Posts Tagged ‘Mother’s Day’

The Love Bug went to her first socially-distant birthday party. It was just a few girls, in her friend’s backyard, watching a movie. The Bride texted me afterward because she knew I loved this particular movie, the original Parent Trap with Hayley Mills. In the summer of 1961, when it was released, I was a 13 year old camper; when the Flapper picked me up from Camp St Joseph for Girls and we drove home, I had no idea random people would mistake me for the actress who played twins so perfectly.

Strangely enough, the movie started out at a summer camp. But that feeling of being displaced – one city twin switched her life with the other country twin – hit home. I was always being displaced. I had moved back in with the Flapper when I was 11, but still went to visit my foster parents almost every weekend. I went to Catholic School and then to public high school.

And my mantra, whenever people found out about this strange arrangement, was to say how lucky I was – “I have TWO mothers!”

I had a modern day working mother, and a more traditional stay-at-home mother. The Flapper curled her hair and did her nails every Sunday. She drove a car and swore like a sailor. She was the exact opposite of Nell, and I loved them both. I don’t remember Mother’s Day being a big celebration back then, but once I became a mom, things changed.

My fondest Mother’s Day was back in the Berkshires with my BFF Lee. We both had babies and made the men cook and serve us dinner. Bob and Al were grilling while we luxuriated in the warm sunshine. Spring in New England was such a relief, seeing crocus pop up out of snow, and our Windsor pond melt. Soon crayfish would be nipping at my toes.

Once we moved back to NJ, we were living near Great Grandma Ada, and so we became Mother’s Day Brunch buddies. We’d exchange gifts, usually flowers for planting, and get all decked out like the ladies who lunch. It became a tradition, a rite of Spring, meeting up to celebrate motherhood everywhere.

But how does one celebrate Mother’s Day in the time of coronavirus? We had to leave a package for Ada in the infamous pecan pie vestibule. Peonies from our secret garden (thank you Ms Berdelle), sushi from Whole Foods. And tomorrow Bob and I will have dinner with the Bride and Groom – although he is On Call in the ICU, so who knows? – and I will bring my famous homemade mac and cheese. We will sit a good 6-10 ft apart on their porch in the setting sun.

I feel as if my work here on earth is done. My daughter is an amazing mother. She is an Emergency Room doctor who takes care of the most vulnerable among us, and she loves her children with a ferocity beyond measure. The Bride has started baking sourdough bread, and just gave Bob a starter. The Flapper would be so very proud. Great Grandma Ada should be there with us.

We delivered masks to the Grands in their PJs – Star Wars for the L’il Pumpkin and Scrabble for the Love Bug. Happy Mother’s Day to all my mother…friends! Celebrate like nobody’s watching.


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Since I didn’t grow up with the Flapper, her character can be elusive. I’m back to my book, writing about her and the intersection of a story I covered back in NJ. A story about a mobster and a long line of Irish women. So this Mother’s Day, I thought I’d share with you a snippet of the book, from my older sister Kay’s point of view:

Men found it hard to look away from Mama’s legs when she sat up at the counter. She had this way of crossing them, her tiny feet balancing on the brass bar that ran along the smooth wooden baseboard. Stockings rolled down, T-straps punctuated her ankles like a proper Flapper. She smoked lazily, holding court with all the customers. My Daddy was a pharmacist and his Rexall drug store was our family’s meeting place after school.

Every day my little brother Mikey and I would stroll over for ice cream, and to see if Daddy needed any help. I’m the oldest and only girl after Shirley moved out, so I’m the sugar in his coffee. Only lately Daddy was having trouble moving his left arm, and sometimes he had headaches. Then I would get to pound some powders into pills for him in the back office. I was just heading there when I heard my name.

“Katy honey, bring me that new lotion that came in last week.”

Mama stabbed out the cigarette, willing me to her. It was her pleading, sweet voice. The one you didn’t want to cross. She was pregnant now and found it easier to ask me for all kinds of favors. Mikey was sitting in the store window, sunlight sparkling off his blond head, reading a Superman comic. He was tired of being the baby in the family.

“Mama can I name the baby, please? Can I name her pretty please?” 

His voice was pleading. The baby was due in September, and we all wanted a girl with red hair. Mikey would name her Rose.

