Afterward I stood in the school hallway, collecting compliments as though they were bouquets of roses. It had been a mighty victory, and, with Mom standing quietly beside me, I knew it had been her victory, too. My mother had grown up poor and underestimated, always cast into roles smaller than she was worth. Having succeeded in life despite being told she wasn't bright enough to go to nursing school, or sophisticated enough to be a naval officer's wife, she well knew the pleasure of exceeding people's expectations. So it was probably a culminating joy for both of us when the principal shook my mother's hand and said, "You should take this kid to Hollywood."
Final moment of perfect parenting? She didn't.
No, there would be no more stage mothering from Carole Gilbert. Instead Mom let me revel in exactly one hour of triumph, then took me home for an afternoon of household chores. The most significant part of the day was over, anyhow. Not the thunderous applause part, but the part where a mother had conveyed successfully to her young daughter these five critical survival lessons of life:
1. Make the most of whatever you are dealt.
2. If you are given only one opportunity to speak, be certain your voice is heard.
3. Have a ball.
4. Perfect your character relentlessly. And most important—
5. If life gives you lemons, don't settle for simply making lemonade—make a glorious scene at a lemonade stand.
Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of the New York Times bestseller Eat, Pray, Love which was made into a movie starring Julia Roberts. Her second book, Committed, explores the bonds of love and marriage.
More from Elizabeth Gilbert
What to do if you can't find your passion
The key to a well-lived life: Lighten up!
What comes after the eating, the praying, the loving?
The Next Great Moment in Mothering: The four words that sum up the best of one woman's childhood