New York Times  Bestselling Author

If You Still Have a Mom. . .

I’m working on my next novel at Starbucks, sitting in a comfy chair, typing my manuscript as I sip my latte. Sharing the leather sofa across from me are three women, and I can’t take my eyes off them. My best guess is that they’re two middle-aged daughters sitting on either side of their elderly mother. They’re speaking in a foreign language–a Middle Eastern language, I think, although I can’t hear them well. The two younger women look very American. It’s the elderly woman who caught my attention as soon as she sat down. Her face is incredibly lined. I’ve never seen so many crinkles and wrinkles in one place, and she’s absolutely beautiful. I wish I could take a picture of her to share with you. She’s tiny, and she’s wearing a little beige hat that looks hand-knit. On the side of the hat is a small, floppy, coral-colored flower. I think she’s figured out I’m staring at her, so I’ll try to stop, even though her face is like a magnet for my eyes. I want her in a story. Maybe in the book I’m writing. I want to get up and hug her.

The younger women, soft mirrors of their mother, have a few lines on their faces too. They clearly love their mother. They’re talking non-stop and seem to be explaining something, using their hands to help in their descriptions. The older woman doesn’t say much. She nods and says “oh” from time to time, a tiny smile on her face as she sips from her Starbucks cup–which somehow looks incongruous in her hands. Her hands are not nearly as wrinkled as her face, and I notice she’s wearing identical rings on the ring finger of each hand. Each gold ring holds a single pearl in a large, round beaded setting, and I wish I knew the significance of wearing the identical rings. 

Have I mentioned how beautiful she is?

The younger women are oblivious to me, but the old one is not. I feel her eyes on me and wonder who or what she sees in me. A third daughter? One who’s missing? I glance at her one more time and suddenly understand my attraction to her. In her face, I see both of my grandmothers, long gone. I see my mother, who never looked this old, although she lived to be eighty-eight. I see all of them in her, and feel the pull. 

It’s time to leave. I turn off my Alphasmart and slip it, along with my notecards and synopsis, into my carry-all. I get up and walk past the leather sofa, but impulsively turn back and step in front of the women.

“I’m sorry I’ve been staring at you,” I say to the elderly woman, not knowing if she understands me or not. “It’s just that I think you’re very beautiful.”

The younger women smile and translate for their mother, who laughs and says “thank you.” One of the women says, “She’s our mother,” with more pride in her voice than those three little words can possibly hold.

I’m a little weepy by the time I reach my car. I want to take my mom to Starbucks. If you’re still lucky enough to have a mother or a grandmother, will you do that for me, please? You’ll make my day–and hers as well, I bet.  

ps. the beautiful woman in the picture is my Grandma Chamberlain on her 95th birthday.

28 Comments

  1. Gina on February 19, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    Oh, Diane. I love this particular blog and I love that picture of your grandma.
    I lost my grandmother a few years ago. She was my hero.

  2. Denise on February 20, 2009 at 12:39 am

    Ohmygosh, Diane, I started to cry half-way through this blog entry!
    I have spent so much more time with my mother over the past year. She has had a lot of health problems. She will be 80 next month, though, and I consider myself so blessed that I still have her, as well as my dad. I have no idea what I will do when they are gone.
    Lately I have noticed really old women a lot more than ever. I have no idea why this is, but I always wonder what kinds of stories they could tell me. I used to love sitting with my dad’s mother and hearing her stories of the ‘old days.’ I really miss that a lot.

  3. Denise on February 20, 2009 at 12:41 am

    P.S. I would take my mom to Starbucks on your behalf but she doesn’t like their coffee. Lol! I will take her to the St. Louis Bread Company tomorrow morning, though, before driving her to her weekly hair appointment. 🙂

  4. Margo on February 20, 2009 at 8:04 am

    Omigosh Diane, this blog is making me cry (but in a good way). Yes, I will take my mother to Starbucks this weekend and she will love having their hot chocolate with whip cream…and I will tell her we’re going there for Diane Chamberlain. Gary and I spend at least 4 days a week with my mother…usually on Sat we take her to a movie with us and then out to dinner. We are incredibly close to her and always have been…she is my very best girlfriend and I make every moment count with her…we also talk on the telephone everyday and sometimes twice a day.
    I love elderly people…they have so much wisdom and those beautiful wrinkles represent a million stories in their lives. My mother lives in a retirement village and we eat dinner in the main dining room with her probably 3 times a week…2 other couples join us who are in their 80’s and 90’s…they are wonderful people and have so much knowledge…Gary and I look forward to these dinners with them so much and listening to their extraordinary escapades!
    I think you have a real story working in your mind after seeing these 3 women Diane…and you know what? I bet you really made that woman’s day by telling her how beautiful she is…you’re wonderful Diane to make others feel good about themselves.

  5. Margo on February 20, 2009 at 8:06 am

    P.S….Diane, your grandma is absolutely lovely…what a wonderful picture to share with us.

