Archive | March, 2011

Great Adventures

31 Mar

How many times did I correct my mother’s pronunciation of certain words only to hear her mispronounce them again the next time? I have learned that it must just be a mother thing to do—annoy our children by adding an “s” or taking away “ing.”

I can remember when Great Adventure was being built and had its grand opening. It was exciting for our whole family. My parents were thrilled to take us on a safari ride. And yet, no matter how many times we went to or talked about the adventure park, my mother would call it Great AdventureS. I am sure you can tell just how much that irked me. I can hear myself, as if it was just this morning, saying, “Mom, it’s not Great AdventureS, it’s Great Adventure.” Over and over, summer after summer, I would persevere, but without success, ever.

Just as my mother could have predicted, I make similar mistakes. Yesterday, while driving to the mall, my son chatted about one of the characters on “Will Ferrell’s soccer team.” Oh, “in Kickin’ and Screamin?” I asked. I had no idea what I had done wrong when he responded, “MOM, really.” Dumbfounded, I listened as he explained my error. The correct title is Kicking and Screaming. I accepted the correction and thought we could continue our conversation. But, first I had to endure the same sort of lecture I gave my mom 33 years ago. I wish I could tell my mom how right she was (not about the pronunciation), but about how I would eventually experience the same woes she did!

Do or did you get annoyed with “errors” your mom made? Did she mispronounce your friend’s names? Your teacher’s names?  Which of your trivial, but annoying mistakes irk your children?

Chicken Soup and the secret ingredient

29 Mar

Chicken soup, with the mandatory matzoh balls, is not a treat in my house, it’s a staple. While I often make the soup when I sense our need for the “Jewish penicillin,” I think I am also prompted by the guaranteed oohs and aahs. Unlike other meals I put together, I can count on this one being a success.

As I gathered ingredients for  the soup today (the added impetus being a cold March day) I made sure to add my mother’s favorite, secret ingredient and the very reason I think my soup is always a success—parsnips. My mother always used more than the usual amount of parsnips and their sweet flavor continues to create a delicious, addictive flavor. Instead of buying the pre-made bag of soup vegetables, my mother would always buy 4 – 5  parsnips in addition to the carrots, celery, onion and garlic.

I am sure this is the first of many posts about special recipes and secret ingredients that we inherit from our mothers. And, it’s certainly a sentimental issue since they can be multi-generational and provoke delicious memories. My husband’s mother passed away before revealing the secret ingredient that gave her noodle kugel a uniquely delectable flavor. We think it was cream cheese, but do not know the amount or exact instructions. So, if you still can, ask your mom about those special dishes she makes.

This is a great opportunity to share favorite family recipes—what special or unique concoctions did your mom pass along to you?


Mazel Tov

27 Mar

While sitting in Temple for our friend’s son’s Bar Mitzvah, dancing the Hora and chatting during dessert, I looked enviously at my friend and her mother’s interaction. How wonderful to have your mom and maybe even your grandma, 3 or more generations of women, celebrate such monumental lifecycle events! As the observer, I treasured the proud look on her mom’s face. I couldn’t help but wonder, “What does that special pride and approval feel like?” Yet I also realized that is a tricky combination. Was she feeling the “he chanted beautifully, your outfit is gorgeous and this party is the most and appropriate” approval? Or was my friend imagining questions like “did he take on the extra Hebrew? Why did you choose that dress?  Why would you serve that at a Bar Mitzvah?” I’m not going to naively negate that my mother’s presence during the planning stages and special day might have caused stress. She certainly might have interfered, asked the wrong questions, and even pushed me to invite extra relatives and friends. Yet, that’s a risk I’d take in a heartbeat.

How do moms without moms cope with this void during these special celebrations? Do they make substitutions, as I did, for the roles their moms would have played? I still smile when I remember asking my mom’s sister/my very special aunt to be the grandparent participating in my son’s talit ceremony. I feel lucky that she could participate in the tradition, especially because my son was named after my mom. But, I also know that we all felt her and my dad’s absence.

Do moms with moms wisely combat any stressful interference by understanding the alternative—my reality? How do we help ourselves appreciate who we have in our lives, whether they cause or alleviate stress? While I wish my mom could celebrate a simple sunrise as well as a once-in-a-lifetime event with me, I appease myself by imagining all of the good feelings she would have helped create.



