Archive | Celebrities RSS feed for this section

Between the Lines

14 Oct

I am so happy to be back to blogging. It’s not that I didn’t think about my mom in the last 2 months- my constant connection to her is certainly intact.

While on hiatus and while catching up on some reading, I was inspired and couldn’t wait to write this post. I’m sure we all notice that mothers are often a focal point of books and articles. But, what struck me, is a deep and thoughtful commentary on a mother’s influence and relationships in Swamplandia! by Karen Russell.

I’m willing to bet you haven’t heard of this Pulitzer Prize finalist and neither had I. I did not choose this to read this book on my own– a colleague suggested it for our high school’s first Student/Staff Book Club. I felt lucky to be engaged with the protagonist, soon-to-be motherless daughter, Ava. I was surprised and affected by the mother/daughter thread throughout the novel. While each book club member found parts of the novel engaging, no one expressed the connection that I found. Each time I picked up the book I looked forward to Ava’s reminiscence and her ongoing relationship with her deceased mother.

As soon as her mother, Hilola is diagnosed with cancer, it is apparent that her demise will have a huge impact on the family and their alligator theme park business. While the business does crumble after her death, Ava remains strong, partially powered by her mother’s strength and presence. Often as I read, I wanted to reach out and hug Ava for verbalizing my feelings, exactly.

Her view of dealing with her mom’s death should be highlighted in a self-help book for mourners. Why do we sometimes avoid talking about our loved one’s death? When Ava needed to “explain to him about mom’s death which was always hard to do. It felt like killing her again.” Exactly. Talking about the details brings back the harsh reality that no one should have to endure once, let alone again and again.

When I started writing this blog, it was because I felt, like Ava, that my mom “was everywhere and nowhere.” She continues to influence me.

When Ava’s brother, Kiwi, hears tourists remember his mom’s acts, “he wanted to passionately kiss them.” I know that feeling. I LOVE talking with anyone who remembers my mom. We don’t have to talk about her, just the fact that this person knew her enough to say her name.  Attending events like my neighborhood swim club’s reunion party and my own high school reunion, for me, is partially fueled by knowing I will mingle with people who knew my parents. During these gatherings, they probably have no idea how meaningful it is for them to acknowledge my mom or dad. Sometimes, I tell them. Like Kiwi, I feel like “her name in a stranger’s mouth was a resurrection.” Well, I don’t have the experience with strangers, but the feeling is the same.

Ava remembers her mom as “stern and all-seeing” as moms should be. She recalls that her mom “would do this great favor of pretending to be credulous when we faked sick. Mom cooed sincerely over our theatrical moanings and coughs.” My mom didn’t coo, but she did sometimes fall for the “I’m too sick to go to school” drill. Ava reinforces the notion that my mom, like hers, was usually aware of my actual condition.

Ava often hears her mother’s voice in her head. I hear my mom’s too and, like Ava, I’m grateful I do. But, for Ava it was even more than a voice. Ava is struggling and almost drowning in the ocean when “I met my mother there, in the final moment. Not her ghost but some vaster portion of her…. Her courage. I believe that she was the pulse and bloom that forced me toward the surface. She was the water that eased the clothes from my fingers. She was the muscular current that rode me through the water away from the den, and she was the victory howl that at last opened my mouth and filled my lungs.”

How beautiful.

Finally, at the end of the story, when the family is reunited and is headed towards healing, Ava feels relieved that “all of us, the four of us—the five of us if you counted Mom inside us- we were home.” And, that’s just the point. My mom is still here, inside of me, each and every moment. I am fortunate, like Ava, to have had a mom who mattered.

 

Advertisements

Going for Gold

29 Jul

“If it wasn’t for my mom, I don’t know where I’d be….” is a sentiment I must borrow from Ryan Lochte, the swimming champion currently competing in the Olympics. I stumbled upon the Proctor & Gamble videos, Raising an Olympian  and soon found myself mesmerized by the interviews with current Olympic athletes and their moms.  I write this blog because I am thankful that my mom created a “safe place” for me, just as the triathlete Paula Findlay’s  mom did for her.  Beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh-Jennings’ praise of her mom filled me with nostalgic feelings of my own mom and inspiration to “want to be a lioness for my kids.”

My mom certainly never intended to raise an Olympian and neither did these moms! They did what most of us moms want to do: they helped their children make the most of their talents and skills. Well, then, of course, one thing led to another and there they are in London!  Actually, I made it to London too (for college study abroad in 1985) and I do have my mom and her sister (one of my dearest “other mothers”) as well as my dad and uncle to thank for that.

