Ann Dorer Essay Series: Reflections on a Mother’s Love


Watercolor painting of blue hydrangeas

On summer evenings when I was in high school, I often sat outside in the front yard with my friend Patsy, who lived next door. We would stretch out on lawn chairs and ponder things of importance. Patsy would often ask, “What is the purpose of life?” We never did come up with an answer. Back then it probably was enough that we asked the question.

Much time has passed since those days. High school graduation. College. Love. Marriage. Work. Motherhood. I never had time to figure out what the purpose of life was—I was too busy living it.

Now I am a grandmother. Recently at my granddaughter Maggie’s graduation from pre-kindergarten, each child was awarded a certificate stating why he or she was so special—“Most Helpful,” “Friendliest,” “Kindest,” “Most Thoughtful.” It was like high-school yearbooks that select the “Most Beautiful,” “Most Athletic,” “Most Handsome.” Thankfully, in pre-K the teachers managed a superlative for each child.

After the children received their certificates, they were supposed to walk out into the audience, find their mothers, and give them three things: the certificate, a long-stemmed red rose, and a kiss for taking such good care of them.

How lovely these young mothers were. Each fairly glowed with love and pride as she watched her child approach. Many of the children did exactly as instructed. But some were so eager to return to their prized position on stage that they quickly handed over the certificate and red rose, then headed back up front, forgetting to kiss their mamas.

But those sweet kisses were not to be missed. The mother either called her child back or scurried after him, and every single one got her promised kiss. As I watched the mothers bend down to receive this special gift from their little ones, I knew the simple answer to Patsy’s deep question, “What is the meaning of life?”


Watercolor painting of roses

Text by Ann Dorer
Illustrations by Judy Jamieson

Former editor and consummate Southern lady Ann Dorer shares her reflections on life in our beloved region. For more of her thoughts, see her essay on Becoming a Southern Lady and a post on her granddaughter Maggie’s pre-k graduation. Browse exclusive place cards that feature Judy Jamieson’s beautiful artwork in our online shop.

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May June 2022 cover of Southern Lady