Happy Mother’s Day to you, me, my mother-in-law and most of all, my mother.

She taught me most of the important stuff I need to know in life. What she didn’t outright teach me, I learned from following her example.

It has led me to come as closely as possible to fulfilling my childhood goal of being just like her when I grew up.

For a long time, I struggled to be like my mom. Everyone told me I looked just like my daddy, which only confused me. How could a little girl look like a 35-year-old man?

I wanted to look like the tall, blonde cheerleader pictured in my mother’s high school yearbook, but it was not to be. My hair stayed brown and my body stopped growing at 5 feet, 2 inches.

I couldn’t even manage to marry my high school sweetheart, because that would have first required that I have one. By the time I met Ron and began the adventurous life of a military spouse, it was obvious my path in life was going to be different from that of my role model.

However, the more birthdays I celebrate, the more I realize that my mom and I are the same in so many ways.

For example, my mother smiles a lot, especially at other people.

She sees the best in others and expects me to do the same. That’s why I greet people with a “Hey,” even when they are frowning or seem intent on pretending I’m not there.

I’ve noticed that if I pass the same person enough times, whether it’s a neighbor or someone who happens to go to the same post office as me, they will eventually come around to my way of thinking … Or change their schedule to avoid the grinning lady.

My mother taught me patience, even in traffic. It is a trait that serves me well in the fast-paced environment of Springfield, Va.

She told a story to get the message through to me, describing how she had driven extremely slowly when taking her own mother to get chemotherapy treatments back in the 1970s.

“You never know why a person behaves the way they do,” she said.

I later repeated her message when Ron was maneuvering his way through traffic on the San Diego freeway. Another driver had darted in front of us and then slowed down to take the next exit.

“Maybe he had to go to the bathroom really badly,” I offered, giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Ron just rolled his eyes. But when the driver pulled over at the nearest gas station and parked right in front of the door, I answered his eye-rolling with my best “I told you so” look!

My mother taught me the people among us who are hardest to love usually need love the most.

And she also taught me how to cook, although I repeatedly failed the “how to make gravy” lesson and still break the rule about making sure I have all the ingredients before starting a recipe.

The most valuable lessons my mother has given me were on the subject of motherhood.

She delivered intercontinental lectures on colic, ear infections and potty training. Her office hours are 24/7.

My hair still doesn’t match hers, and I will never measure up to her in stature. But every once in a while, I catch a glimpse of her smile in the mirror.

My mother has the sweetest smile on earth.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has moved eight times in 17 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. They have been stationed in various locations, including Okinawa, California, Texas and their current home in Springfield, Va. E-mail her at or find the Zichs online at

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