The every day chat

24 Mar

I wish I could talk with my mom every day, just like I used to. I say this without great sadness. After 17 years I am certainly used to not talking with her. And, I definitely do not intend to get you feeling maudlin. It’s just that at the end of a day, I sometimes (okay, often) think about how nice it would be to chat with my mom. We would talk about the most mundane things—what we cooked for dinner, how miserable hail is in March, our to-do lists. We’d have days when our chat would reveal exciting news or fun occurrences like “You’ll never guess who I ran into….”  And, inevitably, we’d have strained chats, silent moments and even angry exchanges. We would check up on each other, worry about each other and keep an eye (or ear) on each other.

So, how does a mom without a mom fill this particular void, especially if she does not have her father to fill in this spot? Does it get filled?

Lucky for me (and hopefully for them too), I rely on my friends for the daily chat that is not always daily. After all, who else besides a mom really has the time and patience to talk to her daughter every day! My role as a mother often involves just listening to my children’s tales, ideas, complaints…. Our mother/child chats are often not conversations, but monologues. So, I am grateful to my dear friends for often listening more than talking. It’s funny how easily we take on substitute roles and find a way to fill each other’s voids.

I wonder who other moms without moms (who did talk every day) talk to? Do they fill that void with special people? Do women whose moms are in their lives talk to them consistently and often? What do you or did you love to talk about most with your mom?


The Cleaning Lady, take two,

22 Mar

We all  have moments when we become our mothers…no matter how much we promised ourselves we would not “act that way.” Here it is, a new dilemma and one that affected my mother for years. I’m not happy with our new cleaning help. My mother was never happy with the women she hired to clean our house. I remember thinking, “that poor woman…she tried so hard and my mother expects too much.” If you read my “Expired” post, you already know that my mother was a cleaning fanatic–anyone trusted with a duster in my house had to abide by the rules. Well, Linda, a very kind and sweet young woman is now coming to my house and after she leaves, I become anxious as I see floors that do not sparkle, corners with cobwebs and chachkas placed askew.  Just like my mother, I go a little crazy then looking for all of the faulty areas. Did she disinfect all of the toilets? Why are there a few stains on the bathroom floor? Did she splash the glass shower door while cleaning the bathroom floor? These are the same questions my mom asked 35 years ago! The most discouraging part is that I am afraid I will continue to be unhappy even if I change cleaning women. Just like my mom, I might hire and fire and make many women so unhappy. I am typically tolerant and see myself being quite picky about this. So,  I am going to keep Linda for now and realize that if I let her go, a pattern may prevail.

Do you have any very specific behavior patterns that you trace to your mom? Do you recall thinking and maybe saying, “I’ll never….”

Do you, as I do, wish your mom could see you now and you could both have a big laugh as you carry on her “crazy” ways? What do you find yourself reacting to in just the same way your mom did?

P.S. If you haven’t sensed it already, I am grateful to my mom for teaching me how to clean and helping me expect the best from myself and those I hire!

Spring Shopping

20 Mar

Do you remember when The Mall at Short Hills was an outdoor shopping plaza? Yesterday, while surveying the beautiful stores for spring clothes with my daughter, Sandra, I recalled touring the mall with my mom.

I certainly wish she could see it now! Back in the 1970s, the mall was an outdoor series of connected stores, anchored by Bloomingdales and B. Altman. Now going to the mall is a spontaneous stop in the middle of our busy days. Back then it was a trip saved for special occasion shopping. When it was time to find a fancy dress for the annual dinner dance, a relative’s Bat Mitzvah or wedding AND when we exhausted all nearby and more economical shops, off we went to Short Hills. After the mall’s original enclosure, it continued to be a collection of exclusive shops and mostly an impractical venue for our budget. We were used to central Jersey’s Woodbridge Center and the Brunswick Square Mall.  There we could find bargains and enjoy a special Fribble at Friendly’s. At The Mall at Short Hills, we would be exhausted combing the sale racks and settle for a cookie from a bakery. We could not afford the time or the three course meals at the only two (and fancy) restaurants.

Yesterday, while filling a dressing room with new and trendy spring clothes, Sandra and I were treated to complimentary cookies in Bloomingdales.  Sunlight poured through the ceiling windows and helped put a spotlight on Aritzia’s window’s mannequins. I could hear my teenage oohs and aahs as clearly as I spotted Sandra’s obsession with the latest Ray Ban’s.

For me, strolling through the mall with Sandra can turn into a trip down memory lane. I truly hope that mother/daughter shopping trips continue to be a fundamental custom for all women! What are your special memories of shopping with your mom? Do you visit some of the same spots with your daughter?


17 Mar

A friend’s disappointment, described to me today, made me wonder: How do our mom’s comments affect us, while they are here with us and after they are gone?

