Archive | September, 2011

L’Shanah Tovah: Wishing You a Good Year and Feeling Better About It!

28 Sep

When I first thought about writing this blog, I spoke with a few friends who have experienced the same loss as I have—their moms also died when they were young adults. One common question came up with each friend—which day do you find most difficult or sad since your mom died? Birthdays rank high as an answer. But, for me, it is the Jewish High Holidays.

Time definitely does not make all sad feelings go away, but has helped in this case. Still, every Rosh Hashanah has a sadness that I can’t escape. I have tried to determine the reason why I find this the toughest time of year. It is not necessary or even plausible to find logic in my feelings, but here it goes anyway:

1.  I love holiday celebrations and this is one that my mom always hosted. I do not recall any big gatherings, but the holiday meal was special. And, yet the food was not extraordinary. My mom was an excellent cook, but she made traditional (actually, the tastiest I’ve ever had) chicken soup, a chicken dish and good sides. I still wonder why we did not have brisket.  I can surmise that either it was too expensive or considered less healthful.

2.  As a family we went to Temple for evening and morning services. Our Rabbi’s sermons stimulated our family discussions throughout the day. My mom couldn’t read Hebrew, but always had an opinion about the Rabbi’s address.

3. Dressing for the holidays was a huge deal. My mother agonized over her holiday outfits. She was always concerned that people would scoff, albeit silently, at her if she wore the same dress two years in a row. I never understood that and I remember telling her that no one would ever notice. My comment never helped and I was too naïve to realize she wanted to be noticed!

3.  After the Rosh Hashanah morning service, our day continued with family time. We would eat again, either at the Rabbi’s Open House or at home. And then, my father would declare the holiday over and want to go shopping. My mother argued that some Jewish people were still in services and we should not go out until the holiday ended officially. But, each year, she would be overruled and off to Sym’s we would go!

4. After my father died, my mom sometimes spent either Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur with my sister. I was weepy when she left and thrilled when she returned. More than any other celebration, this one was incomplete without her.

So, my feelings about the holiday are drawn from the traditional love of matzo ball soup, holiday prayers and melodies to the secondary and unnecessary fixation on fashion. In each circumstance, memories of my mom’s presence prevail.

For years after my mom died, I would dread the High Holy Days and feel relief when they ended. Yet with time and distraction, I have grown to enjoy them. Thanks to the thoughtful persistence of good friends, we enjoy their warm and wonderful family gatherings. During this holiday season, I think about and miss my mom more than usual. And, that is just another tribute to her and our special relationship.

I continue to wonder, what days are hardest for other motherless daughters. We all share a sense of dread for certain days. What day do you find you most miss your mom?

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Is Your Mom Your Guru?

12 Sep

While my blog’s focus is mother/daughter relationships, I must divert temporarily. I recently read and connected with Anderson Cooper’s contribution to the “Blessings” column in the September 2011 issue of Good Housekeeping (http://www.allthingsandersoncooper.com/2011/08/odds-ends.html).

I was immediately intrigued by the introductory blurb, “Talk show host Anderson Cooper found his anti-aging guru close to home: his mother.” Guru and mother—what an interesting connection.  While he has come to this heartwarming description of his mother’s influence, like most children, he did not always recognize her impact. He admits that “There were times during high school when I wished my mom were more conventional. My friends’ homes had kitchens full of home-baked cookies….”She’d been an actor, designer, businesswoman, painter and writer: she’d worked hard and achieved remarkable success.”

Cooper’s mom, Gloria Vanderbilt, has had an effect on many people. And, it is obvious that she will continue to affect her son, whether or not she is alive. Her impact is awesome and inspirational. Cooper helps us think about what makes our moms special. He makes his relationship with this extraordinary woman something to which we can relate. And, it is the type of relationship I aspire to have with my own children.

My mom was a guru of many things, but most importantly and just like Anderson Cooper’s mom, she continues to be my spiritual guide.

In what way is your mother your guru?

Mothers and Maids

5 Sep

Having read and watched The Help, I am filled with thoughts about my mom and mothers. This story can be enjoyed and even analyzed on many levels, including the role of mothers—then and now. Other mothers abound in the story. Skeeter is honest about who raised her and might even find the term “Other mother” demeaning in reference to Constantine, her family’s maid. She shows resentment toward her mom and love for her family’s “help” as she repeatedly reminds her mother that Constantine raised her. And, isn’t Aibileen more like a mother to Mae Mobley’s than the child’s own mom, Elizabeth? It seems appropriate when Mae Mobley tells Aibileen, “You’re my mom.”

For me, one of the most poignant moments in the movie is towards the end, when Skeeter and her mom come to terms with their past and future. While their emotional connection still seems disjointed, I appreciate their honesty. I love when Charlotte says to her daughter, Skeeter, “Courage sometimes skips a generation, thank you for bringing it back to our family.” It took great courage for Charlotte to admit her wrongdoings.

I am thankful to have had a mother who, like “the help,” raised me with unconditional love and taught me to be honest and fair. And, the story reminds me to mother my children with those same intentions.

If you read the book or movie, what moments made you think about your mom and her influence? Were you influenced or “mothered” by anyone else and what effect did that have?

Other Mothers in the Wake of Irene

1 Sep

A mom’s empathy and help is priceless….

One of the most heartwarming, reassuring and appreciated consequences of Hurricane Irene’s destructive stop in our town is the outpouring of help from women throughout our neighborhoods.  I think many of us in town have long felt a great sense of community. We have two amazing networks/listservs, the Working Moms Group and our Newcomers/Encore Group. The advice, help and camaraderie emanating from these groups is precious and mother-like.

In the aftermath of this storm, women have offered help in every way imaginable.  Like a mom, these women have thought of all of our essential needs: a warm meal, laundry, a place to shower. Due to the devastation from Irene, these women are giving information on and lending fans, de-humidifiers, wet vacs and even generators. And, because of our reliance on technology, their offers also include wifi access and a home to charge computers and cell phones. It started with friends offering such help to their immediate circles of friends. And, then it spread. Just today, one woman posted an offer for anyone in town to borrow her mom’s stockpots for boiling our unsafe water. The offers keep coming: friends and acquaintances who hear that I am without power, have reached out with empathy and offers for us to meet those essential needs and even take a swim in their pool while the laundry finishes.

And, just like a real mom, there is some daughter guilt. I actually feel bad if I can’t take someone/everyone up on their offers. I would love to spend time with each of these “other moms”. The idea of dinner and powering up at each person’s house, is tempting and reassuring. However, reality and the imminent start of school intervene and force me to turn down some offers. Instead we  sometimes we go to the library or Starbucks in order to work incognito.

I often think about times that I turned my mom down on her offers (or requests) to get together. My “no” was often accompanied with guilt. While I regret  not saying yes all of the time, I know how unrealistic that is and that she understood. Saying no to someone who offers her heart and house to you is hard. So many of us moms feel great when we give to others. It’s almost ironic that I want to give these “other moms” the satisfaction of giving.

I hope you are lucky enough to have your mom or other moms in your life. Perhaps you are also an “other mom.” I’d love to hear your story!