  6. brenda on February 20, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Love the picture. This is my first computer visit in almost a week-been IN BED (not even the couch) with that horrible flu…this is the sickest I have been in ages-hope none of you get this.
    If I had my MOTHER, I would be so so so happy. I have lived l year past my MOther’s age…the doctors say that each year I have is a gift. (She was 60)…I have to get caught up this weekend with your BLOGS.

  7. Ann on February 20, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    What a beautiful grandmother and what a beautiful blog! I did get tears in my eyes with this one – I hope a lot of mothers are taken for coffee because you reminded daughters/sons what a privilege that would be.

  8. Diane Chamberlain on February 20, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    Ann, i love the idea that some moms were taken out this morning because of my post. 🙂
    Brenda, I’m glad you’re finally feeling better. Take care of yourself!

  9. Margo on February 20, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    Thinking of you Brenda…take care of yourself.

  10. ronnie on February 21, 2009 at 8:31 am

    Diane,
    I am incredibly touched by your blog. When my husband proposed to me (I was 25 and still living with my parents) I told him it was a packaged deal. My father had a heart condition and I knew he would predecease my mother. I told my husband I would not leave my mother alone (she was an invalid). So we got married and lived with my parents until my father decided to move to Florida in 1995. In 2000 my father passed away and we moved my mother back up to NY where she lived with us for the next 2 and 1/2 years. My mother died in 2002 and I found myself at age 40 being an orphan. I miss both my parents, but especially my mother, we were best friends, even when the roles got reversed and I became the “parent” and she was the “child”. I used to tell her it is not easy raising parents. Before she died I took her diamond heart and put it around my neck and said “your heart will always stay next to my heart.” Needless to say I never take it off. Now my husband and I live in Florida and my parents are buried down here.
    I can’t bring my mother to Starbucks but I can bring Starbucks to my mother. I will get a “decaf, skinny, vanilla latte, no foam” and go to the cemetery and drink it for my mom and tell her about how all this came about. Thank you Diane……

  11. brenda on February 21, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Ronnie, How wonderful…my mother was my best friend also. She had me at 15…she died at 60…I moved into her hospital room on 2/29/94…I lived there 24/7 until she died 6/2/94 of breast/bone/etc. cancer…it is still difficult…On a lighter note, if she were living, she would never drink Starbucks coffee…she would say, “Brenda Joyce…don’t you dare get me that fancy brew…” I can laugh thinking about it.
    Diane-thank you for this BLOG and bringing memories to us…never a day goes by that I do not think of Mother. Her last words to me, “Brenda Joyce…go back to college…become a teacher and tell your students that NOT ONE CIGARETTE was worth this ….”
    I have done that!!!

  12. brenda on February 21, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    How we love our favorite authors…I know this is a different topic-but this will tell you how faithful we can be to those like Diane, Delinsky, etc.
    At midnight on MOnday, (before I was sick), I was at our local Walmart to purchase the latest by B. Delinsky…My daughter and granddaughters were visiting from out of state (they left the next A.M. to avoid becoming quite ill)…they wanted the new H.S. Musical DVD also coming out the day of Delinsky’s novel…Well…behold…their “hip” Nana was able to get the DVD…but the store did not put out Delinsky’s novel…I was so aggravated…There we were waiting in line to purchase the DVD and the book (to no avail)…up way past their bed time–way way…holding the DVD…they were laughing and giggling…it was a Kodak moment…others in the store could not believe those little girls (the youngest was in bed at Nana’s)…I couldn’t believe I was doing it either…a moment they will NEVER forget…I, on the other hand, came home without my book…Had to share this with you girls…it was such an “exciting” time…now you know how “exciting” my life is…DOn’t doubt that wherever I am when Diane’s book is released…I will be there to get it.

  13. Diane Chamberlain on February 21, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Ronnie, your story of your mom put tears in MY eyes. and what a super husband you have. We lived with my Grandma Chamberalin and our lives were enriched in so many ways by that experience. I’m glad your mother is close enough to “visit.” I know it must give you comfort.
    Brenda, love your Walmart story! Your grandaughters have a grandmother they’ll always remember as well.

  14. brenda on February 21, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    WOWEE…a grandmother??? ME???THAT’S SCARY…but true…I have always been the hip NANA, but in reality, I am the loving grandmother they will remember…thanks Diane…I LOVED your story of the three women-a book there I think…

  15. Margo on February 21, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    All these stories have touched me in so many ways…Ronnie, I thought I was thru crying after reading Diane’s blog but yours got me weepy all over again. Brenda, I know how much you miss your mother…your children and grandchildren bring you so much joy which is a blessing.
    I treasure my mother everyday. Diane, we had cocoa at Starbucks with whipped cream and I told her your story and everyone else’s who made comments. Then, she started talking about her wonderful mother that I never knew. It was a good time to talk.

