A Mother Knows by Lynn Ruth Miller

Not all women who have children are mothers. You can tell a true mother by the penetrating look in her eye. A mother always knows everything about you. Absolutely everything.

I had such a mother. I could hide nothing from her. When I would walk into the house after pigging out on chocolate cake at the neighbor’s, she would glance at me and say, “How many times do I have to tell you not to eat between meals? No dessert for you tonight, young lady.”

I looked at her, dumbfounded: How could she see across the street and through the walls of my friend’s house, while she was cleaning the bathroom floor?

“How did you know that?” I asked, wiping crumbs from my chin.

“A mother always knows,” she said. “I can read your forehead.”

When I would race into the house from school, my eyes popping like a choked fish, my mother would simply point to the bathroom door. “How did you know I had to go?” I asked.

My mother would shrug. “I read it on your forehead.”

Her amazing knowledge of things she could not see sharpened the farther away I was from home. I arrived at college my freshman year, disoriented and lonesome for the very place I had denounced as a suffocating prison a few hours before. As I settled down on the dormitory bed for a good cry, my mother walked in the door.

“You forgot your pillow,” she said and handed me the very one I had used the night before.

I had done my own packing and had shut the door to my room when we left the house to drive to Ann Arbor. My mother was so nearsighted she couldn’t see products on the supermarket shelf without her glasses. How could she possibly make out the print on a forehead sixty miles away? Apparently, my mother could also hear the thoughts rattling around in my brain, for she then answered my unspoken question.

“A mother always knows,” she said. “I also brought you some brownies and Rosemary Clooney’s latest record release.”

In my late twenties, I was in a terrible automobile accident. By that time, I had graduated from college and moved out of my mother’s house. One night my mother, who always retired promptly at ten with a potboiler novel and a glass of warm milk, decided to watch the eleven o’clock news. She saw a stretcher move across the screen, the body on it flat as a pile of magazines except for two tremendous feet protruding from the sheet. My mother sat up and shook my father awake.

“Get dressed,” she said. “We need to get to the hospital. That’s Lynn Ruth.”

Time did not diminish my mother’s amazing intuition. In fact, it became sharper as I grew older. When I began my job search, she knew the results of my interview before I received the rejection letters. After I’d moved across the country, I sustained serious injuries from a random violent assault. I returned from the hospital with stitches and bruises all over my body. As I staggered into my bedroom, the telephone rang. It was my mother.

“Lynn Ruth,” she said. “Tell me what happened.”

She knew.

Five years later my mother succumbed to cancer. Although I called her every night, I did not go to her until my urge to see her suddenly overwhelmed me. I flew home the next day. She was so small I could barely locate her among the pillows, sheets, and instruments keeping her alive. She held out her wasted arms to embrace me.

“Oh, Lynnie,” she whispered. “How did you guess how much I wanted you here?”

“I read it on your forehead,” I said through my tears.

“In California?” asked my mother.

I realized then that all women have mothers, but only a few are lucky enough to become daughters in time. I hugged my mother and said, “A daughter always knows.”


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