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Happy Mother’s Day

13 May

I hope you have had a great day even if it was without celebration. This year more than others, I noticed how this day comes with expectations—for moms and their children, especially adult daughters. I heard women announcing plans to have their moms over for a meal. Some were very happy—for them today is just another excuse to spend time with their moms, something they try to do often. Others complained about having to prepare and cook, as a daughter, when today should be a day of relaxation, as a mother. While this holiday does not get as much press as Christmas, I have been bombarded with e-mail offers for weeks.  Ads for discounted flowers and pajamas overwhelmed radio stations and newspapers.

My own family is so busy studying for AP exams, writing essays, etc., that we could not plan a Mother’s Day family outing. And, since we do not have a grandmother to invite over for the obligatory meal, it was not necessary to call everyone together during the day. With time constraints in mind, I decided we should go out for dinner. Simple and stress-free.

As I condoned a Mother’s Day without much pomp and circumstance, I knew I would have my mom’s support. My mother encouraged us to do less. My mom did not have any need to make a big deal over a “Hallmark” holiday. After all of these years, I decided to investigate how this holiday started-  is Hallmark behind all of the hoopla?  I was surprised to learn that in 1870, Julia Ward Howe proclaimed the day a holiday to celebrate the men who fought in and survived the Civil War and to allow them to be at home with their moms. To follow Howe’s lead, another women’s activist, Anna Reeves continued the quest to make a special day to honor mothers and seek peace (http://www.mothersdaycentral.com/about-mothersday/history/).  My mom would have loved to know that Reeves tried to abolish the holiday when it became too commercial.

So, it seems like we cannot give credit to Hallmark and we should remember that the holiday started because a few women wanted to ensure that young men and women would have time to spend with their moms.

That brings me back to my original question, what celebrations are necessary? What should busy daughters do for their moms? Perhaps because I do not have a mom to shower with gifts and meals or because I wish I did, I take a very liberal stance on this holiday. I hope the celebrations we have are not out of obligation or guilt, but are mutually satisfying. What do you do to celebrate Mother’s Day- if you are fortunate enough to have your mom to celebrate with or if you are not….

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Not a Merry, but Yet a Very Happy Hanukkah

26 Dec

Holidays are known (notorious) for triggering sad memories of family missing in our lives. So, of course I have been thinking about my mom and, yet, fortunately focus on memories of celebrating Chanukah with her. My thoughts rambled and I came up with one memory or lesson for each night.

1.  Lesson, learned very young: Chanukah is NOT as important a holiday as Christmas. I grew up knowing that Chanukah celebrations mimicked Christmas due to societal pressure. My parents were dedicated to recognizing the holiday and carrying out the standard rituals, without Christmasizing it.  Even as a child, my parents somehow helped me feel that the story of the Maccabees, lighting the Menorah, dreidel games and latkes were more important than gift-giving.

2.  Gifts for Children Only:  My mom was adamantly opposed to children giving Chanukah gifts to adults. They were happy to give us gifts, but believed the gelt-giving tradition was intended to be non-reciprocal. As a child and young adult, I might have felt relief at being spared the expense and shopping agony, but the true test of admiring this “rule” is that I pay it forward—I am very happy to not receive gifts from my children and I am truly happy to give.

3.   Chanukah gifts: Not usually bountiful, but, even in tough years, my mom and dad gave us each one gift we requested. They joked that if we wanted one gift each night we’d have to settle for  Crayola’s box of 8 distributed over the holiday. Rebelling against this and starting with my daughter’s first Chanukah,  I decided to indulge my children the way I wish I was…. Whether it is a relative’s, friend’s or our gift, I make sure my children have at least one gift to open each night after we light the candles.

4. Shopping for Sales: We often waited to buy gifts until the Old Bridge Drug Fair lowered prices hourly before closing on Christmas Eve. Sometimes we even ventured to Toys R Us the day after Christmas for the best sales.  Some years our gifts were delayed until the monumental sales began. It was, of course, more fun to go when we had already been appeased with Chanukah gelt and gifts and the trip filled our rooms with extra toys. One problem with my parents’ plan is that I do recall being really sad in the Barbie aisle when NOTHING was reduced. Those were the days of fewer sales and deals. As an ardent sale shopper, my mom would be overwhelmed with today’s current state of sales. I wish my mom could have seen Target on Dec. 24, 2011!