The fifteen minutes I spent watching these videos provided some of the best parental advice. I only hope to be affected by the moms’ recollection of their goals and parenting styles. Kerri Walsh-Jennings’ mom takes more pride in the “wonderful human being” her daughter is than in her athletic accomplishments. She helped her daughter dream big and play to win, but also helped give her stability and balance. The British runner, Jessica Ennis is lucky to have a mom who saw her desire to compete and helped nurture that desire. It sounds like Paula Findlay’s mom’s glass was half full. She put a positive spin on the tough times while giving her daughter “freedom to flourish.” Ryan Lochte’s message hit me the hardest. While his mom helped him persevere, he also felt that “If she had a tighter leash…I might have hated it (swimming).” I am already hearing him as I want to tell my son or daughter what to do next….

Not all moms can or should raise an Olympian. And, certainly many Olympians and world-class athletes come from broken and dysfunctional homes. I have written about the risks my mother encouraged me to take, the lessons I learned from her, and the many interests and skills I have because of her. I credit both of my parents with allowing me independence and fostering self-esteem and my desire to achieve my goals. They were proud of my accomplishments as long as I strove for the gold medal in whatever I chose to pursue.

I hope you will watch some of these videos that inspire gold medal mothering and I would love for you to comment on your favorites.

Another Celebrity Inspiration: Clive Davis’s tribute to his mom as he eulogizes Whitney Houston

20 Feb

I must first admit that I was glued to the television yesterday to watch Whitney Houston’s funeral. For the past 8 days, many people, famous and not, have praised her voice and her songs.  Ever since she entered the music world, when she and I were both 16, I have been entranced. I was more obsessed with following her funeral than with many other celebrities who have died. Perhaps it’s because we share our age and New Jersey that I am particularly intrigued by her. I thought it was really neat that we were pregnant around the same time and years later her daughter attended the same day camp as many children from my area. I love the story one friend told about Whitney following the camp bus to make sure her daughter, Bobbi Kristina, was okay.

While watching and listening to the songs and speeches during the funeral, I thought of Whitney’s daughter and mother. And, then, Clive Davis gave a speech filled with deep understanding. I was struck when this older, very famous, successful and powerful man spoke about his mom dying at the age of 47, when he was a teenager. He said, “I’ve felt my mother’s guidance and she’s helped me throughout my life.” He told the audience and emphasized to Whitney’s daughter that his mom is always with him even to “this very day.” In sharing his personal history, he comforted Bobbi Kristina in a warm and endearing way. This motherless son expressed exactly how I feel as a motherless daughter.

It is a tribute to incredible parents that they can continue to guide us after they have died. Instead of letting anger or defeat get in the way, Clive Davis, a destitute orphan, found his mother’s voice inside of him. Without parental support, he attended NYU and Harvard Law School on full scholarships. He spoke about being a father figure to Whitney and, after reading about him, it seems like he has taken that role with many artists.

During this eulogy, he spoke directly to Whitney’s daughter advising her to always be proud of her mother.. He told her to remember that “She’ll forever be looking after you and will never let go of your hand.”

I love that thought—that even after your mom has died, she will hold your hand. That, in essence, is what I feel and why I write this blog. I am grateful to have had an incredible mother who, I feel every day, is looking after me. I hope that you feel the same or can create that feeling with someone in your life.

 

Citations:

“Clive Davis Biography – Facts, Birthday, Life Story – Biography.com.” Famous Biographies & TV Shows – Biography.com. 2012. Web. 19 Feb. 2012. http://www.biography.com/people/clive-davis-20740991.

“Whitney’s “raising the Roof” in Heaven, Clive Davis Says – Celebrity Circuit – CBS News.”Breaking News Headlines: Business, Entertainment & World News – CBS News. 18 Feb. 2012. Web. 19 Feb. 2012. http://www.cbsnews.com.

 

Where Were You the Night Elvis Died?

16 Aug

I can remember, as if we are walking up Prests Mill Drive right now, the stroll that my mother and I took the night that Elvis Presley died.  Although we were not ardent fans of Elvis, he was a larger-than-life celebrity figure whose sudden death seemed to impact us all.  My mom was in her 20’s when Elvis became the “King of Rock and Roll.” If she wasn’t smitten with him, she was at least surrounded by so many who were. And, at age 13, I was an Elvis observer. I had watched some of his movies and found him intriguing. He was the first celebrity I knew who lived a glamorous and successful life that crumbled due to drugs and alcohol. His downfall would not be so shocking today—it is almost too common.

So, with these mixed emotions and a definite sadness, we decided it would be good to walk. I loved that walk. I can remember the happy feeling of being together weighed against the sadness that dominated that night. We chatted and walked for a while that night, not a common practice for us.

Today is the anniversary of Elvis’s death and people throughout the world will recall the feelings they had 34 years ago. I wish my mom and I could chat about Elvis now. I would love to know if she was ever an infatuated fan. And I wish I could tell her about the brief, but huge Elvis obsession my son had around age 10. Yet, I am warmed by the memory of our walk August 16, 1977.

And, I wonder, where were you and what was your reaction when Elvis died?