I am my mother

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Mother and son at a wedding at the Plaza in NYC.

My mom is obsessed with getting the perfect table in a restaurant. The joke was that the first sitting was just so she could have a moment to look around the restaurant and find a more ideal table before requesting to switch. Growing up we were used to this so we just let her drive that train whenever we went out. To me it was always a funny anecdote about my mom, until I started dating Sam.

We sat down at a cafe once, and I noticed he didn’t take off his jacket and was only half sitting in the chair. When I asked if he was going somewhere he didn’t stop texting but added “I’m just waiting for you to choose a better table.”

“What are you talking about? I don’t do that. My mom does that.”

“OK.”

His patience with it was even more infuriating. He was not complaining, he had no issue with it, he had just completely accepted it, and was apparently living in “reality.”

“We’re not done talking about this,” I pouted, quickly scanning the restaurant. “And if you’d like to finish you can join me at the table by the window which just opened up.”

I was driving with my mom once — of course she was driving and I was in the passenger seat, with the window cracked a few inches for air. Suddenly she closed my window from the driver side. When I asked what she was doing she replied matter-of-factly, “you’re cold.”

Thank God she was with me – I hadn’t even realized.

As an Airbnb host, I can see my mother’s influence on a daily basis.

If a guest is reading in a dimly lit room they may as well be a drowning child. Thankfully I’m there to swoop in and turn on the lamp that is right next to them.

I’ve also gone into the guest room WHILE THEY WERE IN IT and opened the blinds for them or cracked the window, biting my lip to not add “it’s so stuffy in here – I don’t know how you stand it.”

I’ve brought an unrequested blanket out to a guest watching TV, literally laid it over them, and walked away. You’d think I’d feel the need to add something like “Don’t worry — I’ve inherited my mother’s magical abilities to assess other people’s body temperatures.” But no — I’m just a total stranger, swaddling them in a blanket and leaving the room.

Honestly, I’m lucky to have inherited even a tiny portion of who my mom is — she’s truly a superhero.

After my parent’s divorce, my mom raised 3 kids on her own, worked a full-time day job while getting a business degree at night, and after graduation started her own biotech recruiting company.

She’s a natural beauty with a spectacular wardrobe and always dressed to kill. Parents’ night at school was usually a gaggle of frumpy, middle-aged women left slack-jawed when the door burst open and in walked Alexis Carrington – even my teachers were intimidated.

Daphne Lewis – my beautiful mom.

But she didn’t just rely on her appearance — she was successful because she always put others first, both personally and professionally. She still invites every single person she knows to Thanksgiving to ensure no one is spending a holiday alone. She refuses to hang up on telemarketers, and will spend 5 minutes apologizing for not wanting what they’re selling. She has literally taken a homeless women to an ATM so she could withdraw more money for her. When I finally came out to her over the phone at 27, she insisted on flying to LA the next day to meet my boyfriend.

My friend Derek loves to tell the story of walking with my mom and I on a cold San Francisco morning. When Derek mentioned getting something to eat, mom said “I’ve got muffins,” and handed one to each of us. After a moment, Derek pulled me aside and whispered, “Paul, the muffins are still warm. She just pulled a hot meal out of her purse.”

I could only shrug. “I know. She’s like that.”

Over the years she’s tried in vain to instill in me some kind of work ethic — as a child I can still hear her trying to teach me the phrase “elbow grease” as it pertains to scrubbing a bathtub.

Can you imagine me “scrubbing” something? 40 years later, my idea of hard work is spending a week at a luxury spa, writing a one-paragraph review for a travel magazine, and then complaining about my “exhausting” travel schedule.

At 66 mom was featured in Divas, Dames & Dolls, a book about remarkable women, because OF COURSE SHE WAS.

Even retirement (or “re-wirement” as she called it) didn’t slow her down. She began to volunteer full time at the Red Cross in San Francisco, and in her 70s still spends her vacation every year building houses around the world for Habitat for Humanity.

Her commitment to volunteering is one thing I don’t have — at least not yet. While my 79-year-old mother is mixing cement and lugging rebar in Tibet, I’m in sunny LA wearing sandals because my back hurts if I have to bend over to tie my shoe.

But seeing these little Daphne-isms in myself today just reminds me how lucky I am to have her as a mom. The compassion she taught me has informed my writing, drove my career at HERO Magazine, Pallotta Teamworks, and the Ellen Show, and made me a great Airbnb host. The truth is, I may never become the superhero my mom is, but I do occasionally get to borrow the cape.

And while I may be my father in my head, my heart is pure mom.

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