The Best Gift My Mom Gave Me by Laura Kelly Fanucci

What’s the best gift your mom gave you?  That’s the question behind my new series of guest-posts.  Today I’m delighted to welcome Laura Kelly Fanucci to share her thoughts! Laura is a Research Associate at the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. She also writes the wonderful Mothering Spirit blog, all about the vocation of motherhood and its many faces and phases.  She’s the proud mother of two boys, one who is 2 years old and one who is a wee two months.  Thank you so much for sharing your insights here, Laura!  

I was 12 years old, packing to leave for camp for the first time. Two weeks away in the woods of Minnesota, which now seemed like the far side of the moon. I was thrilled and terrified all at once. When my mom came into the room and sat on the edge of my bed.

“Do you have everything you need?” she asked gently. And I burst into tears.

She pulled me next to her and smoothed my hair from my forehead. I felt like a baby: wasn’t I supposed to be excited about leaving home for two whole weeks? Wasn’t I supposed to be grown-up and ready for an adventure all my own, at the ripe old age of twelve?

Instead of babbling about all the new things I would learn and friends I would make, as I’d done for weeks over the dinner table, I started blubbering about everything I would miss while at camp. “What about all the fun stuff you’re going to do while I’m gone?” I wailed.

She turned my tear-streaked face towards hers and smiled. “You know exactly what things will be like while you’re gone. It’ll be the same as it always is. So you can go and know that this will all be here when you come home. The same as always.”

Her reassuring words came flooding back when she penned a letter to me at camp the next week: “You can picture us here at home; you know exactly what we’re doing. So you don’t have to worry about missing anything – it will all be here when you get back.”

The best gift my mom gave me was a safe, sure place to leave.

As a mother and a homemaker, my mom worked hard to create a home that was warm, beautiful, and welcoming to all who entered. And it was also consistent – a gift that I now treasure after all the changes of my life.

Dinners were always delicious. Shelves were always stacked with books. Rooms were always filled with music. In the midst of life as a family of seven, we each had our own space to play, time to dream, and freedom to imagine.

So when my older brother got sick, and our family schedule shifted to include chemo appointments and radiation treatments, the consistency never changed. There were still warm dinners on the table, good books to read together, soft music playing in every room. Even as life slowly crumbled around us, home was safe, steady, secure.

Today, in the midst of the chaos of raising two small boys, I marvel at how she did it. How she had supper on the table on the day of his funeral. How she got us all washed and dressed and off to school every morning in the months that followed. How she never lost her joy in our family even in the midst of her deep grief.

So when she told my teary twelve year-old self that nothing would change while I was at camp, I believed her. When I hugged her at the airport as I left to study abroad and she told me that it was good to go, I believed her. And when I stuffed my worldly belongings into a U-Haul to move across the country, she let me leave, assuring me that I would always have a home here, too.

A home that was safe and sure. A home that stayed the same even as life changed. Just like the home that I now try to make for my own children. Full of good food and books and music and people who love them, no matter what.


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