How A Mother’s Love Really Does Change Everything

Today’s post by author Sally Koslow | @SallyKoslow

Sally Koslow’s new novel, THE WIDOW WALTZ, is about the bond between mother’s and daughters. Today Sally is sharing a bit of her story with her own mom with us. It’s a moving tribute to the things we take for granted when we’re young. And since we have a copy of THE WIDOW WALTZ up for grabs today (see entry form below) we’d would love to hear from you as well. What do you love and remember about your mother?

Sally Koslow

Sally Koslow

In my childhood, women baked in self-defense. If Fargo, North Dakota, had any bakeries, they must have been hidden in underground silos. If you wanted a decent dessert, you (a) drove 221 miles north to Winnipeg, (b) drove 235 miles southeast to Minneapolis or (c) greased a pan and pre-heated the oven to 350 degrees. Sensible women chose (c).

Until my mother detoured into Bundt-land–her default recipe featured instant pudding, vodka and Galliano— she prepared treats every Friday: pies; prune bread (sounds vile, tasted heavenly),  a parade of cookies, bars and many cakes–airy angel food, heart-shaped layers for Valentine’s Day and sheet cakes crowned with broiled coconut or her mother’s seven-minute frosting.When I went off to college, Mom shipped me butterscotch oatmeal cookies in coffee cans. I suspect my boyfriend—now, husband–stuck around because he had a crush on the cookies, not me.

My mother never considered her baking special, so neither did I and spent my adolescence longing for a mom who spent more time buttering my ego while sharing wisdom to help me become irresistible to boys. I wanted CoCo-Chanel- meets-Jackie-O. What I got was a life member of Hadassah in orthopedic wedges with anklets whose hair-flair flatlined at pin curls and who, at the first rumble of stress, crashed with a migraine.

I yearned for a storybook mother-daughter relationship past the time I, too, became a mom. Then, abruptly, the fantasy imploded. I took my mother to a concert at the Metropolitan Museum which she insisted was the University of Minnesota, where she’d gone to college. I didn’t need a diagnosis of dementia–that came the next year–to guess what was happening, although Mom was younger than I am now. For the next few weeks, I couldn’t staunch my tears–for her tragedy and if I was being honest, for mine: the bond I dreamed of, measured by the high standards of my imagination, was never going to happen.

Soon, my mother forgot who I was. When we visited her new residence, a nursing home creepily decorated with patients’ childlike artwork, my husband and I tried to penetrate the maximum-security prison that is dementia. “Do you remember the recipe for those cookies you sent Sally at college?” he asked one afternoon. Recognition twinkled. “I forgot that recipe a long time ago,” my mom joked. It was the last coherent sentence I ever heard her utter.

Two years after my mother’s death, I had a dream. She was preparing Thanksgiving dinner and for dessert, she’d baked pumpkin pie, for which she gave me pointers:  “Plain whipped cream has no taste. Always add vanilla and confectioners’ sugar.” As she showed me the amounts, her voice was strong and her demeanor, alive.

I woke with a smile. The dream was both hello and good-bye.

When a friend has a dinner party, I’m the one who always volunteers to bring dessert. As I bake, often from recipes in my mom’s handwriting, I hear her Marge accent that I left in Fargo. “Refrigerate the dough.” “Don’t make a crust if the kitchen’s muggy.” “Take the eggs out early to get to room temperature.” “When you measure, accuracy counts–baking depends on chemical reactions.” I’m back in our childhood kitchen. Outside, sun bounces off snowdrifts, but inside, it’s cozy, warmed by the legacy of my mother’s love.

* * *

The Widow WaltzChosen by People and USA Today as a Great Summer Read

Georgia Waltz has an enviable life: a plush Manhattan apartment, a Hamptons beach house, two bright twenty-something daughters, and a seemingly perfect marriage. But when Ben dies suddenly, she discovers that her perfect lawyer-husband has left them nearly penniless. As Georgia scrambles to support the family, she and her daughters plumb for the grit required to reinvent their lives, and Georgia even finds that new love is possible in the land of Spanx.

Inspiring, funny, and deeply satisfying, The Widow Waltz is a compulsively readable tale of forgiveness, healing, and the bonds between mothers and daughters.

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About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS (2014), FLIGHT OF DREAMS (2016), and I WAS ANASTASIA (2018). Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, One Book One County, and Book of the Month Club selections. She is the co-founder of and lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her family.

28 Responses to How A Mother’s Love Really Does Change Everything

  1. Carl May 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Thanks for the great story, I enjoyed that very much. Strangely, I remember my Mom at her best when I do the laundry. I always helped her with it when I was little and now it just takes me back.

  2. Bonnie K. May 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    What a nice story. Dealing with a loved one with dementia is hard. It’s a good thing to have some memories; especially, good ones. My husband’s mother has dementia, and he and his siblings are doing their best for her.

  3. Gwyn May 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    This sounds like a great story! I grew up on a dairy farm in Minnesota, my mom taught me how to bake and cook! My mom is now in a nursing home due to health reasons but she always comments on the food she eats and how she could do it better!!

  4. Becky May 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Being a mom now myself- I now am amazed at everything my mom managed. She is an amazing cook, gardener, seamstress- she passed on the gardening bug to me but my skills in the other two departments lag way behind!!

  5. Susan S May 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    My mom has set a great example for us with her faith – every day you can find her reading her bible and going through her prayer list on our behalf.

