Tag Archives: mom

10-4

2 Aug

Phyllis DanzigIf birthdays are a time to celebrate the fact that someone was born and became part of your existence (or the reason for your existence), then, today, I celebrate my mom. She would have been 83 years old! But, since birthdays are mostly a time to celebrate turning a year older or, perhaps, reaching a milestone, then I can just feel crushed.  No matter how hard I try to remain upbeat and no matter how easy it is to feel my mom’s presence even now, I cannot help but be angry that she/we were robbed of the last 20.5 years of togetherness.

That being said, I must go on with a thought/question I’ve had for a while: If my mom were alive, would she have a Facebook page? For some, this might seem like a very trivial issue and perhaps even completely not worthy of contemplation.  However, I am curious. I first thought about this years ago when an alumnus of the high school where I work stopped into the library to look at old yearbooks. She had been a widow for a few years and started her first Facebook page to get back in touch with people. Whether or not she had hoped to connect with eligible men (I did not inquire), they started popping up. And, she did not recognize the men with whom she had graduated 40 years earlier. She had lost her yearbook in a fire and wanted to check out their names and graduation photos before “friending” them. How smart- and safe! I enjoyed my chat with her and learning about her current quest. And, it was fun to see her reaction to finding the names and photos – “Oh, that’s him…still cute. Oooh- I do remember him… Hmmm, I still don’t know who he is.” For a while after this interesting visit, I wondered who she decided to friend and if she made any platonic or romantic connections.  I hope her research yielded happy results.

Back to Phyllis Tabak Danzig’s potential profile and posts and why I think she would have, at the very least, given Facebook a try. First, we were a big CB Radio family. Do you remember those things? My dad was a technology tinkerer. CB Radios brought him back to his morse code army days and connected him to like-minded people. Our family took many road trips for vacations and my mother’s antique business. CB Radio jargon and chatter gave them something fun to do and even my sister and I got caught up in the craze. My sister and I can recall our “handles”- she was Sunflower and I was Buttercup. I know, how cute. My dad, with his full head of thick brown hair, took on one of his favorite American symbols: The Bald Eagle. Strangely, neither my sister nor I can recall my mom’s handle. Whether in the car or our home’s office, the CB Radio was an absolute obsession for my parents during the mid/late 1970s. Also, like my father, my mother learned to navigate a computer and the early Internet way before they were easy to use. The technology might have intrigued her and certainly would not have stumped her.

So, if I am right, my mom’s profile would include Tabak, her maiden name. I am not sure about the photo- she was camera-shy. And, her birthday might be listed, but not the year, for sure. As an antiques dealer, she would want to “advertise” her vocation/hobby. She certainly would “like”  The Red Bank Antiques Center page and probably post photos of her booth and inventory. She would be part of a few groups, mostly antiques related, but perhaps also exercise since she had become a Pilates devotee.  We certainly would have friended each other. She would not Like with abandon. She was too honest and even critical for that. And, I, as her daughter and Facebook friend, would appreciate her choosiness. At the very least, even if she would not have become a Facebook fan, my page would be littered with photos of her and us during our shared adult years. 

Of course, all of this is not realistic and is relevant only if…. I am not usually an “only if” person, but this day brings out that wonder and longing for what could have been.

As postscript, I am curious if you are of my mom’s generation, do you have a Facebook page? If you’re closer to my generation, does your mom have a Facebook page? And, how is that going for you or her?

 

 

Advertisements

February – Bitter and Sweet

21 Feb
Grandma Phyllis with Jordan.

Grandma Phyllis with Jordan.

February 20, 1989 was one of my mom’s happiest days—the day her first grandchildren were born. She had endured the saddest year, grieving my dad’s death just one year earlier, March 1988. The arrival of twin grandsons lifted her spirits and truly changed her outlook.  She was forever enamored with them. She had a new purpose—helping my sister and obsessing over these two, most adorable boys, Jordan and Aaron.

Grandma Phyllis and Aaron

Grandma Phyllis and Aaron

When I get sad thinking about how she did not get the chance to know my children and they were jipped out of having her in their lives, I picture her with Jordan and Aaron. My mom’s bleakest year became her brightest. The announcement of my sister’s pregnancy, the discovery she was carrying twins and even her subsequent bedrest,  relieved my mom’s malaise and gave her a new purpose. Sure, she was worried about my sister for 9 months, but that was healthy and therapeutic.  Their birth gave her new, awesome grandmotherly duties! She loved these boys so much that she even shed her dog anxiety and  warmed up to their Border Collie, Kiwi.  I was shocked and thrilled to see her invite my two-year old nephews to bring Kiwi over for a playdate. She helped my sister and entertained Jordan and Aaron even during her chemo. Playing with her grandsons provided more good therapy than any drug she received. When my children ask about her and when I find myself telling them stories about her, I really do feel a sense of gratitude that I got to see my mom become a grandmother. I know that she was and would have continued to be a great grandma!

Five very short years later, just ten days before my nephews’ 5th birthday, my mom died. Our happiest month, February, became bittersweet and very sad. I was sad that my nephews’ birthday celebration had to be postponed as if that really mattered at the time. In accordance with their nature then and now, they adapted and coped. They did not complain about the long New Jersey stay. Some five-year olds would not have been able to understand. Fortunately, they were probably just young enough to not have their birthday forever marred by our grief.