As I searched for the new lotion, I watched Mama twirling her fingers in her heavy lap; never still, pivoting around in the counter seat, flashing a smile so brilliant you’d think a light bulb went off. There was a cold, sweating Coke in front of her, and the fan was aimed at her neck. She was waiting for a new life, never imagining what was to come.

Of course this was the summer of 1948 when she was pregnant with me, her sixth and last child. You could hear Frank Sinatra crooning in the background, and I always imagined Reese Witherspoon playing her part in a movie. The Year of Living Dangerously was about to begin. She had left the city lights behind. The Flapper was a complicated Mother, full of contradictions and forged out of steel. She outlived three husbands and worked hard all her life. Still I loved her and moved in with her when I was twelve.

Happy Mother’s Day to all! We are not perfect, we are all of us complicated women. But above all, #LoveTrumpsHate


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To the young ones in the midst of it.

Maybe you’re getting some cereal in bed this morning? Here is my advice to you: Stop trying to be perfect. Stop cleaning up your house. Stop comparing your skills to others, motherhood is not a competition. It cannot be Instagramed. Put down your devices. Stay still for just a minute and listen to your children, they will tell you what they need. Let your hair down, let the Dads cook you a meal today; go to the zoo. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

To the old ones, with or without grandchildren.

Maybe you’re alone today, or maybe you are going out to brunch? If you’re alone, as Cher said, “Get Over It!!” Your job is done so my advice is to relax: Start planting a garden. Plan a vacation or a river cruise, yes go visit that Downton castle or your family homestead in Ireland. Take up a new hobby to keep your brain cells firing – the cello? Finish the book! Whatever you do, don’t go to Costco and pick up a huge box of Gatorade.

To all the ones who are gone.

Thank you for your wisdom. Thank you for teaching us that it’s not always about us. Thanks for doing the hard stuff, for “cooking from scratch” and loving us at our most unlovable. Thanks for never giving up on us. For knowing when to step in and when to let the reaction to our action be a lesson. Thanks for being a model of strength, and a tower of tenderness. Thank you for showing us the way. And even if sometimes our predecessors failed, we learned what not to do from their pain. Thank you for teaching us forgiveness.

Happy Mother’s Day to the amazing Ada, to my sister Kay who is visiting her Great Grandkids, to my Sisters-in-Law Marnie and Becky, to all my friends, cousins and nieces who are in the thick of it, one is even expecting twins! I’m staying with Facebook for the baby pictures alone. But especially to the Bride.

She was saving lives last night and is probably sleeping about now. Here’s to you darling girl. You are juggling quite a bit, your circadian rhythm, a toddler and a happy Buddha baby. I heard the Groom was making pancakes! Thank God for the men in our lives.DSC_0327

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Happy Mother’s Day to one and all. This post will have to be short since I’m busy being  a Nana currently. Nothing can prepare you for the look in your grand daughter’s eyes when she sees you again. It’s not heart warming, it’s heart melting – literally your heart just implodes inside itself. Kaboom, or “TaDa!” as we like to say.

I know I’ll never have to pick dozens of bees out of my son’s clothes again. Or sit in an ice cold skating rink and cheer him on to do ice hockey battle. I’m done sitting on the sidelines for my daughter’s cheerleading at Mini/Mighty/Football games. And I’m finished hosting sleepovers of girls doing their nails while watching Dirty Dancing. Teaching them to ride bikes and drive cars was mostly Bob’s job, but the rest of it – the messy, miraculous ritual, the day-in-and-day-out care, love, feeding, clothing, nursing and management job was the job I signed up for.

And I was just starting to realize that my job was done. That in fact, they wouldn’t really need me for the rest of their lives. Meaning that Bob and I could pat ourselves on the back; after all, we’d raised two, count ’em two, happy, confident, compassionate and fairly successful kids! Ahem, I meant adults.

But before we could get too comfortable in our new roles as parents of adult children, we became Grandparents. And now I know that all the miraculous love and bliss that babies bring into their new home, it just gets squared when you become the Nana. Because you realize it’s not the end of the world when they bruise their knee, or follow behind you cutting down all the perennials you’ve just finished planting. We take a longer view, we know this thing called childhood doesn’t last that long.

