An Incomplete List of Things I Wish My Mother Would Do

  1. Say, “I know you accuse me of only telling you about when someone dies but, [someone I will not immediately recognize] died on Thursday.”
  2. Buy another terracotta colored sweater.
  3. Listen to me complain about someone not doing something the way I think they should’ve done it and then remind me that “it takes all kinds of people to make the world go ’round.”
  4. Send a screenshot to the group text of a Facebook ad for a t-shirt about being a grammar snob and say “Laneia look.”
  5. Stare off into space.
  6. Fall asleep to the ID channel.
  7. Answer the question I meant to ask her last week.
  8. Tell me what I wrote for her funeral was perfect.
  9. Forgive me.
  10. Make the deviled eggs this year.
  11. Send me something that’s monogramed.
  12. Leave behind her airport copy of People magazine.
  13. Maintain that it’s good parenting to let kids sing the cuss words.
  14. Light a cigarette on the wrong end.
  15. Say that she loves me “muchly and morely.”
  16. Ask me to reheat her coffee again.
  17. Ask me to check the back of her hair for a flat spot and, should one exist, fluff it out with a purple and teal plastic pick and then spray the whole thing with Paul Mitchell Fast Drying Sculpting Spray.
  18. Say “Do what now?” instead of “What did you say?” or “Come again?” or even just “What?”
  19. Specify that she’d like the bacon to be extra crispy.
  20. Ask me when Eli’s high school graduation is again.
  21. Ask me to “fix [her] some ice water” and then rock the cup a little from side-to-side to make the water colder faster.
  22. Disregard my recommendation about a TV show that I already know she won’t watch.
  23. Complain about how hot the house is when the temperature creeps above 71°.
  24. Call me a blogger.
  25. Tell my girlfriend’s parents about the time she took my bedroom door off its hinges because I kept slamming it.
  26. Tell me to be quiet she’s on the phone.
  27. Tell me to slow down the speed limit is 60.
  28. Tell me again about the time they confiscated her brass knuckles in the 8th grade.
  29. Decline the sour cream on the baked potato.
  30. Tell her yet to be conceived great-grandchildren that “there’s nothing here in the dark that isn’t here in the light,” and then leave the hall light on anyway.
  31. Let me borrow that scarf.
  32. Tell everyone that I was “off finding [myself]” when I was simply living in California.
  33. Do the tip math in her head.
  34. Sing along to “Tiny Dancer” while she sweeps the dining room floor.
  35. Explain how she came to decide that I was old enough to watch Pet Sematary but not Dirty Dancing.
  36. Take off her bra after work and leave it on the arm of the sofa all night.
  37. Say that she thinks they make the commercials louder on purpose.
  38. Ask me if I want to come outside with her.
  39. Text me for Mema’s cheese ball recipe.
  40. Tell me that they doubled the Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice this time.
  41. Tell my girlfriend the story of the time she made me get on Space Mountain and as we rounded the first curve and I yelled “I am gonna puke!” that she believed me, and quickly made peace with the fact that she would likely be covered in it.
  42. Put a little pile of Fritos on a little paper towel.
  43. Wake me up.
  44. Request the cool toned edition of the Lancôme gift-with-purchase so she can send it to me.
  45. Stay up late watching M*A*S*H.
  46. Look at the menu beforehand.
  47. Lick an envelope flap in three places.
  48. Explain who someone is by telling me their parents’ names and occupations, who their cousin graduated with, any jersey number they might’ve had, who they dated in the late 90s.
  49. Tell me what we were doing this time last year; this time six months ago; this time last week.
  50. Tap my shoulders to the opening beat of “All I Want for Christmas” from the backseat.
  51. Roll down the window while letting me know that the smell of my watermelon bubblegum is making her nauseous.
  52. Annoy me.
  53. Embarrass me.
  54. Disappoint me.
  55. Agree with me.
  56. Need me.
  57. Call me.
  58. Hurt my feelings.
  59. Be too busy for me today.
  60. Put her earrings on last.
  61. Choose a nail color. Think better of it. But wait yeah, still choose that nail color.
  62. Ask me what size the boys are wearing now.
  63. Tell me where my rings are. (On the end table, 1993)
  64. Tell me where my rings are. (In the other jewelry box that’s still packed, 1999)
  65. Tell me where my rings are. (On the counter in the downstairs bathroom, 2003)
  66. Tell me where my rings are. (On the coffee table in a small glass dish, 2007)
  67. Tell me where my rings are. (On the counter in the downstairs bathroom, 2012)
  68. Tell me where my rings are. (She grabbed them from the center console so, in her jacket pocket, 2019)
  69. Tell me where my rings are. (In the garage? On the window ledge above the kitchen sink? Check my desk and the bathroom drawer, too. 2023) (Actual location: window ledge above the kitchen sink.)
  70. Grab a bottle of shower gel and lotion from her Bath & Body Works holiday stash in the closet under the stairs when I need a last minute Christmas gift.
  71. Slide the hangers across the rod — click, click, click, click — pause and say, “This is cute.” click, click, click.
  72. Tell my kids about the time she came back out to the car from the post office holding a 10 CD collection titled Time Life Presents the 60s, asking if I was aware of what COD actually meant.
  73. Fix my hair like Meg Ryan’s in Sleepless In Seattle, when they’re in the attic.
  74. Remind me of the time she sent my grandmother to pick me up several days early from 4-H camp because I was homesick.
  75. Call me at 6:43am central time on my 43rd birthday.
  76. Open her bathroom window upstairs because she got too hot blow-drying her hair.
  77. Recite a high school football cheer from memory.
  78. Find every four-leaf clover in a 100ft radius.
  79. Walk with me through the buffet line.
  80. Say that Little Miss Helpful was written about me.
  81. Defend her decision to lie to me about what happened to Camo, my calico cat, while I was at my dad’s house for the weekend.
  82. Turn 62 today.
  83. Order the fried zucchini.
  84. Assert that she would’ve made a good mob wife because she’s good at keeping secrets.
  85. Draw a small X on the windshield because a black cat walked in front of her car.
  86. Share any tips on surviving the bargaining stage.
  87. Say that actually she thinks she does have [absurd thing I just asked for] in her purse, hang on.
  88. Comb my hair after the shower.
  89. Lament losing her mother’s engagement ring in a field in 1976.
  90. Walk through the lobby of a government building in heels.
  91. Tell me it won’t always feel like this.
  92. Tell me I’ll be just fine, that I don’t have a choice.
  93. Tell me to restart “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” because I started talking.
  94. Wear the red t-shirt that has a picture of a basket with a note in it that reads, “Dear Dorothy, Took the slippers. Find your own way home. Love, Toto”
  95. Make sure I still have the stuffed Woodstock that came with her Snoopy.
  96. Put the dandelions in a bud vase.
  97. Say, “Well don’t you look spiffy.”
  98. Send me a grocery list the week before her flight.
  99. Prefer a booth if they have one.
  100. Answer on the first ring because she was just about to call me.

