The Best Gift I Ever Received from my Mom: After A While…

Date posted: May 22, 2013 | By:

Just in time for graduation, I want to share this with you.

The best gift I ever received was from my mother.


Clarice McCoy, my Mother

It was Christmas Day 1995. My senior year of high school.

I was sitting on the stairs of our new townhouse that she had bought following a long-overdue divorce, from my father, after 29 years of marriage.

We were depleted emotionally, physically and spiritually; and, yet, we were also strangely renewed.

When I unwrapped the gift and laid the pretty paper aside, I saw in my hands, a bubblegum-pink tome of a book, “Miss Manners: A Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior”.

I laughed. If you know me, you understand! I immediately loved it!
I mean it was pink! DINGBubblegum pink at that! DING DING!!

Aaaaand it was a 745 page book about good manners, being nice and being a lady.


Miss Manners by Judith Martin

I ran over to Mom and hugged & kissed her. I felt so proud of, and for, this woman who had recently recovered from the aforementioned divorce AND raising a daughter and son lovingly while living with Interconnective Tissue Disease (a hateful combo disease of Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis).

My Nanny (my mom’s mom and the other beloved matriarch in my life) was there too. I remember that there was such a peace to her that Christmas – like, “Okay, now my baby girl is happy and on her own and all is good in the world. Thank you, God.”

Unbeknownst to us, at the time, it would be her last Christmas.

As I was hugging my Mom, she asked me, “Did you look inside?”
I shook my head no. She told me, “You really want to look inside.”
Inside was the best present I have ever been given.

See, years before – when I was 13 – I had found a quote in a Dear Abby column during our morning newspaper reads at La Madeleine. A small piece of prose that I had just fallen in love with. I had torn out the piece from the paper, recorded it in my quote book and kept it on my bulletin board for YEARS.

I just knew, at the time, that these words would give me great comfort in life. It was a quote-soulmate, if you will. Here ’tis:

After a while you learn
that even sunshine burns
if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden
and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting for someone
to bring you flowers.

Wow. I was hooked.
At that time, I had told my Mom, “If you ever find the poet or whole poem that this belongs to, please buy it or cut it out of the periodical for me. Pretty please!”
I said that knowing that the request would be lost in time. And I too forgot…after a while.

Now, 5 years later, that very poem, in its entirety, was written HERE in my Mother’s beautiful cursive handwriting on the inside front PINK pages of this book that would become one of my most prized possessions.
She had inscribed:

To Dawn, My Southern Sweetheart and My Southern Belle, here is everything you need to know about “Correct Behavior”. May all your dreams come true! You’re already the most gracious Southern Lady I know. Love and Kisses, Mom (Christmas 95)

Then on the second page was this treasure:

“After A While” by Veronica A. Shofstall

After A While 

(Veronica A. Shoffstall, copyright 1971)

After a while, you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul. and you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning and company doesn’t always mean security.

And you begin to learn
that kisses aren’t contracts
and presents aren’t promises.
And you begin to accept your defeats
with your head up and your eyes ahead
with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.
And you learn to build all your roads on today
because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans
and futures have a way of falling down
in mid-flight.


After a while, you learn
that even sunshine burns
if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden
and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting for someone
to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure,
you really are strong,
you really do have worth,
and you learn,
and you learn - 
with every goodbye, you learn…

Love you the whole wide world
and back again,

Well, as I had predicted at 13, I came to rely on these words very much over the years.

Deaths of loved ones that I could’t bear to live without,

friendships that seemed like they’d never end…that ended,

love that was lovely but wasn’t meant to last forever (“kisses aren’t contracts”),

and plans, of a future, that definitely have a way of “falling down in mid-flight”.

But, you know what?
I learned.

I have learned and learned and continue to learn so much every day.

And I am so grateful. I am a better woman, daughter, sister, friend, girlfriend, and, (perhaps, one day) wife and mother because of these difficult lessons learned.

Sometimes you learn things you never even knew you needed to learn! With every goodbye, I did learn. But with every hello, I do, too.

And I would never take any one of those lessons back.

I planted my own garden and tend to it as best I can every day, continue to decorate my own soul (and house and this blog and…), and, well, I’ve learned that with every goodbye you do learn, that you really can endureyou really are strong and you really do have worth.

So, THANK YOU MOM, for remembering my little 13-year old heart’s wish and giving me the grace of a woman at such a young age.

I love YOU the whole wide world and back again.




BF Suggests: Share this with your daughter, or mom, or friend. It truly is a gift!



Posted in Family, Gift Ideas, Uncategorized | Tags:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>