Jane Johnson Struck

Jane Johnson Struck
The percolations of a coffee-guzzling wife, mom, grandma, writer, and editor

Drink This In

"Coffee, according to the women of Denmark, is to the body what the Word of the Lord is to the soul."
Isak Dinesen
"Coffee makes us severe, and grave, and philosophical."
Jonathan Swift

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Outwardly I appear to be a mild-mannered, matronly housewife who cooks, cleans, gardens, volunteers for her church, and spends way too much time in front of a laptop blogging and playing PathWords. But there's a hidden side to me that's secretly desired to be a dashing private investigator or police detective.

I'd always chalked this interest up to my steady childhood diet of Nancy Drew mysteries and popular '60s television series such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. or The Avengers. I imagined being a glamorous Cold War spy or crack sleuth who solved cases with her stunning intuitive abilities. Reality, however, turned out nothing like my childhood fantasies!

But then, a few years ago, I received a surprising insight into my fascination with the world of intrigue. My mom and dad had driven out to visit our family for a few days. As we sat on the couch, chatting comfortably over diet colas and catching up on life, our conversation turned to the latest political controversy at the time--the mishandling of some FBI files.

"You know," my mom said suddenly, "I always wanted to be a spy when I was growing up."

Say what?

"I even took a bus to the FBI headquarters in Chicago and filled out an application, but they never called me for an interview," she continued. "So there's probably an FBI file on me somewhere."

My mom--a secret agent wanna-be? Never before had I heard this tantalizing tidbit of intelligence about my mom's adolescence. If such a thing as a detective gene exists, I realized, I inherited it from my mom!

Sleuthing aside, I've always known I inherited many of my mom's emotional traits. We both skew toward the melodramatic at times; we're verbal, creative, and sensitive. I've inherited many of Mom's physical traits as well--youthful-looking skin, generous hips, and a zesty appetite (especially for sweets). In fact, when I was a teen and my mom and I were together--at church, the grocery store, the mall--people often remarked that we looked like sisters. At the time I wasn't sure how I felt about those comments; they often irked me. But now, from my vantage point as a mom of two grown daughters, I completely understand how those compliments must have made my mother's day!

But it's Mom's passion for family--caring about what each one's going through--that has shaped me most. Whatever knack I may have for encouraging others, whatever common courtesies I try to express, I owe to my mom's example.

In addition, Mom's pursuit of our family's roots has enriched my life by providing me with a sense of belonging to family in a larger, grander sense. Mom's genealogical detective work (she became a spy after all!) unearthed a wealth of information on family members long gone. She took the time and made the effort to bring clarity to a puzzling jumble of names and dates. The end result? She gifted me with a strong sense of connection to a community of ancestors long gone. Two years ago, I felt God lead me to honor my mom by joining an organization she's held membership in for several years--the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution). While I'm not active in it, my membership is a small gesture back to my mom of how much I love and appreciate her.

As I grow older, I continually recognize and appreciate more aspects of my mother's influence: her generosity of spirit, her love of nature, her commitment to Christ and to my dad in a marriage that's spanned nearly six decades. Many of these gifts became clear only as I falteringly and prayerfully mothered my daughters through adolescence. Now, as I stand afar and watch them wrestle with the choices and circumstances of adulthood, I hope and pray I've passed these characteristics on as well.

When I was in my teens, I sometimes told myself that when I married and had kids, I would be different from my mom: less of this, more of that. Yet somehow, through the years, my relationship with Mom has evolved from one of stubborn desire for independence to one of great espect, incredible admiration, and continued gratitude to God that she's still in my life. I love her--and I treasure each moment we enjoy together.

Now, when someone tells me I'm just like my mom, I take it as the highest compliment!


  1. Hey now, you need to read Janet Evanovich, Sue Grafton, and Diana Mott Davidson for housewifey sleuths who get in trouble in between doing the dishes and corralling kids!

  2. Jane: I will have to check them out, definitely!