Describing why moms are awesome is like trying to explain why water is wet.

elder lady making rock on sign

You can make a lot of sweeping generalizations like “They love you unconditionally” or “They feed and protect you” or even “They gave birth to you, which was a super nice thing to do.”

But does that really do justice to why our mothers deserve so much respect, and why devoting just one measly day a year to them seems like not nearly enough? It’d be like saying “We celebrate Veterans Day because the military seems pretty cool.” You can’t really talk about why moms are great without getting into specifics.

So that’s what we did. We asked 60 people from across the country to tell us, why is your mom awesome? We didn’t want Hallmark sentiments. We told them to give us the real dirt, the little stuff that stands out and makes their mom remarkable, if only to them. What is it about their moms that surprises them, frustrates them, makes them laugh or cry or jump for joy? What makes them smile every day because they somehow got lucky enough to call this complicated, fascinating, loving and always unique woman your mom?

Their answers, well, let’s just say they gave us all the feels.

1. She always has Mountain Dew in the fridge for me when I visit.

2. If my mom raises her pinky to you she is giving you the “lady finger.”

3. She has a note taped to her steering wheel that says “Open garage door”

4. She used to throw eggs at double parked cars in NYC in the 70’s.

5. She once came to get me at the local teen hangout late one night wearing her bathrobe and pink foam rollers in her hair. And yes, she got out of the car and came inside.

6. My husband and I lived with her for almost two years but recently bought a house. When she comes to visit she talks to our dog about how sad he must be now, having to live with us and not her.

7. She worked while she was getting chemo so her kids could inherit her pension.

8. She’s stop correcting me when I swear, even though she cringes every time.

9. She believed me when I told her I didn’t break the school bathroom sink.

10. Because she never wastes food. She will literally freeze a Tablespoon of gravy to use later.

11. Because every single hit in tennis with her is a lob!

12. My mom walked with Martin Luther King in Selma.

13. She recently said “God grant me the senility to forget what I don’t want to remember.”

14. She used to sneak weird grocery store items into friends’ carts when they weren’t looking.

15. She taught me this lesson: “It’s okay to touch yourself as long as your hands are clean.”

16. She spent three-plus years in a US internment camp and still told me, “You’re lucky to live in the greatest country in the world” and to never give up on it.

17. She taught me to keep a bottle of Champagne in the fridge because you never know when you’ll need to celebrate. Even if it’s celebrating getting though a Tuesday.

18. My Mom wears flamingo pants and matching shoes to go grocery shopping.

19. She has a great sense of humor and also believes in ghosts.

20. Every time I wear something she bought me someone compliments me on it.

21. Puts dots on the toes of rain boots so you know where the big toes go.

22. My mom snuck into an Iron Maiden concert on a school night to get me an official Powerslave tour shirt for Christmas in 1985.

23. She remembers me doing really awesome things that never actually happened.

24. She is tiny but she never backs down in a fight.

25. Every week she does a shot with the cleaning lady.

26. She once let me to stay home from school to watch Phil Donahue.

27. My mom would wake me up when she saw the northern lights. Living on my own after college, she called me at 2:30 am to tell me that Hale-Bopp was visible.

28. She’s been telling me I’m “going to hell in a handbasket” for most of my life. And she means it when she says it. And it’s hilarious every time.

29. When she was dying, she held on just long enough for me to fly halfway around the world to be by her side.

30. She had a tin ear for melody but always made us secretly laugh, by singing joyfully along with the car radio anyway.

31. She can make a meal out of nothing.

32. When you got good grades, she pat/smack you on the chest and back saying how proud she was. It physically stung but made you feel like a million bucks.

33. When we didn’t have money for firewood, she would pile us all in the car and we would play our favorite game, “WOOD!” We would drive through the country and find fallen branches along the road. Whoever spotted it first would yell “WOOD!” and mom would stop the car, and we would load it into the trunk

34. My dad died five days before Christmas when I was nine and she did an amazing job giving my sister and I a really supportive and normal home.

35. Her name is Rhoda. Enough said.

36. My mom can write with both hands, backwards and upside down too!

37. She threatened a teacher with her job when the teacher decided my Christopher Robin character was too “sloppy” so I got a D on my costume.

38. My mom let me have any pets I wanted. While the other kids had dogs and cats, I had a pet skunk (Flower), a raccoon (Bandit), a mini-donkey (Ass) and a duck with three legs named Tripod.

39. My mom calls hot peppers “the last legal high” and grows her own habaneros. They’re so hot she plants them in a ring around her garden and they keep the groundhogs out. You’re damn right she has hot sauce in her bag.

40. She was the one in the family who discovered that the car could be started without a key in the ignition.

41. In the unbearable heat and humidity of my college graduation, she had my dad, her ex-husband, surreptitiously cut her pantyhose off of her with a rental car key.

42. Because her toast isn’t burnt, it’s just crispy.

43. She will yell at me to brush my hair even when I’m 37 and have just come over to her house to work and not be seen by anyone.

44. When I was little and we were broke, she said “I’ll always have enough money to buy you a book.”

45. My mom got an award from the Boy Scouts called the Silver Beaver. I kid you not.

46. My mom is awesome because after 38 years she came back into my life. She and my dad split soon after I was born, and I just met her, in August of 2015.

47. While dining with my 12-year-old niece she said sincerely, “Honey, I hope you grow up to love beer.”

48. Because she chose me.

49. She stood by me when I was born with a hole in my back, when doctors said I would be a vegetable. Never stopped loving and believing in me, to this day. I’m not a vegetable today because of her!

50. She taught me to say “that pisses me off” sometime before I turned ten.

51. She once told a drunk, 6.5 foot man at a Carlos Vives concert that she would bury him if he ever tried to come near me again. While wearing pearls, a cardigan and kitty heels.

52. You always knew when it was 4:59pm each day by the sound of a fat shot of Dewars being poured over ice and mom announcing, “Dinner will be ready in an hour!”.

53. One Thanksgiving my dad and uncle kept filling my mom’s wine glass when she would turn her back. Dinner was served with her bare hands. “You want turkey?” The meat was ripped off with bare hand and tossed to you. “You want taters?” Taters were thrown like snowballs. As a child, this was awesome.

54. When she had me help her set up her iPod, the first song she wanted to download for it was “Jump Around” by House of Pain. She’s 66.

55. After forty-plus years she finally admitted she only ate vegetables to encourage her children to do so.

56. She takes her 96 year old mom out to miniature golf to putt because she can’t swing a club anymore but still loves the game.

57. She just went on her first date since my dad died two years ago. Probably her first date since she met my dad in 1963. After it was over the guy asked how she liked it. She said, “I need more air time. You talk too much.”

58. Every now and then my mom will send me a “Box of Strange.” It’s little things she’s seen over the past few months that made her think of me: Nice-smelling shampoo, a refrigerator magnet, and one time a spiral pineapple slicer.

59. My mom fell in love for the first time at 93.

60. She taught me to laugh in every conceivable way.

[This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, in Spartan Life.]