Can’t let this weekend pass without recognizing and celebrating a day to honor all mothers. If not for my mother, this conversation would probably not occur with you, my readers. She was one of a kind who lived a life full of extremes and ironies. She grew up in a time when her religion targeted her and created a fear she lived with always. Yet, she stood her ground, as a woman who worked because she wanted to, in a time when most mothers stayed at home, and she offered no excuses. She was curious and highly intelligent. Being a mother was challenging for her not because she didn’t love us, but she had to figure out parenting without her own mother as a role model. Her mother had been a “lady who lunched” and my mother was raised by a nanny who was her world until she left Germany and her nanny behind, when she was 13. She and her mother had a relationship that evolved as my mother was a new immigrant and her mother encouraged her to explore and get her education, until my grandfather passed away and my mother had to leave high school and work to help out. My grandmother died at fifty-nine, when my mother was twenty-seven. My mother had married my father at twenty four and moved from Manhattan to Queens to settle into a life that eventually included my sister and me. From a life of comfortable living in Germany, until the rise of anti-semitism, to living a much more spartan life, my mother continued to power on as a young woman, who would go back and finish high school at night, and take 15 years to finish her college degree in business adminstration while raising us, to working in an array of jobs, where she not only did the work (she loved working with numbers) but she would nurture the co-workers with baked goods ands a listening ear. She engaged all she met by showing interest and concern. Having two daughters and a husband who was fairly traditional often created a longing to be out and about and she eventually went back to work in Manhattan, where she was part of the energy of the city, which she loved and thrived in. We were taken to Central Park on Fridays to walk around and visit the seals and have a hot chocolate or soda, depending on the season. She was happy to share the city with us, with theater and music, another one of her loves. Her hope, as a teen was to be a fashion designer and yet, when that didn’t work out, her anti-fashionista personal stance, led her down a path of polyester and sensible shoes, and she left the dreams behind and headed in a different direction, which brought her satisfaction. Once again, she survived a detour and made her choices work for her. Her parenting was easily surpassed by her grandparenting, and her relationships with her four grandchildren were easier and more fun. She could take the time to listen to them and they all “got” her. She was admired by many for her kind gestures. She lived nine years past the death of my father and despite missing him terribly, she continued to work, travel, and learn new things and participate in a life that still interested her. She lived until she died, a quick passing that was difficult but was her way. She always told us not to dillydally and when she got sick, she left with a thank you to America for giving her a place to grow up and old, and for a man on a bicycle who she said, in the last day of her life, was coming to take her for a ride. My father would never have left her behind and we imagined them meeting again, as in the great love stories.
Mothering is a verb as mother is a noun and name. The act of caring for others is not limited to women who give birth. We all have role models apart from the women who give us biological life and those women, mentor us, challenge us, teach us and they may be family, teachers, community leaders, doctors, secretaries, or the woman behind the counter at a place we stopped for a soda on the way home from school. She might be a person who is just someone you like seeing day in and day out, and there may be no connection other than a helping hand or question that shows interest in you. She may be someone you admire or respect from a distance or someone in history. Our personal strength may be in serving in that role or having been lucky enough to be offered some help by someone who was “like a mother”.
Thanks to my mother and all the women who helped me and continue to help me every day in large and small ways. Ever grateful.