5.  Better than any gift: My parents’ surprise announcement just before the holiday—we’re driving to Florida. I wonder how crazed the last minute decision made my mom—preparing for the long car ride and stay in Miami or Orlando. I knew the reason for this surprise was due to either a bonus paycheck or some other “found” money. The impetus did not take away even one bit of the euphoria I felt when the trip was announced.

6.  Grandma Ray’s latkes: I can see and smell them now—meaty potato patties coated in heavy oil and fried until all of the oil soaked in. During holidays my mother lifted her usual ban on my Grandma’s food treats. My grandma was even allowed to bring the fruit slices, sweets I still crave (and must admit, buy).

7.  Dreidel games: I often think about the very simple fun my sister and I had while playing dreidel on her floor—before her 1970s green shag carpeting was installed. The tiles were a drab and cold brown during the winter, but spinning for pennies (or even luckier, Hershey’s Kisses) was a tradition I relished. I still have our plastic dreidels, the bigger shallow dreidel that held the tiny ones and the piece of paper reminding us how much gelt we give or get from each letter.

8.  Keeping it simple: In keeping with the effort to celebrate Hanukkah in a non-Christmas way, we had very few decorations.  The most significant symbol of the Macabee miracle was prominently displayed—a brass electric Menorah in the window and an old-fashioned brass Menorah in the family room. I have proudly displayed the same electric Menorah, my Grandma Ray’s candle menorah and one that we received as a gift. I must admit I have decorated with Chanukah ribbon and streamers and use napkins decorated with Hanukkah symbols during the 8 days.

I wish my mom could see that she taught me well and her guidance/lessons live on. Happy Hanukkah!

Special thanks to my sister for helping me with accurate recall!

Now go read a wonderful Hanukkah Hoopla post by The Culture Mom !

I would like to thank Streit’s and Doni Zasloff Thomas a.k.a. Mama Doni, the lead singer/songwriter of The Mama Doni Band for providing each of the 16 bloggers involved in #HanukkahHoopla with a little cyberswag.

How can you win? Leave me an awesome comment. On January 5, 2012, I will select one winner at random. Be sure to subscribe to my blog or subscribe to comments on this page so you can find out if you are the winner! If I don’t hear from you within 48 hours, I will select another winner.

Prefer to be contacted via Twitter? Leave your Twitter handle in your comment and I will tweet you if you win.

Not interested in winning? You can still leave a comment! I love to read your words. Just write: “No prize necessary” in your comment.

Don’t make me work too hard to find you. That will make me kvetchy. Oy.


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?

It’s All About Me

8 May

I celebrated my birthday yesterday and Mother’s Day today and yet I wish this weekend was NOT all about me! Without having my mother to share these days, they end up being more about me—I do not get to share the attention.  Without a mom or mother-in-law, Mother’s Day is a simple family day for me. It passes more easily than my birthday. Interestingly, I have found similar feelings among a few friends whose moms have also died—we miss our moms more on our birthdays than on Mother’s Day. It makes sense, though.  Which came first? Which day enabled the other (our moms might not have been mom without us). I always felt such a strong and close connection to my mother on my birthday. In some ways it was our day. While she did not shower me with huge gifts or celebrations, she was always the first to inquire about my plans, the one to make sure that I had plans and the last to check on my day. Sure, she made me an amazing Sweet 16 Party—in our backyard with the most delectable homemade foods that I chose, including the sweet and fruity ambrosia she made that day. But, it was really the little things that made a mark, including making sure everyone knew to say happy birthday.

Mother’s Day brings so many mixed feelings. First, I try to avoid  (what seems like a trillion) people who ask what I’m doing. Those who do not know me well and do not know about my mom, make an assumption that my plan is like theirs-a meal with mom. I find the discussions about this day’s celebration almost annoying. Why does the day have to be full of obligatory and plans? I do have more freedom than most of my friends on Mother’s Day—without a mom or mother—in-law to plan for. But, do not be envious. How I wish I could “suffer” through the brunch, lunch and/or dinner we’d have to honor them!

It’s ok to be sad for me on these two days, but let’s not dwell on what we do not have. Instead, if you and your mom can share even a few moments on your birthday or on Mother’s Day, enjoy your time with her. I like to think that this “Hallmark Holiday” forces us to share those clichéd good times together.

There are so many questions to ask you and I hope to continue this conversation. To start, if you could (or do) celebrate only one of these days with your mom, which would you choose? Which day strikes you as a day you really need (or wish you had) your mom? And, of course, why?