  16. brenda on February 21, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    Margo-you appreciate your mom more than anyone I know at this time…you are so so so blessed as is she.
    I am a little better–still up to getting dressed…I am emailing high school projects and the college…I just received notice that I will be back on college campus next fall (l class per week at night)…I took a leave from that job this semester-one that I love the most most most…they held the job for me. I love teaching, and my main job is high school-it is becoming so much more difficult each day–the parents and students have so much control-not so in college…Although my own children wish I would do the ONE JOB that is my living-the college job is my therapy…that and you guys…
    THANKS

  17. brenda on February 21, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    oops-NOT up to getting dressed…

  18. ronnie on February 21, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    I am not used to making people cry, I am usually the on to make everyone laugh.
    It seems to me that no matter how old you get you never get over not having your mother anymore. I am a stepmother and a grandmother but still I find myself in certain life situations and wish I could ask my mom what is the right thing to do, to say or especially to wear.
    Does that happen to any of you?

  19. Gina on February 21, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    Feel better soon Brenda!
    Just got back from the movie theatre after seeing Slumdog Millionaire. I am an emotional wreck! I loved this movie.
    I haven’t seen any of the other nominated movies, but I hope this wins.

  20. brenda on February 21, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    Thanks Gina…it is difficult living alone and being ill-but I make it work.
    Ronnie-so many times my daughter and I say, “Wouldn’t Grandma LOVE these three little girls???” We never get over losing our mothers. The book, MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS (?author) is nonfiction-given to me by my daughter in 1995…tells it like it is…we are the members of a “sorority”-those of us whose mothers are deceased…amazing book…I devour it often.

  21. brenda on February 21, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    I am up late watching the snow–have been in sick so long that I don’t even care if it snows. Just watched one of my top 3 movies-Bridges of Madison County…I cried my eyes out again…that mother in the movie is one in a million…I have the movie but avoid watching it unless it is on television-I need the commercials to contain myself. It is one MOVIE that I think is better than the book. IN 1996 I was studying Shakespeare at The Folger’s in D.C. and at Georgetown U with about 20 other teachers (we lived at Georgetown for a month) when we were chattering about the book in a small pub. When we were leaving, a gentleman walked over and offered to send me a picture of the Bridges…the real ones-he was a resident of Iowa. I told him that although I had been to Iowa, I had not seen the bridges…He did mail them to me…they were beautiful…what a movie…I could watch Streep and Eastwood a million times…when he stands in the rain, I can’t see through the tears. What do you ladies think about this one?

  22. Margo on February 22, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Brenda, I’ve been to the Bridges several times…it was a big thing in Iowa when Clint Eastwood and M Streep were here filming.
    Speaking of films, the Oscars are tonite…
    I liked the movie Brenda but the book more…
    As I said in my e-mail to you, I’d bring you soup if I lived near you…I hope you’re better today.

  23. brenda on February 22, 2009 at 11:13 am

    Margo-thanks. Also, I’ll reread my book to see if I did like the movie better-I think I did but not sure.I’ll bet it was exciting when they were making the movie.

  24. Diane Chamberlain on February 23, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Brenda, I wasn’t a fan of either the book or the movie. I’m certain that was because the subject matter–infidelity–hit a little too close to home for me at the time. I might have a different response to it now. Which just gave me an idea for a blog post. . .

  25. Glen on February 23, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    Diane, what an absolutely reminiscent telling of your observations. I never did answer the question about how my mom faired from her assualt at school because I thought I was getting too personal. Sorry y’all, just a guy thing. My mother got over the incident without missing a beat. Black and blue but the work still had to be done.
    She is an incredibly strong person without being overbearing. Quite the opposite, she is one of the most kind and generous persons you could ever meet. She is now 86 and bedridden with a horribly debiitating disease called PSP (progressive supra-nuclear palsy). She acquired this about 5years ago and is still surprising the doctors with longevity. Thus, her strong will. And she still says “Thank You” to her caregivers (when possible) and can still laugh at a joke by showing a determined smile.
    Diane, thank you for sharing this and to the others for their comments that keeps my mother ever present in my mind. I miss her so much and I love her.
    Your grandmother wears the endurance of time so gracefully, as did that entire generation.
    Thank You!

  26. Diane Chamberlain on February 23, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    Glen, you wrote a lovely tribute to your mother. I’m sure her caretakers appreciate those “thank yous”. There aren’t too many patients in your mother’s age range and condition who also have the ability to make their caretakers feel appreciated. I hope you get to visit her from time to time. I know how hard it is not to be geographically close. Hugs.

  27. Rob on February 24, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    Diane-
    Quite a shock to open your blog and see my grandmother. Yours too, of course. Do you have the picture I used in my album, of Gram and Mom sailing toy boats at Sunanto?
    Very nice piece. I am sitting at the laptop in my kitchen while my mother-in-law plays solitare across the table. She is another one who despises fancy coffee. So she gets a drip cup of black every AM here.

  28. Diane Chamberlain on February 25, 2009 at 10:14 am

    I bet it WAS an odd feeling to see Gram when you checked my blog! I do have that picture with the toy boats at SuNanTo (our family’s long-ago summer home), but the only copy I have is blown up huge and hanging in my dining room. I love it. Tell your mom-in-law I’m thinking of her and I hope she wins at solitaire more than she loses.

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