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It’s all Greek to Me….

21 Jan

I continue to be amazed by how many new situations I encounter which make me think of my mother, passionately miss her and be even more impressed by her. Some things seem so simple to me, like deciding to join a sorority in college. Well, at least I thought my daughter’s interest in joining a sorority was normal and expected, after all, I joined Zeta Tau Alpha (ZTA) my freshman year at Rutgers University.

Sharing the news that Sandra planned to “rush” at University of Miami drew a myriad of opinions accompanied by comments including, “Oh really. Why would she do that?”, “I didn’t have any interest in my college’s sororities,” “My daughter never wanted to do that,” as well as “That’s great, she’ll love it.” I was surprised at receiving the negative reactions. The intention was not to be condescending, of course. Perhaps these opinions were derived from a lack of familiarity with college Greek life or were based on what they have seen in movies and on television.

So, I thought about how my mom supported my decision to pledge a sorority despite her complete lack of experience with one. She did not attend a 4 year college and even if she had, I do not think she would have been a sorority girl. When I pledged, my sister was already a senior at Swarthmore College which had banned sororities.  I am pretty sure that my parents’ only concern with the whole Greek thing was cost and interference with my school work. After I assured them that neither would be an issue, they seemed infected with my excitement. I know that my mom was thrilled to bring me her old black silk taffeta dress to wear to my first sorority formal. She might not have been the sorority type, but was proud to have the appropriate wardrobe!

Raising children has helped me to be non-judgmental and tolerant of others. We make decisions for ourselves and our children that might conflict with what we thought we would do and/or what “everyone else is doing.” I emulate my parents’ compulsion to raise my sister and me as individuals.  While I am sure not all of their rules, decisions, etc. were right, they were at least based on their own beliefs and standards. And, I know they would be proud that they taught us to make thoughtful and independent decisions.

Of course, since I did truly enjoy my sorority days, I am all in favor of Sandra pledging. Interestingly, I am not disappointed that she did not pledge ZTA (on the other hand, that would have been really neat—she’d be a legacy). Sandra is the ideal sorority girl—she treasures her friendships and desires that sisterhood camaraderie. She is so full of energy and enthusiasm—she loved all of the quirky camp traditions and will be the first to memorize her Delta Gamma songs, handshakes, etc. Sorority gatherings will fuel her need for socializing 24/7.  And, she even considered the various sorority philanthropies in making her sorority choice since charitable work is important to her.  I am really proud of her and I know that my mom would be too—she would swoon over her granddaughter and all of her adventures, including this latest one.

If She Could Teach Me Now

6 May

Singer Sewing Machine

I readily admit that sometimes my longing for my mother is triggerd by my own needs—wishing she could do something for me. Rather than feel guilty about this selfish desire, I rationalize that the nature of  the child/parent relationship is about what we do for each other. Right now, in my teenagers’ lives, I do so much for them. I do not expect a “pay back,” but I hope to experience some reciprocity. More importantly, it is a goal, however idealistic, that as parents who do many things for our children, we ultimately teach them to do these things for themselves.

Why is it, then, that I did not learn how to sew?

That is the need I had/have that got me thinking about how much my mother did for me and how much I did not want to learn some of the skills needed to fend for myself. My mom was a master seamstress. She made curtains, slip covers, clothing and even doll outfits (see Barbie’s Runway post).  She altered clothes to make them shorter, longer, etc. I do not wish to create clothing, all I want to do is sew a simple hem. My mother saved us all time and money. I can remember her sitting at our dining room table with her old Singer Sewing machine fixing something for my sister, father, or me. She wanted to teach me the basics and often asked me to sit with her and learn. But, in keeping with typical teenage culture, the more she asked the more I resisted. I recall responding with the all-knowing, “I’ll never have to do that myself.” I remember thinking how boring and tedious sewing looked. And, now I wish for the ability to do more than sew a button onto a shirt. How smart it would have been to learn to sew a simple hem. Almost every pair of pants I buy needs to be shortened.  When making a decision to buy pants, I add the $10 – $12 tailoring charge and figure in the time it will take to be fitted and to pick up the pants. Sometimes those qualifications make the pants not even worth buying! I fantasize, “If I only knew how to sew….I could wear these pants tomorrow… and they’d be a real bargain!”

There is even more I could have/should have learned from my mother, including basic handyman skills and shopping for antiques. She could hang any frame on a wall, drill holes and hang shelves as well as find valuable antiques and sell them in her shop. And, this is just a partial list of skills she had and wished to share, but that I refused to learn.

What I wonder is what special or even ordinary skills you learned from your mom. Which of her talents did you take for granted or refuse to adopt? If you could be her apprentice now, what do you wish she would teach you?

Visiting a Childhood/Family Favorite Haunt

2 Oct

A romantic evening trip to the rural and quaint tourist town, Lambertville, NJ, quickly became nostalgic. The “kicked-in-the-stomach” feeling I experienced about 36 years ago emerged as my husband and I gazed beyond the Lambertville-New Hope Bridge.