  6. Anita May 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Wow what beautiful words to share. My mom is 86 and she doesn’t cook much anymore, but she is an amazing pie maker too. The simple things of my youth are the ones I now hold the most dear in my heart.

  7. Paula Dolin May 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    My mom was an excellent cook, seamstress and hostess. She is now suffering from Alzheimer’s so she doesn’t do any of those things any longer, but she still knows us all.

  8. Brooke May 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Definitely on my summer reads list! Thank you for the suggestion!

  9. Kathy May 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I like to read about how people respond in times of difficulty and gauge their decisions against what I would do. This book seems like one where the widow must make tough decisions. I hope she finds fulfillment as she enters another phase of life. My mom is 92 and still mentally competent, despite her ongoing Parkinson’s Disease. The best memories I have of Mom is when she flew out to help me when I had my first son. She stayed for a month and gave me some precious memories of her love and care.

  10. Katherine Jones May 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    This one’s already on my pile, and now I look forward to it more than ever.

  11. nylse May 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I have not read a sarah jio novel but would love to.


  12. DinT May 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I have not read one and am glad to have been introduced to SarahJio novels on your blog.

  13. sally koslow May 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    It’s an honor to be on SheReads, and I am thoroughly enjoying your comments. Thank you for taking the time ego share them, with a special hello to those who plan to read The Widow Waltz.
    Sally Koslow

  14. Susan Gruener May 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    So sorry for Sally’s loss…my own mom is 85, doing fairly well, but I do see things starting to slip in conversations with her. I guess we, like Sally, will always have the great memories of growing up with our moms when they were younger. So glad for Heaven some day…when all will be well again!
    Thanks for the opportunity to win a great summer read!

  15. sally koslow May 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    Many thanks, Susan

  16. Debbie D May 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    We have just started down the path of dementia with my mother in law so this story touched me for that reason. But also because it is a reminder to enjoy what we have with our parents every day. Thanks. And I would love to win and read the book!

  17. Stephanie May 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I’ve never read a novel by this particular author but the topic is near and dear to me.

  18. Marie Stone May 28, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    This sounds like a charming story. I’ve got to admit that I just love the dog on the cover.

  19. nancy reynolds May 28, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    What a wonderful tribute to your Mom. My Mom was so great at so many levels and even though she’s been gone from this earth for over 6 years now, she’s alive in my heart and soul every day. Your book sounds great. Best of luck with it.

  20. sally koslow May 28, 2014 at 10:17 am #


    Many thanks for your warm words. I hope you’ll get a chance to read The Widow Waltz, which explores several mother/daughter relationships.

    All best,
    Sally Koslow

  21. nancy reynolds May 28, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    WOW – thank YOU for taking the time to personally respond to my comment. You made my day. I totally appreciate that not everyone has been lucky to have a great relationship with their Mom – I was one of the lucky ones. I knew it while she was alive, and I keep that inside me always. Thanks for making me even more aware of it with your column. Nancy

  22. Barbara halperin selling May 28, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    So sorry for your loss sally…and how you lost your mom. I suppose my sisters and i were ” lucky” ( my, how the word ” lucky” morphs over time and situation). My mom, who never smoked was diagnosed with lung cancer….went through chemo, which only gave her 6 more months with our dad…her daughters and her grandchildren. We knew that we were losing her, as soon as she got her diagnosis. We were all in the room with the oncologist. Devastating….devastating….we had the storybook mom, and now we were going to lose her. We all went to chemo with her….one of us was at the house every single day. Where were we ” lucky”? She always knew that we were there….always knew us….no questions unanswered…. She was able to say goodbye to all of us plus all of her grandchildren, some of them flying in from the west coast….she died….devastating….and 22 weeks later (we each rotated every night to me with our dad , after) . He was able to go back to work after our encouragement over many weeks…worked in the vault in a bank in our town where everyone knew him) He fell in the bank taking out a customers safe deposit box…. He was 84….and two days later died in the hospital from a concussion….we were all with him… So how were we ” lucky” with our dad? He always knew us, until the end….were we lucky to have lost our precious parents within 22 weeks, speaking at each ones funerals? No, definitely, no….but we were ever so lucky to have had them, to be born into their storybook home, and to have loved them and adored them .
    I dont know any of you, except sally, who might be reading what i am sharing….but her own sharing moved me so much…that i just felt like telling you about my experience, and how the word ” luck” constantly changes in life.

  23. Bren Shropshire May 28, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    Thank you so much for sharing these memories of your Mom. Like you, I also had a wonderful Mother who showed her love through the cookies, cakes, and pies she baked for her family. My nieces, nephews and my children frequently talk about the wonderful way my Mom’s house always smelled of something sweet baking in the oven. I lost my Mom to Alzheimer’s two months ago. The feelings brought on by losing your Mom cannot be described to people who have never dealt with this loss. I guess that’s why I so much connected and enjoyed your beautiful story.

  24. sally koslow May 28, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    Barbara, I had no idea you and your sisters went through this. Your mother sounds extraordinary. Thanks for sharing your experience. Sally

  25. Susan Wilson May 29, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Thanks for sharing your story about your mom. My mom also had dementia before she passed. I know firsthand how hard it is to accept that their memories are so fragile. I can hardly wait to read your book!

  26. Jencey Gortney May 31, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    Love the article! My favorite Sarah Jio novel is The Bungalow. I am really looking forward to reading one of Sally’s novels.

  27. Barbara halperin selling June 1, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    Thank you sally for your note. So appreciated.

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