Mom

At my mother’s memorial service my brother spoke from the heart about our mom: “She was a complicated person.” That she was. She had strengths. And she had flaws. She had triumphs and her share of mistakes and regrets. My relationship with my mom was shaky sometimes. We had some ups and some downs.  As she was, as I was, I loved her. I know she gave me the foundation to be a good mother and good person.

When I was little she bought me a cotton candy machine. She made me fairy wings out of aluminum foil. To go with the green fairy shoes she sewed for me. Complete with bells. On the pointy, curled up toes. She read to me from thick chapter books every night. I sipped a cup of hot chocolate as her words ignited my imagination. My eyes would begin to droop. And, then, I would drift into sleep with dreams.

We were mother and daughter. Sometimes she yelled at me and sometimes I yelled at her. There were times when I felt like she didn’t understand me. There were times when I just couldn’t see her point of view or understand her. There were times when she comforted me when I was sick or when I stumbled through various teenage dramas. She forgot things that were important to me and reminded me of things I didn’t remember. She gave my husband and I a kitten when we were married. She made slip covers and curtains. She sat on the floor and sanded wooden pegs covering the nails. It was a jumble of good times and, well, not so good times.

Sometimes she was the perfect mom and I was the perfect child. Sometimes we both let each other down.

She was, my mom.

mom and jo2

My mom, right, and her mom.

I didn’t get to have my mom by my side as I raised my children. I couldn’t ask her questions or seek advice from her. I couldn’t call her when my kids were sick to ask her to come help. I couldn’t call her at all.

Today is Mother’s Day.

A couple of years ago I got a FB message from someone asking me if I was Marjorie’s daughter. His name was Dave. He was a little older than me and went on to tell me how he remembered playing Barbies with me! And then he told how my mother had helped him and his mom when he was little. My mom paid for summer camp for him and gave his mom a job taking care of me. He remembered learning how to swim from my siblings. And feeling as if he was part of the family. He said he has never forgotten her kindness.

I still remember his mom vividly. Josephine. I loved her. I’ve never forgotten her kindness and patience. I still drive by her house and imagine her walking out of the door.

Our moms and other people’s moms. Mothers. “Moms” who aren’t actual moms, but nurturing women. Women who are role models and mentors. Adoptive moms, and foster moms. Moms who have miscarried or had stillbirths. Moms who have had abortions. Gay moms, queer moms. Single moms. Widowed moms. Teen moms. Incarcerated moms. Moms who are aunts and god parents. Moms who are perfect and moms who are imperfect.

Moms.

mom and me mother's day

My mom and me

Many of us don’t know the history behind Mother’s Day, we only know the Hallmark version. The idea of Mother’s Day in the US began in 1872 when Julia Ward Howe suggested it be a day to honor and work for peace. Read her famous “proclamation” here:

 Original Mother’s Day Proclamation

Mothers uniting in love to make a positive change in the world.

Here in the US, and around the world, mothers struggle. They struggle to provide for their children. They watch their children die of starvation, disease, war. They dream of having shoes for their child, or clean water, or a meal, or for them to have a chance to go to school. Mothers everywhere dream of seeing their children healthy and thriving, having a job, being safe. Knowing it is only a dream, they hope and pray that their child will have what they cannot give them.

Last year on Mother’s Day I challenged people to donate to causes that support mothers. I put it out there again this year. You can make a donation to Planned Parenthood, to your local woman’s shelter, to programs that educate about domestic violence. Or you can check out the links below and donate or just educate yourself. Lots of topics.

This year I donated to Brooklyn Bail Fund.

If you choose to donate, and care to share, I would love to know who you are helping.

