The Little Thing You Do That Matters Most

Maybe I was a child sitting at the kitchen table, pretending to write my ABCs when it happened. Or a teenager ravished after school, searching the fridge for leftovers. Or a new mom, cradling my first born, explaining how wonderfully and extremely exhausted I was. And it would happen.

My mom would pass behind me and do this little “scratch-scratch” thing on my back, between my shoulder blades. I’d glance as she continued past, and we’d exchange a smile. We’ve never spoken about that little thing she used to do. In fact, if she reads this I wonder if she even remembers the “scratch-scratch.” But here, 40-something years later, I remember, and to me that little thing still means “I love you” in a way that is deeper, more intimate than if she had said the words out loud.

And then there’s my sweet grandmother, Carmel Lucchese, and the little thing she did. Because of the distance, I only saw my grandparents for one week each summer. But during that week my grandma lavished me with love in lots of little ways: stocking the kitchen drawer closest to the stove with Chiclet gum, taking me to the bookstore, clasping her favorite pearl bracelet around my wrist just before we left for the theatre.

But the little thing I cherish most is the wave. Actually, it was a series of waves. As my grandfather would back the car out of the drive to take me to the airport, Grandma and I exchanged a variety of waves, her standing inside the door of their home, me peering through the car window. She would start with four fingers together folding forward. I’d imitate.Then she would curl one finger close to her face and wave like that. Me, too. Next she’d put both hands in front of her chest and wave them side to side. She’d continue creating different waves until we could no longer see the sad smile the other had forced on her face, knowing the year ahead was going to be long.

The little things.

That matter most.

Sometimes moms and grandmas may not even realize how much love we feel in a seemingly insignificant act.

As a young mom, I didn’t. I was just reading bedtime stories to my little girls. A little thing–until last week.

Last week Randi visited an elementary classroom to read her favorite childhood story to the children. When she received the assignment, she insisted we go downstairs and find the box of children’s books I’d stored away who knows where. Once we found it, we dug through the box (which, by the way, was a precious little journey down memory lane. If it’s been awhile, Momma, do this with your teen). When she located the book she was after, she beamed. “Here it is! I love this book!”

She held up The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, a story about Chester the Raccoon who tells his momma, “I don’t want to go to school. I want to stay home with you.” Momma Raccoon then tells Chester the secret about the kissing hand.  To be honest, that story wasn’t one of my favorites…but it was hers…and she had a book to share with the class for Missouri Read-in Day. Mission accomplished.

So she read to the class, and while she read, the teacher, Ms. Kassi, sent me a picture and later this email:

So…Randi is reading The Kissing Hand to my kids. Before she began she told them about how you read it to her when she went to kindergarten and how it’s important to her now, because she’s getting ready to go to college. She told them it’s hard and she doesn’t like to be away from her parents. It was so precious, and I love how honest she was with them. Thought I should share. 

Then Randi gave me her version: “I didn’t think I was going to be able to read it, Mom. I thought I was going to cry.”

So I reread The Kissing Hand for the first time in a lot of years. This little thing–a children’s book–matters most because in a few short months, my once-upon-a-time kindergartner will become a happily-ever-after college student. I won’t be leaving her in a building just a short walk down the street from my office, with colleagues who I know will teach her, protect her, and love her. No. I’ll leave her on a college campus, in a dorm room, with strangers. But I think we’ll both be okay…

Because a part of me will stay with her. And a part of her will leave with me. Thank you, Randi, for reminding me of a secret we can hold on to with two hands.

Here’s a sweet little audio version of my new favorite children’s book!

The little things matter most…an affectionate gesture from my mom, the wave game with my grandma, a children’s book for my daughter. Is there a “little thing” you do that matters most? What “little thing” from your childhood mattered most? Share it with us in the comments below…but don’t stop there. Tell that special person how much the little thing they did meant to you!

P.S. Now that The MOM Journey is part of my author website, it is sometimes difficult to tell if new followers signed up to follow my blog or if they signed up to follow my author newsletter. If you received this post in your inbox but did not subscribe, please feel free to use the unsubscribe feature or email me at and let me know you’d like to be removed from the list. I don’t want to be unwanted clutter in anyone’s inbox!


You’ve been here from the beginning…since the day I announced Waiting for Butterflies was under contract with a publisher. And you probably have no idea how important your role in this journey has been. You helped my book find readers that it could have never reached without you. You shared your excitement with others…and with me…and because of YOU, April 4 is more than book release day. April 4 is a party! So, so, so many people have been a part of this book, and I want to celebrate everyone! So we are!

WHERE: Hosted by The Woods & Arcadia Valley Roasting Company in Ironton

WHEN: Tuesday, April 4 from 6:30-8:00 PM


Are you in the drawing? One happy momma will receive a gift certificate for a basic mani or pedi! If you are a MOM Journey follower, you’re in! If not, enter your email to join us! Comment and share to increase your chances!





  1. Kim says:

    My kids favorite book for me to read to them is” one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish, by Dr . Seuss. I have impressed my class by having the book memorized!

  2. Jayne Kinneman says:

    You’ve left me to ponder…when I put my oldest on the school bus for the first time I told him he was never alone because Jesus was always with him. When the second child comes along so much is forgotten because of the greater demands of mothering two. So I admit I often have not remembered stories of similar circumstances with my second son. Reading your blog just now pleasantly jogged my memory. It was this book I read to him and this act I did in planting a kiss in his hand before putting him on the bus with his older brother for the first time. The pondering now that I question my actions is why not the same? Revelation…the same is not always what is needed at the time.

    • Karen Sargent says:

      Thanks for sharing this, Jayne. Yes, with the second child everything changes!You should ask what they consider to be the “little thing that mattered most.” I wonder if their responses would surprise you???

  3. A-M says:

    I love this so much.
    My mom would always squeeze my hand three times: “I. Love. You.” We could do this anytime… while walking around or when leaving each other or when I needed to be brave, and it was our secret squeeze. I love carrying this same “little thing” on with my boys.

  4. Andi says:

    Evans & I read this book! I was so happy when he chose it from a book order. Because my little thing from my sweet Mama was her kisses in my hand. Some to keep in my pocket when I went to camp. And to college. And when I moved away as a newlywed.

  5. Donna says:

    I remember, it was my way of showing love and security to you. It was important to me that you knew you were loved and secure. Never heard the KISSING HAND. What a sweet story. Bill never forgot what Randi told you on her first day in school. She didn’t think she could do it but she had a pattern. She would only go every other day and stay home the other days!

  6. Linda says:

    So sweet!! I didn’t have this book with my own kids, but used it in kindergarten often. I love hearing stories about your precious girls!!

    • Karen Sargent says:

      The Kissing Hand…and maybe a little Junie B. Jones….??? 🙂 So much amazing stuff happened in the kindergarten room! <3

  7. Erin says:

    My mom used to sing, “you are my sunshine,” when I was little. It always made me feel safe, and happy, and loved. I doubt she even knows that. I’ve never told her. I think I’m going to now.

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