So many of you have gotten to know my luminary of a mother through my frequent references to her and her exceptional kindness, devotion, and empathy that she’s cultivated her own celebrity status around these parts. And oh my, is it deserved. I’m almost at a loss for words as to how I can describe her pithily here, but suffice to say that she is my best friend, my greatest role model, my trusted sounding board, and everything to which I aspire in life.
Elaine was born in Washington, D.C., the fifth of seven children in a tight-knit, very Catholic family. She attended Stone Ridge High School (though all of her own four daughters attended Visitation or the National Cathedral School — traitors! — but this fact, too, serves as a reflection of her deep and selfless dedication to the wellbeing of her children, as she preferred to find the best possible school for each of us versus craft some sort of matrilineal legacy) and then Marymount College before pursuing certification to become a Montessori school teacher, which she happily and competently exercised until after she had married my father and was expecting the first of her five children. She has since been a full-time mother and home-maker, rule-maker and rule-enforcer, devoted wife, volunteer, support system to about half the women in the D.C. area, speed-reader, etiquette guru, expert-level shopper, Zumba dancer, and tenured philanthropist. And so you can see that my mother is many things, but any tribute to her must acknowledge that she is first and foremost a devout Catholic. If perchance a pair of sunglasses goes missing, you are more likely to find yourself praying to St. Anthony alongside her than actually looking for said object. I have leaned on her rock-solid faith throughout my life, finding myself the fortunate beneficiary of thousands of decades of the rosary, which she says daily on her morning walk around the neighborhood in support of a long and rotating list of intentions. (Many of my friends’ names have found their way onto this list, occasionally or in fact mainly without their knowledge. “Mom, can you add so-and-so to the list? She’s going through a tough time.“) And when I found myself alone in a taxi cab on the way to Mount Sinai Hospital having regular contractions at 32 weeks pregnant, I called her, sobbing, and she sat on the other end of the phone and prayed the Hail Mary with me until my tears had abated and I was able to make it through a prayer without losing my voice.
How many times I have called her in moments of duress, confusion, hurt, agony — and how many times she has calmly listened and sorted it all out, usually and most poignantly through the intercession of Saint Mary.
Don’t let her saintliness and decorousness fool you, though: my mother is also quick to laugh, down to earth, and supremely approachable. She’s been known to shock all of us with an unexpected wisecrack, and it has occasionally been said that she could make conversation with a brick wall.
But where I see her shine brightest (and of course this is heavily biased by my privileged role as her daughter) is as a mother. She is practical. She is never over-fussy or overbearing. She is patient, affectionate, encouraging, involved, present — and yet has nurtured our independence, curiosity, and self-sufficiency in all things. She is easy with words of affection but will tell it to you straight when you need to hear it. She is, in short, #momgoals. I think I may need to write a follow-up post interviewing her on her approach to parenting, in fact, but for now, while I have her pinned down — her answers to my Proust Questionnaire.
Favorite qualities in a woman.
Kindness, humility and being a good listener.
Your favorite heroine.
The Blessed Virgin Mary. I can’t imagine how difficult her life was, and she accepted it with such grace.
Your main fault.
My greatest strength.
Your idea of happiness.
Being with my family.
Your idea of misery.
Being a shoe salesperson! And being without my family.
Currently at the top of your shopping list list.
Desert island beauty product.
Last thing you bought.
I feel most empowered wearing:
My favorite Magpie Post:
Elaine-Inspired Shopping Finds.
First, never have I ever seen anything more my mother than this pearl-encrusted cashmere sweater (on super super sale).
Second, all of these things are so Elaine it hurts:
+Cuyana leather tote (<<one of her all-time favorite purchases).
+Alexis shirtdress (on super sale!)
+Arcona Triad Toner Pads. My mom and I love these so much — such a great, easy way to refresh, cleanse, and tone skin. And we especially love a good deal (get a duo for a great value during the Nordstrom Sale).
+Linen placemats. My mother sets a proper table every single day, even when it’s only she and my father and they’re eating frozen pizza. (Which doesn’t happen often, but when it does…it’s still on china with linen napkins.)
+Chinoiserie wood bench. So my mom’s style, especially in that sunny shade of yellow.
+Lladro Madonna. My mom has an expansive collection of Lladro porcelain, the centerpeice of which is her elaborate Christmas creche.
+8 Hour Cream. She’s been putting this on us since we were wee ones — every burn, scratch, chapped lip, hang nail got the same treatment. She often carries it in the lipstick form in her purse.
+Cuyana cardholder. For her daily rosary walks, so she can just carry the essentials.
+Pique husband pillow. Just the kind of old school home affordance you’d find on my mom’s bed. (She also has things like bed trays for breakfast in bed and toast holders.)
+Bernardaud teapot. My mom has a beautiful collection of china and she often brings them out for her formal teas, of which she’s thrown many in her day.
+Lady Dior Bag. My mom inherited one from my elegant grandmother!
+Burberry quilted coat. This is so my mom. I feel like it was invented for her.
+Cashmere travel scarf. My mom owns these in every single color.
P.S. My mom is something of a beauty junkie. She’s said on many occasions that she has more than enough bath/beauty products to last her multiple lifetimes. She’s driven me to buy most of the beauty must-haves in my medicine cabinet.
P.P.S. My mother’s summer must-haves are included in this roundup.
P.P.P.S. She was how she kept time. Ugh, my heart.