This friend had a typical story. Her mother made a positive comment, followed by a sarcastic remark. “You did so well. I’m so impressed. And, I’m so surprised.” Wow, she couldn’t just end with the first sentence? It made me think about how good moms are at chastising their daughters—myself, as a mom, included. We sometimes know just how to push those clichéd buttons. While I occasionally recall the cutting censures my mom made, I have not had to experience them in 17 years. By now, it might be obvious that I would prefer to endure those remarks, any and all remarks, if my mom could be here to make them. But, since she is not, have I become less sensitive? I do think that I try to curtail these comments, but I am still guilty of making them.

If our mom is gone, do we forget how it feels to be the recipient? While this highly hormonal mother/daughter banter can be considered “normal,” it is not acceptable. How do we, as mothers and daughters, avoid these jabs?


A Whole Foods Adventure

15 Mar

I wish my mom could come to Whole Foods with me! Today, while waiting my turn at the Deli Counter, I enjoyed eavesdropping on a pregnant woman shopping with her mother. They looked at products together, tasted samples and chatted while waiting in line. As I watched and listened, I thought about those mundane activities, like food shopping with our moms, that we probably take for granted. And I thought about how my mother used whole wheat flour before it was readily available, roasted soybeans before most people had even heard of them and evaluated ingredients before they were mandated on all packages. Whole Foods might have been her dream food market. She would not have liked the prices, but she would have loved the products and philosophy.

It is easy to have fun in a market like Whole Foods and that makes it easier to fantasize about shopping there with my mother. While my reality sets in, I choose to look fondly on those women taking advantage of these opportunities. Instead of being filled with sadness that my mother and I each were deprived of such a simple pleasure, this is one of those instances in which I live vicariously. And, it is one of those activities that does make me wonder, is it as much fun as it looks? When does food shopping with your mom become more of a chore than a pleasure? Or, is life so busy that most do not even get the chance to find that out? What inspires you to share ordinary activities with your mom or just daydream about these adventures you did or would experience?

Corned Beef and Cabbage – A Celebration

13 Mar

After seeing every bit of meat, cabbage, potatoes and bread devoured, I wonder how my mom would react to my family’s annual St. Patrick’s Day dinner.  I know she liked corned beef and she ate cabbage, especially stuffed. But, I also know she did not enjoy celebrating holidays that started with St.

I can recall many Februarys when she would remind my father that he should not give her flowers or any gift for Valentine’s Day because it was not “her” holiday. It still puzzles me that, as a Jew, she seemed offended that we were expected to celebrate holidays honoring saints. I can hear her unwavering belief that, “These holidays could not be “Americanized.’” She did not mind that I exchanged cards with other children in school and she did not speak out against other Jews partaking in Valentine’s rituals. But, still, she did ruin some of the February 14th fun.

I wish I had the opportunity to invite her for dinner this week. She would not have to wear green or acknowledge St. Patrick. Having this delicious meal has become a tradition that my husband and children relish. I am definitely drawn in by the holiday hype and Shop Rite specials. I’d love to think that her opposition to such celebrations would have lessened with age and that she, who loved bargains and good food, would enjoy or even applaud my efforts.

I wonder if other motherless women have initiated traditions that their mothers would question. I wonder if we, motherless women, even find some relief knowing that our mothers will not judge these questionable rituals. Or, do others fantasize, as I do, that our mothers would have mellowed and even express approval? Are there things you do (or don’t do) because your mom will not know? If your mom is in your life, what influence does she have on the traditions you do or do not keep?


10 Mar

Do you know how to pick produce in the supermarket? Do you remember to check the expiration date of products you buy? I do, thanks to my mother. Yesterday, after opening a new package of parmesan cheese which smelled sour, my son (who again, in this story, exhibits traits he inherited from my mom) asked if I had checked the expiration date. “Of course I did,” I said, “I learned that from my mother.” I took this opportunity to recall various housekeeping protocols that I learned from watching and helping my mother. And, I wonder, what did I not get the opportunity to learn? Honestly, I often feel fortunate because I know she taught me things that other women with and without mothers don’t know. How many people know that your shampoo bubbles more on the second wash because it lathers up better on clean hair? Okay, maybe that is not so important, but how about this– is it common knowledge that keeping the lid on a pot of boiling water makes it boil more quickly? Or, how many people (with and without cleaning help) know to dust top to bottom and before vacuuming?

What household tasks are you better at because of your mom? Do you know whether to use foil or plastic wrap on cheese? Do you know how to fold the corners when wrapping a present? And, are our children learning some of these same or similar tips from us?