So when the Love Bug just spontaneously snuggles her damp head under my arm while I’m reading her a story about a monkey named George, I melt. Being a Grandmother is the reward for all those sleepless nights and teenage moments of angst. Grandparenting gives us another chance, to love unconditionally.

Watching Little League Baseball last night

Watching Little League Baseball last night

Well I’m on my way, I don’t know where I’m going
I’m on my way, I’m taking my time, but I don’t know where
Goodbye to Rosie, the queen of Corona

By Paul Simon, Me and Julio



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Happy Mother’s Day! Mothers everywhere are waking up to breakfast in bed, or so we’re supposed to believe. I made myself some coffee in my new tiny, one cup Keurig since Bob left before dawn for the hospital. And the new mom, our daughter the Bride, is working at her hospital today too. But her Groom, “God bless him” as my Mother-inLaw Ada would say, did remember to send her flowers.

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Ada has been my MIL now longer than Nell Mahon was my foster mother. In fact, she went to Nell’s funeral with me. I can’t think of how many funerals we’ve been to together, and there’s nobody better to take to a funeral, or a wedding for that matter. I met Ada when Bob and I started dating in high school, and she was the one who found me in the hospital while I was visiting my foster father much later. Daddy Jim was dying then, just when Ada ushered me into Bob’s room to rekindle our friendship. Bob went into the hospital for a little minor surgery, and walked out with his future wife…thanks in large part to Ada.

Oh and one more funereal thought – Ada bought me my very own burial plot right after we married. To this day, we both think that was pretty funny! But she did purchase a whole space in the local cemetery for her family, her three sons, and their wives…

She always said she was on my side. That if Bob and I ever broke up, she’d take my side, “All the way baby!” You see, Ada was from Brooklyn. There was no pretense, no argument, what she said always happened. She had gone back to school while we were in high school, to get her degree in Marriage and Family Counseling, and in the late 60s until now, has always practiced in her home. She was going through her own divorce when Bob and I met up again near Daddy Jim’s hospital bed.

The youngest of three sisters, Ada had led a privileged life. Like many Jewish immigrants, her father was a tailor who came from Russia with nothing, and eventually owned a coat company in NY. She had a private car that would take her to school. She was expected to live at home until she married, this was before Betty Friedan. And she married a physician, like one of her older sisters. Unlike her sisters, she promptly moved out to the country, to the wilds of NJ, and had three boys.

Four Bridges was the bungalow colony her father started near their home in Chester, NJ. It was his retirement project, but also a way to keep the sisters coming back together every summer with their cousins and friends. I once gave Ada a painting, it was a picture of a house that had her name on it as a B&B, because she never met a stranger. Every time I would visit her, with the baby Rocker and young Bride in tow, she would have a house full of people, coming and going.

Ada is like Dolly Levi and Ruth Westheimer combined!

Well actually, she doesn’t have that Russian accent, it’s more Bedford Sty. She did get a doctoral degree and a certificate in sex therapy. I can imagine that went a long way when my teenagers told their friends their grandmother was a Sex Therapist. Here she is with the Bride at the Bug’s baby shower.


This is the kind of joy she inflicts on everyone everywhere she goes! She is still living and working in the same house with my wonderful Father-in-Law, Baptist preacher turned therapist, turned woodcarver Hudson, who was the Officiant at the wedding. You know, that wedding in 2010 that started me blogging. Between them both, they now have 7 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. At 88, she is still as effervescent and full of life as ever. They just got back from a cruise to Spain. An amazing woman, I am so proud to call her Mother.

I’ve always said I married Bob to get this woman as my Mother-inLaw. Thank you Ada, for always being on my side. And I’ll always have your back too. Now if only someone could fix our knees.

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Thanks to a blogger from New Hampshire, who happened to be “Freshly Pressed” by WordPress, http://susannye.wordpress.com/ I started thinking about Moms in general. What was life like around the dinner table, did your mom even cook and insist that you sit down to eat a few times a week? The relationship we form between love and food actually does start at the breast, which then made me think about that controversial Time cover picture of a nearly 4 year old boy in camouflage pants standing up, latched onto his mom’s milk truck.