10 Non-profit organizations that help mothers

Young Mothers Program

5 organizations that empower women

Behind every great woman is another one Heifer International, Empowering women

Non Profit organization that help girls

National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome  Helping expectant mothers

Help send a child to school

Educate yourself on domestic violence

Rape of a girl or woman is never ok Women do not ask for it, deserve it. It is not ok for women to be shamed or shunned becasue they were raped. It is not ok to punish a woman for being raped.

women are equal to men yet the world often disagrees

**Don’t forget to check out This Week

and, Little works in progress

Mothers: We All Have One

mom

My mom (left, age 16 being “introduced to society” at her “Coming Out” party!) nurtured my imaginative side. She made me fairy wings out of aluminum foil and green felt pixie shoes with bells. At bedtime she let me sip hot chocolate as she read amazing tales of adventure and magic from long chapter books. When she painted she gave me a canvas and paints too.

My grandmother Alice, left, on her wedding day, died a few weeks after my parents married. We never knew her. I was lucky enough a few years ago to make renewed contact with her son-in-law who had me laughing hysterically over the phone about Alice and his wife’s escapades! Don reiterated over and over how deeply Alice loved her children and her family. “She was a wonderful, tender mother to your father and uncle.”

My grandmother Josephine, on the right, was kind of a “socialite”. Always fashionable, nothing out of place, she didn’t even learn to cook until much later in life. My mom used to tell me her mother’s signature dish was a grilled cheese sandwich. She did however have a secret recipe for an amazing plum pudding, which she never divulged. I spent weeks with her during the summer. Lazing by the quiet shores of the Olentangy River in Ohio. She used to tell stories about growing up in Ohio…dressmakers, horse-drawn carriages, the first airplanes, steamboat explosions, tragic deaths, and her parents. Over the years her stories guided me as I worked on the family’s genealogy.

Moms. Everyone has one. Strong moms, or struggling moms. Loving moms or absent moms. We are here because someone gave birth to us. I count a woman who is not even biologically related to me as my second mom. She loved and nurtured me just as if I were her “real” child.

I navigated motherhood without my mom. Sometimes it was hard. There were many nights..okay, days too, when I wished I could call her and ask for her help and advice. But I couldn’t. I just kept making hot chocolate for my kids and reading them chapter books.

My mom got suspended from Bryn Mawr in April right before graduation in May. She had to wait a year to graduate. Because she eloped with my father.

My mom was a social worker. She began as a case worker with clients from the poorest areas of our county. At some house calls she was met with a shot-gun. She went back to school to get her Master’s, and during her second year she was in a full length leg cast for six months. She worked her way up in the Department of Social Services and was acting Commissioner for a few years. She volunteered all of her life with organizations that supported families and children, senior citizens, the disabled and the disenfranchised.

Her job, her passion, was service to others. Last year this was brought home thanks to Facebook. I clicked open a message in a file I didn’t even know about. There, at the end of this wireless communication was a man who remembered my family and did a Facebook search to find us. He still, all these years later, remembered all of us with great fondness. I had no recollection of him, but I did remember his mother very fondly.

My mother… 50 years or so ago, reached out and uplifted this man’s mother. She gave her a job. She paid for this man to go to summer camp when he was a kid. She welcomed them into our family and home as friends. My siblings taught him to swim. And he remembered playing with me and my Barbie dolls.

There are hundreds of moms and their children in our own communities who need to be uplifted. Around the world the number swells to millions. Some of these children don’t have a mom any more. Some moms have had to “give up”, or worse, bury their children. I think in particular of the mothers in Syria who are facing unimaginable heartache and suffering.

If you’re reading this, let us honor all mothers. Your mom, your grandmothers, moms everywhere.  You can help a mom or a child, or both, this Mother’s Day. You can make a real difference and give a mother, a child or both, a chance to be safe, to be healthy, to get an education, to survive. You can uplift someone. To help them thrive.

So, pick an organization that uplifts women, mothers, children and donate. Or click here: Gifts For Mom

And, let’s not forget that today, historically speaking,  Mother’s Day is not as it was originally intended. It is important to remember why we have Mother’s Day…the original one, even if we celebrate it differently.  Original Mother’s Day Proclamation

Proclamation for Mother’s Day 1870

“Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.

From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: Disarm, Disarm!”

Julia Ward Howe

Here’s to moms, all kinds of moms. And to those who know the kind of love a mother feels and offers that love unconditionally to others.

