Call Your Mother

Suzanne Biemiller - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
As heard on The Bob Edwards Show, May 6, 2011
Suzanne Biemiller

When Suzanne Biemiller moved away to college, she started phoning her mother to share updates about her life. Now decades later, she continues the habit because Biemiller believes those regular calls help strengthen the bonds between mother and daughter.

Age Group: 30 - 50
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I believe in calling your mother. No matter where you are, no matter what you are doing, a phone call to your mother will make the world seem less daunting and help you feel stronger.

I started phoning my mother in college when distance suddenly necessitated that form of communication. Since then we have been talking on the phone regularly, even though we now live in the same city. We’ve talked about life’s big issues—should I leave a long-term boyfriend and move to another town? Can I be a good mother and work full-time at a job that I also love? When she and my father separated, our roles reversed for a while, as I listened to her questions and tried to help her articulate answers.

But most of the time, we talk about the little things. What did you do today? How is work? Are the girls well? In over twenty-five years of phone calls, certain themes have emerged. “Go outside and look at the moon, sweetie,” she’ll say over the phone at least a few times a year. “I’ve never seen it brighter.” “I went to the Reading Terminal this morning; the peaches are in.” “I’m so proud of you.” “I love you.”

A few summers ago, some friends from college got together for a long weekend to celebrate our fortieth birthdays. One of the women had been diagnosed with cancer that past winter. Kerry had finished her chemotherapy; her hair was growing back in, and color was returning to her cheeks. Although she was a little more tired than the rest of us, she looked great.

One afternoon while she was napping, the house phone rang. I answered.

“Hello,” a young girl’s voice said. “Is Kerry there, please?”

“Hi,” I replied, “is this her daughter?”

“Yes, it is,” she said quietly.

“She’s resting now, but would you like me to wake her for you?” I asked.

“Um, I’m not sure,” the girl responded in a small voice that sounded as if it were about to crack. I knew immediately that waking her mother was what she really wanted me to do even if she couldn’t say it. She needed to talk to her mother, to hear her soothing, reassuring voice on the other end of the phone.

So wake Kerry I did. She sprang out of bed and went outside with the phone. For about an hour, she sat on an old log in the lengthening shadows of tall pine trees, quietly talking with her daughter—a ten-year-old missing her mother, perhaps fearful that she might one day be gone for more than a long weekend. I don’t know what they talked about—maybe nothing, maybe everything—but I know how important that call was to both of them.

When I returned home from that weekend, I phoned my own mother. I don’t remember what we talked about, but it sure felt good to hear her voice.

That’s what I believe in: the healing, strengthening connections and communications between mothers and daughters. My two daughters are now old enough for our own phone conversations, and I cherish each and every one of them—even when they are about nothing important at all.

Suzanne Biemiller lives in Philadelphia with her husband, Rob MacRae, and two daughters, Caroline and Jane, who help her keep it real every single day. In her spare time, Ms. Biemiller works as chief of staff for Philadelphia mayor Michael A. Nutter.