1975ish:  Before we embarked on one of our family’s favorite day trips, I imagined the perfect accessory to my outfit. My Aunt Joan had recently given her gold hoop earrings and a heart necklace for her Bat Mitzvah. I worked up the nerve to ask my sister if I could borrow them for our trip. She said yes and I put them on. I was eager to walk through New Hope, shop and eat adorned with such beautiful jewelry! While there, we walked and window shopped. I must have had a fixation with earrings that night, because I picked some out in each store we visited. Finally, I found a pair of earrings there that my parents agreed to buy for me. The price was right for these “royal” jewels I had found.

After a long day, we returned home and then, the shock struck. I discovered I had lost one of my sister’s earrings. We immediately checked my clothes and our bags. Nothing. We combed the car. Nothing. We called the New Hope jewelry store and restaurant. Nothing. After a day or two of searching, we gave up the hunt. We assumed the earrings lost forever. I cried and shouted  regret for borrowing the earrings. I did not think I could recover from my mistake, but time helped us forget this mishap. And, then, about one year later, my mom found the missing earring. She was cleaning my room, her annual eradication of each minute piece of hidden dust. While scouring the molding behind my bed, she saw it—the tiny gold earring. I recall my pre-teen-appropriate irrational reaction when I became angry that she had not found the earring sooner.. Shouldn’t she have vacuumed that thoroughly each time? I had to quickly end any undue criticism of my mom.  Fortunately, my sister was just thrilled she had its mate and could finally wear the special gift again. Case closed.

Despite this unfortunate experience or perhaps because there was a happy ending, I still have great memories of the Lambertville, NJ and New Hope, PA towns. The towns have not changed very much and provide me with an adult glimpse of why mom was enamored with that rural area.  If there is a moral to my story, it is to never borrow expensive things. –just kidding (I think).

Did your family have any traditional day trips? Did you ever borrow and (seemingly) ruin a sibling’s important possession? What town or place would bring warm, nostalgic feelings to you? Sticking to the often irrational wishes I have, I do wish I could go back to New Hope with mom without any mishap at all. She would be happy we enjoy one of her favorite spots.

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?

Barbie’s Runway

6 Jul

Fashion by Phyllis

I loved dressing my dolls as a child and always appreciated the unique and custom-made clothing my mother crafted for Barbie, Crissy and Kerry. You might notice in the photo that Kit, a current American Girl, is not wearing one of her usual outfits. She is wearing a dress my mother made for Crissy (remember her from the 70’s?) –a great sign that classic fashion stays or comes back in style! This was proven last week while my nieces were visiting and chose that dress for Kit to wear to our New York City American Girl lunch. My daughter  has not played with or dressed Kit for about 7 years so it was great to see her getting attention and a makeover.

I have told my daughter and I told my nieces all about the clothing my mom would craft. She would buy the Singer patterns or create her own. Usually she used fabric left over from hemming or making her own clothing—illustrating her special talent and typical economical habit. She even made a fur stole with the extra from her Flemington Fur Coat.  Sure, her motivation was saving money while giving my dolls a tremendous wardrobe, but I am still grateful for her ingenuity. It certainly took a ton of time and planning to provide such beautiful ensembles.

 I wish my mom could see these dolls now! Her creations/their outfits certainly have stood the test of time and still provide a very special link to my mom. I do not know of any other moms who also made their daughter’s doll clothing, do you? While my daughter and nieces did not mind the “no brand” clothing, would girls today be satisfied with this clothing or would they pine for the “real” designer doll dress?  What memories do you have of things that your mom or dad created for you to play with?  

White Before Memorial Day

10 May

I am wearing white pants and shoes today and I wish I knew what my mom would say! While I am curious and even a bit uncomfortable not knowing her opinion, I do believe that I would still be wearing white today even if she was here to shake her head, showing disappointment. That’s the sort of relationship we had, especially as adults. While I continued to seek my mom’s opinion (even about such “trivial matters” as clothing), by the time I was 18ish, I did my own thing anyway.  I often and vividly recall the time she did not like the pink items I put together. How could she not understand that I didn’t care—it was and is my favorite color and, therefore, I claimed poetic license for pink in my wardrobe—anything goes. Yet, like many daughters, I did desire her approval. I can’t remember all of the instances, but I do hope we were mostly in agreement.

Back to the white dilemma–would she be flexible in fashion? Would she stick to outdated societal standards? Would she be progressive and embrace Michelle Obama and the current freedom in fashion? 

My white dilemma might generate memories of your mother’s rules of etiquette or need to conform to societal standards. Did your mother wear white before Memorial Day? Do you? What social “norms” did your mother adhere to? Possibly even more interesting, which did she ignore or protest? And, how did this affect you then? Now?