 

Mother’s Day

It’s Mother’s Day. Naturally I’ve been thinking about my mom. She passed away a long time ago when I was barely 30. I had just had my second child. My oldest was not yet three. My mom did not see her 70th birthday.

I think my mom was beautiful. She did good things in her life, but she was not perfect. Few of us are. She faltered here and there as a daughter, wife and mother. But, she gave me many gifts in childhood and adulthood. She sewed fairy wings and fairy shoes for me so I could dance through the woods. She read me fantastic books while cuddled in bed drinking not one, but TWO cups of hot chocolate. She held me when I cried. Cared for me when I was sick. Later on in life she helped me pick out my wedding dress and babysat my infant daughter when I had to go back to work.

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mom Bryn Mawr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Mother’s Day I also think about myself as a young mother, without my mother by my side. There were times when I needed her, wanted her. When I wished more than anything she could be by my side.

As I look back now I realize that my being what I hope was a “good” mother was the direct result of my “community”.  All the people in my life, including my mother, and father, who directly influenced who I was and who I would become as a mother. My husband also played a role in who I would be as a mother. His love, patience and support allowed me to grow, as well as to be fragile, knowing he was there to support my stumblings.

I had a biological mother, and biological grandmothers (only one was living when I was a child), but there were many other women who showed me what it was to be a mother.

For most women, it is a miracle of sorts, that some switch clicks on when we give birth. We become, in many ways a new, different person. Holding a small, fragile, totally dependent bundle of life in your arms is humbling. And terrifying. There is a huge sense of responsibility and protectiveness. And a lot of praying that we will do well by this small child, be able to nurture and love him/her so they will grow into healthy, happy adults.

Communities, of all kinds support mothers. There is the Family Community. The Religious/Spiritual Community. The Neighborhood Community. The Health Care Community (OBGYN, pre-natal, post natal, pediatric). The School Community. The Friends Community. One type of community after another that influences, supports, guides or breaks and demoralizes mothers.

Girls, women raised in stable, safe, educated,economically sound households often have the benefit of many of these healthy communities and grow up to be nurturing mothers. Girls, women raised in poverty, or suffering abuse, with little or no medical or emotional support and often no social support, often struggle to provide physical, emotional, financial support their children need and deserve. When they are able to succeed, the effort is unimaginably more difficult that most of us reading this can understand.

We know the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” I would suggest it also takes a village to raise a mother.

Let’s look around where we live, and in neighboring communities different from our own and see how we’re doing. Let’s begin to make Mother’s Day about more than cards and flowers and reach out to young, struggling, poor, abused mothers who are trying to break the cycle they were born into and trying so hard to be healthy mothers who can provide for their children on so many levels. Let’s address poverty, homelessness, addiction, abuse, lack of education, joblessness and be a mother to these mothers who need us. Let’s put the card in the mail for our mom, and a donation in the mail for a women’s shelter, a teen mother program, a teen pregnancy program.

I know how lucky I am to live the life I am living. I know how lucky I am to have two beautiful children who are healthy, happy, thoughtful, educated, employed, loving and generous. I know how much the people in my life including not only my mother, but many, many other people nurtured and guided me so I could be a good mother.

And I know what it looks like for a mother not to have those things. To be holding a crying, hungry, sick, homeless child. To have very little support or hope. As a mother I want to do better for these girls and women. For their children. We don’t have to have a biological connection to help someone, to love someone. We don’t have to only offer motherly love and support to those in our immediate family. We can make a difference. So, I challenge all of you, on this Mother’s Day, whether you are male or female, mother or not, to make a difference in the life of a mother who is struggling.

Walking the walk: it’s 12:50 p.m. and I just made my donation.

Find organizations that help mothers of all ages and backgrounds in your community to support, or look here:

http://www.unicef.org/earlychildhood/index_40754.html

http://npen.org/

http://nyspep.org/

http://www.cssp.org/reform/strengtheningfamilies

http://cce.cornell.edu/Nutrition/Pages/FamilyWell-beingandPolicy.aspx

http://www.plannedparenthood.org/

http://www.extendedfamily.org/index.html

http://www.singleparentadvocate.org/