In a sunny photo from the early 80s, Laneia is a toddler with her back to the camera, wearing a white onesie and pulling her mother up from the grass so she'll follow her.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


lnj has written 310 articles for us.


  1. what a beautiful, ineffable piece Laneia. thank you for writing and sharing it. the love is so palpable. <3

  2. this made me cry, more than a little bit. to love someone this specifically is to love them very thoroughly, and a grief to match that must be enormous. thank you for sharing these snapshots of her and the two of you with us. holding you and your heart in care.

  3. Wow. This was beautiful. Thank you for sharing with us.

    I love how deliberated you notice things.

  4. This is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever written, and that is saying something. I love you, Laneia.

  5. Laneia, I’m so sorry you’re going through such grief. This is beautiful and really hit me hard (because I get it, I really, really do). Thank you for sharing this with us.

  6. Oh my God Laneia, this is so beautiful and just absolutely perfect. Also, it made me lose track of when and where I was so completely that I burst into tears on a super crowded train and almost missed my station. It messed me up in the best of ways. Thank you ❤

  7. oh laneia. i love you so much. i’m so sorry. may her memory be a blessing. thank you for sharing this with us. 💜

  8. i love you so much, this is so beautiful, my heart aches for you, your writing rips the door right off its hinges. thank you. <3

  9. Laneia, I see such a vibrant, clear picture of your mom from this list. A testament to the power and gift of your writing. 💛 I’m so sorry you have to experience this kind of grief. Thank you for sharing these glimpses of her with us.

    • P.S. I remember in 2016 I commented on something you’d written and asked how was your name pronounced? (Wondering if it was the same way mine is: La-NAY-ah.) You’d said your mom misheard the name as La-NEE-ah in a tv show, and for a time you’d tried using the other pronunciation but “this version of it was in my mom’s heart before she even saw me, so i’m sticking with her southern interpretation, bless it.”

  10. This was lovely and gentle and absolutely brutal. Sending you all the love and care. Thanks for letting us get to know your mom a little bit.

  11. Oh Laneia. This had me sobbing over my lunch. Thank you for sharing your mom and your grief with us. Sending you all the love.

  12. this was an emotional suckerpunch in the best ways. thank you for sharing her with us. sending you so much love

  13. This was so beautiful and brutal and honest and so obviously full of love. Thank you sharing it with us. May her memory be a blessing.

  14. Sometimes I feel grief for something that hasn’t happened yet, so many moments it has gotten close and I feel this acutely. You paint a beautiful picture of her and the humanity of everyday things. Thank you.

  15. I was holding it together until #100 and then lost it, since there is nothing I wouldn’t give to be able to call my mom. I’m so sorry for your loss; may her memory be a blessing. Thank you for sharing a bit about your mom — you made space for my grief too.

  16. I cried over this wayyy too late at night and then contemplated sending it to my own mother, because it is as beautiful as it is heartbreaking. Thank you for so generously sharing it with us.

  17. This is beautiful and I’m so sorry for your loss.

    (Put the dandelions in the bud vase is the one that got me. My mom did that when I was a kid).

  18. oh laneia. thank you for sharing your mom with us and may her memory be a blessing always

  19. Oh Laneia. Sending you all the love. Thank you for this. I’m crying on a park bench and gonna hug my impossible, perfect mom extra hard when I see her this afternoon ❤️

  20. What a beautiful and heart wrenching piece. Thank you for sharing this and so sorry for your immense loss.

  21. thank you all, for seeing my mom through my eyes for even a minute, and for holding us both in your hearts with these messages. i’m so grateful.

  22. This made me tear up, but #72 made me laugh out loud. I’m so so sorry for your loss.

  23. Laneia. Thank you. You capture the specificity and beauty and grace and ridiculousness and annoyance and irrepressible friction of family relationships that makes this resonate with so many of us. And of course you witness the specific spark of your mom, and your connection so evocatively, and with such lightness and depth. I’m so sorry that she is gone. I’m so glad she was here. Thank you for sharing her (and you) with us in this way.

  24. This is such a wonderful tribute. I’m so sorry for your loss. Sending you the biggest hugs and love!

  25. This is so beautiful (now I have tears in my eyes), thank you so much for sharing this with us!

  26. Laneia, my deepest condolences. May you find comfort knowing you are surrounded by love and caring. May her memory be for a blessing. Love, Maureen

Comments are closed.