.

Kelli released her fourth gay romance, A Thousand Summer Secrets, in April 2024. This tender contemporary romance takes place over a summer weekend, where two friends reconnect while seeking love and acceptance.

She published The Route 9 Killer, a mystery/thriller set in Central NJ, in early 2023.

Follow Kelli on her Facebook author page: and visit her website/blog for a full title list and social media links.

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