Mom was her moral compass
Preschool teacher's book tribute to loving, spiritual woman.
BY AMY BERTRAND St. Louis Post-Dispatch Lifestyles Editor
Linda O'Connell has published 13 essays in Chicken Soup and other books. But the one she published most recently, in a book called "The Ultimate Mom: Uplifting Stories, Endearing Photos, and the Best Experts' Advice on the Toughest Job You'll Ever Love," has been the most personal for her. It is about her mom.
"My mom passed away two years ago at this time. I feel like this is a tribute to the woman who pointed my moral compass in the right direction."
How did you get involved in writing essays for books?
Ten years ago I saw a call out in the Suburban Journals. The editor for "Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul" was seeking true personal stories. I'm not much of a gardener, but I had a unique experience with a flower that bloomed outdoors in winter. They selected my inspirational story, and I have been submitting personal essays ever since.
Tell us about the story you tell in your essay for the "Ultimate Mom" book:
My story, "Mama Left Her Handprint," is about telling the truth. When I was 5 years old, my mother saw the insurance man strolling up the walk to collect his weekly premium. She said, "Honey, tell him I'm not home and to come back on Friday."
I was aghast! "But Mama, you said I should never tell a lie."
She said she'd step out back, and it wouldn't be a lie. Conflicted, my moral compass going crazy, I decided to tell the truth. I greeted the man and said, "My mama told me to tell you she's not home and to come back on Friday." With that, he guffawed and said, "Okay, Virginia, come on out. Your little girl just told on you." Mom gave me the "mother look", and I waited all day for the handorint on my bottom, which never came. Later she told me I'd done the right thing.
What did your mom mean to you growing up?
We didn't have many luxuries in the '50s, and sometimes we didn't have the basics. But mom made it clear that although we were poor in material possessions, we were rich in spiritual faith and love. I can remember sitting on the sloping lawn making clover necklaces with her on muggy evenings. At bedtime, she bathed my younger brother and me, tickled our backs and fanned us with a magazine to cool us off.
What influence has she had in raising your own kids?
My mother was very instrumental in my life; in fact after I had children, she was a constant presence. she drove me crazy with phone calls and visited every other day. She was very loving, doting grandma.
What's the biggest lesson your mom taught you?
Mom taught me generosity; she believed that what you give away comes back to you wheteher it is money to the needy, a material possession, a kind word or gesture. She taught me to believe in myself and never to judge people based on appearance or the initials before or after their name. She also taught me about God; her faith was very important to her.
Nice interview. Would love to read the entire story.
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