My mother, Jean Peterson, laid a strong foundation for the woman I am today. To honor the investment that she has made in me and to express my gratitude for it, I wrote a tribute to her in 1987. Here is an excerpt of that tribute that she still has hanging on the wall in her home.
One of my most vivid and pleasant memories is of us kids watching you work and working with you. I remember weeding and planting flower beds in the spring. In the summer there was flower-bed maintenance and lawn work to do. When fall arrived there were leaves to be raked and storm windows to be returned to their protective duty. And then, as the snows came, our shovels kept the sidewalks and driveway clean.
There were inside duties as well—cleaning sinks and learning to wash dishes the right way. You taught me to sew, iron, embroider, and to finish what I started. I remember being told more than once, “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” Thank you for the gift of a strong work ethic from both experience and your example.
The gifts of character and common sense are now mine because of your model. I learned to value honesty, respect for my elders, and good manners. You taught me to conserve and not be wasteful and to value quality because it would endure.
I’m thankful to you for the gift of self-confidence. Though my self-esteem faltered during my teen years, you demonstrated that you trusted me, and I always knew you believed in me.
You also demonstrated trust by allowing me to express my creativity—at your expense! You let me decorate the house at Christmas, arrange flowers in the summer, and fix my room up the way I wanted. But the one that took the cake was when you let me paint the bathroom fire-engine red with white-and-black trim—something I don’t think I’d let my kids do. But I’m very grateful for that expression of trust, because it gave me a greater sense of self-confidence.
Another priceless gift was the gift of a good spiritual foundation. As we faithfully attended church, I learned the central importance of God in my life. Because we were always there, I memorized many of the great Christian hymns that I love to this day.
Because you loved me, you corrected my grammar, picked up my Kleenexes, and you let me go: to France, to college, and to Dennis. I’ll always remember how proud I felt as I walked down the aisle with Dad, and you both gave me away in marriage.
The last gift I mention is probably the greatest because it is foundational to all the others: the example of your marriage. I cannot recall a single argument or disagreement between you and Dad. It was apparent that you loved each other, cared for each other, and liked each other. I never felt insecure or fearful that you would leave one another or get a divorce. I treasure that gift of your good, solid, happy marriage. I attribute a great deal of the success of my marriage to the example I saw in yours.
With a heart of gratitude, I give you my appreciation, my admiration, and my love.
Her response to this note and the strength that it gives to our relationship, even 25 years later, is evidence of how meaningful it is to honor a parent. If you’d like help on writing your own tribute, check out Dennis’s twentieth anniversary edition of his book The Forgotten Commandment.