The Greatest generation didn’t nurse their kids. They embraced white Wonder Bread since whole wheat, brown bread was thought to be only for those who “…just got off the boat.” Those newly arrived immigrants would also nurse their babies; our modern post WWII moms were taught to sterilize bottles. A whole new industry was born, baby formula! No wonder they called pregnancy and early motherhood a time of “confinement,” in fact Bob’s elderly Aunt Bertha asked me once – “When will you be going into confinement dear?”

Now some moms have come full circle, they are baby-centric, wearing their babies all wrapped up in true third world fashion. They nurse on demand and co-sleep in a family bed, it’s something called “Attachment Parenting.” I dislike this term since it suggests that all previous moms in history were practicing “Detachment Parenting.” The feminist in me scoffs, really, do we have to play the mommy wars again? Aren’t we pitting ourselves against the “free range” parents vs the “bubble wrapped” practitioners? Being a good mom means nurturing and loving your child, setting rules and civilizing them too. There is a middle road.

My sister once told me that she never wanted to wake up angry, because she remembers the Flapper being angry whenever my sister would wake her. Of course our Mother had lost her husband to cancer and was working in a shirt factory to make ends meet. She was most likely exhausted all the time. I never wanted my dinner table to be a war zone, because I remember my foster mother Nell always telling me I had to finish everything on my plate. Growing up during the Depression made Nell quite frugal, a ‘waste not/want not’ type of home maker. So we learn how not to be a mother too, from our past.

I wanted a natural childbirth, but my daughter was breech and so they had to do surgery. We plan, God laughs. I nursed her for ten months and wore her on my back in a Bjorn. I washed her real diapers and hung them on the line in the sun. I made her real baby food from whatever I was cooking. But we believed in a good night’s sleep and so she was taught to sleep in her crib. I remember the Flapper calling me one day and asking what was I doing. I told her I was playing on the floor with my infant daughter. She laughed. So I asked her what was so funny?

She said the only time she would play with her babies was when she was feeding or bathing them. Time is the greatest gift moms have to give to their children. Quiet reading, playing, and yes sitting down around the dinner table time. Listening to their day, their concerns, listening between the lines of what they say. Being present. Driving her to cheerleading practice, being his soccer coach. It doesn’t matter if you opened a can, defrosted a TV dinner, or cooked something healthy from an all organic, local farm. Thank you to the Bride and the Rocker, for teaching me how to be their mom. And a very Happy Mother’s Day to y’all.

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If you’ve been following along my journey – from North to South, from Mom to Mother-in Law – then you know the Flapper’s story. Gertrude (aka Gi) was indomitable. Unsinkable is another word that comes to mind; widowed three times and crippled after a car accident in our Year of Living Dangerously, Grandma Gi managed to raise five children in PA. Her sixth child, the baby, was raised in NJ with another mother.

My second mother Nell was a first generation American housewife. Her parents emigrated from Czechoslovakia to the same PA coal town that my birth family called home. She moved with her husband Jim to NJ during the Great Depression to find work at Picatinny Arsenal. Little did she know that after raising one daughter and sending her off to nursing school, she’d find herself raising another when she was fifty years old for her friend the Flapper. Nell was the kindest, funniest, most loving mother imaginable. She was in fact “Mommy.” When I was 18 months old, and we would visit the Flapper in the hospital in PA, Nell would let me push Gi’s wheelchair down the hospital hallways. Gi was my other “Mother.”

I felt lucky. Two mothers might seem like one too many, but in fact they gave me a special gift. One taught me to be strong and independent, while the other taught me to love unconditionally. One worked outside the home her whole life, while the other never learned to drive and welcomed me home from school each day with a hug. I had two birthday parties and two Christmas trees; twice the fun. Neither one was a gardener, but one was a tremendous cook. My green thumb did not come naturally, but my daughter seems to have inherited it.

Mother’s Day is always the day we plant, so today we planted tomatoes and herbs and peppers in pots. Matt was in charge of protecting the tender plants from rabbits. The soon-to-be parents will be moving into a new house in June, so we now have a movable garden. Their new baby girl is due in August. Between her Great Grandmother Ada, Shavaun (Matt’s Mom) and Nana me, she’ll have three times the Grandma love!

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