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Style Icon: Max’s Mom

by Maxwell Tielman

Of the many things that I love about my mother, one of my favorite is the fact that, no matter where she is or what time it is, she always seems to have time to talk to me. As a child, I made a habit of calling her office daily—and instead of responding with impatience or annoyance (as I assume most sane adults would), she always responded with what appeared to be genuine enthusiasm. Whether I was calling to complain about my sister, share the news of the day, or simply see when she would be coming home, she always participated in the conversation with gusto. Today, my mother is still at the top of my most-called list and hardly a day goes by without a quick phone call check in. It wasn’t until recently, when I began gathering photos for this very story, that I realized I might be taking my mother’s role as a confidant for granted.

A few weeks ago, when I traveled home for my mother’s PhD graduation, I found myself spending much of the short stay holed up in her ramshackle home office, poring over boxes of dusty old photo albums. What began as a search for stylish retro-chic photos of my mother as a teenager, however, soon turned into an eye-opening trip through her whirlwind, event-filled life. As I flipped through the various chapters of her life—her high school years as the daughter of two factory workers, her tireless work as an impassioned community activist, her action-packed 1999 run for political office— I began to realize what an incredible feat it was for my mother to make time for me, let alone anybody.

The first thing that people usually notice about my mother is how incredibly (even maniacally) friendly she is. Everyone from her best friend to the garbage man is made to feel like the most important person on the planet, what with her rabid interest in even the most trivial things about their lives. A passionate entertainer, my mother loves to surround herself with people and is often found throwing impromptu house parties, filled with laughter, food, and copious amounts of beer. At any one moment she is juggling dozens of different things—her job, her teaching, her schoolwork, an upcoming party—yet somehow, miraculously, she makes time for the special people in her life and makes it all look remarkably easy. I can only hope that one day, when I have children and more commitments than one human can possibly handle, that I can be as outgoing, friendly, and welcoming as my mother has been for as long as I’ve known her. —Max

1. Paper Source Easel Calendar My mother is absolutely, completely obsessed with calendars. Every single room in her house has at least one.

2. Vera for Target ScarfMy mother accessorizes with bold colors and big patterns—usually in the form of some kind of scarf.

3. IKEA CandlesEvery meal in my mother’s house, whether it is a simple cereal breakfast or an elaborate dinner, is served by candlelight. I’m not kidding.

4. Brooklyn Industries Tote BagMy mother isn’t one to have strong ties to particular brands, but every since she discovered Brooklyn Industries, she has been a diehard devotee. Not a trip to New York City goes by without her visiting one of the stores and walking out with a new purse.

5. Satsuma Soap from The Body ShopA yearly stocking stuffer, this is my mother’s all-time favorite soap. One can usually find hoards of it in her bathroom.

6. Martini GlassAfter a long day, my mother’s favorite way to wind down was with a nice, big martini—with as many olives as possible.

7. Collegiate Shot GlassWhen me, my sister, and our friends headed off to college, my mother began collecting shot glasses from each of our respective schools. She has now amassed quite the collection.

8. Fiesta Cast Iron Dutch OvenMy mother recently got into cooking and this is one of her favorite implements.

9. David McCullough’s Truman BiographyMy mother is a voracious reader and one of her favorite subjects is presidential biographies.

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  • Love your mom’s style! It’s most stylish of all to be authentic and loving.

    PS: Don’t know how I missed Vera for Target?! WOW! Can’t wait to stock up on those scarves.

  • Max, you are a treasure. Your writing style and perspective on things are a joy to read and a great addition to Design*Sponge. And your mom sounds awesome. What a lovely tribute to her.

  • Your mom is one of my favorite people! I don’t know anyone with as much positive energy. What a treat to see her face pop up on my Facebook feed!

  • This is so touching. It almost made me start crying. Your mother sounds like such a remarkable woman & I feel so inspired by her just reading this post. Now I aspire to be a woman like your mother, too. Cheers to her for graduating with her PhD this past weekend!

  • Oh, Mama Sue! I loved this. Thanks for sharing your mom with us, and for reminding ME to try to see my own mother as a whole person. Love this!

  • I think I just fell in love with your Mom too! Thanks for sharing such simple yet intimate & genuine thoughts!! What a lady

  • What a touching tribute. I don’t know your mom, Max, but I can’t imagine she could read that without a tear or two. Mothers give so much and rarely receive such thanks in return — what a gift you have given her here. She sure sounds like a cool lady!

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