This year, I did not write a post on my family’s funereal February 10th, the anniversary of my mom’s death. I find solace writing about her any day of the year, but certainly prefer this day over Feb. 10th. On this day and during this month,  I accept the two necessary parts of life—death and birth, bitter and sweet. And, I am thankful for my sweet sister and the joy she and my brother-in-law brought to my mom’s and my life. Happy, Happy Birthday Aaron and Jordan!

College Mom

19 Aug

I’m wondering what kind of college mom I’ll be. With my daughter just starting her first year at the University of Miami, I’ve had many mixed emotions. I’ve gotten through the initial separation with the expected anxiety, tears and joy. Walking alone in the airport for my return trip, I was feeling sorry for myself because I’ll miss my daughter every single day (her charm, spirit, companionship, fashion advice, chatter….). And, then I had an epiphany—this is not a sad time! Sure, it is bittersweet, but we are so fortunate that my daughter is where she should be right now. How lucky she is to have this amazing opportunity! And, how lucky am I to be able to witness this next chapter of her life.

So, now that I am home and she is away until Thanksgiving, I have a mission—to be her mildly doting, but not at all intrusive mom. I am completely confident that she will flourish in her new, independent environment AND will be thrilled to get a card or care package from me. After all, up until the end of junior year I made her school lunch and periodically included personal notes ( including “Hope your day is great,” “Good luck at your game today,” and simply, “I love you xoxo.”) We laughed about how she was fully capable of making her own lunch and would happily do so, but she did not hesitate to allow me the personal pleasure of this mommy task. She was thrilled when she’d get a note and show it off to her friends. It makes sense then that within 24 hours of being home, I sent off a package of things she couldn’t fit in her luggage, eager to include my first note. I kept it simple, saving a store-bought card for next week’s mail.

Where in all of this does my mom fit in? She was not exactly a role model in this situation. She was just not the doting type. Other moms of girls in my college dorm brought their daughters food, clothing, etc. My favorite story is of a mom who would leave a pizza pie on her daughter’s car just minutes before she knew her daughter would get there—leaving so she would not interfere at all. My mom had to be asked, but if I did request clothes or dinner, she would follow through. A few years ago, my sister and I discussed the different recollection we each have of our mom’s involvement. I insisted that my mom made college care packages—giving food and supplies when we returned to college after a vacation. My sister does not recall receiving anything at all. I think reality is somewhere in between. My mom did not initiate any package. But, if on my way out I asked, she would allow me to fill a bag with a variety of things from her cupboard—soup, crackers, laundry detergent. Perhaps subconsciously, I brought this bag to Rutgers feeling like my mom put it together and handed it to me. My distortion helped me feel like I fit in with my roommate whose mom gave her bags of good things.

As with any new event or monumental moment, I think of how much I wish my mom was here to share these times. I wish I could tell her about my care packages and notes. And, with these changes going on in my life, I wonder what other moms did for their college children back then. Did moms typically send care packages or even letters to their daughters (my peers) while they were away at college? What do you moms do now? Has our helicopter parenting habits led us to excessive involvement when our children go off to college? What is excessive and do we keep our involvement under control?

Summer Tan

16 Jul

Confession #1: Attempt to conceal a suntan

 

My father’s work centered on exporting Ban De Soleil which did not provide enough sunscreen and helped me tan….

I wish my mom I hope my mom did not know about all of the times that I hid my tan. Honestly, I think she must have been able to see through the J & J Baby Powder I often applied on the way home from a too sunny day at the beach. Her adamant anti-tan stance was certainly strong and right. Although, as a teenager—or even young adult, I never acquiesced and always argued against her anti-tan campaign. This is definitely on the top ten list of “Things I Swore I Would NOT Do When I Became a Mom, But Now Do with Conviction.” Except, I recently got caught falling into that old, bad tanning habit.

Confession #2: Being tan again

I was inspired to write this particular post last week when a kind, unassuming woman who seemed to be about the same age my mom would be (80 ish) commented on my tan. I was waiting for my son when she walked into the doctor’s waiting room, smiled at me and said, “Oh, what a pretty tan you have.” How could she know that her comment would incite guilt. I  had not even realized that I have a noticeable tan. I looked at my arms and saw my soccer mom’s tan. It makes sense that the sun’s rays have pierced through my sunscreen given the many hours I’ve spent on the sideline.

I felt my mom’s reprimand from years ago and replied, “Oh thank you, but I think I’d better be more careful when I watch my son play soccer.” Not intending to play devil’s advocate, she interrupted my confession and continued to compliment my “lovely color.” Then, she re-directed our discussion to questions about my son and his summer soccer. Soon I was entranced and enjoying the attention and her interest in me and my son.

Confession #3  This post is not just about the allure and danger of being tan

One of the reasons I started this blog is my husband’s observation 16 years ago. He noticed that after returning from playing with my daughter in Taylor Park, I would often have a story about older, grandmother-type women I met. I would gush, “Oh she told me about her children….she takes her little grandchildren to the park…she can’t wait to see her daughter’s new baby…..” Sometimes they gave unsolicited advice that I imbibed—I hope you don’t give her too much candy…make sure you set rules…enjoy each moment….Of course they oohed and aahed as they exclaimed how adorable my daughter was, how smart she seemed, what a good jungle gym climber she was…. Scott put this all together with a spot-on summation: through these women, I was able to experience the mom/grandmother relationship I so desired. These “other mothers” , provided a glimpse into the life I imagined I’d have with my mom. My experience last week gave me a few moments with an “other mother.”

I wish my mom knew how much her wisdom would inspire me. While I did not have the chance to admit to her that she was right about the tan (and obviously still need to be reminded), I think that she must have seen my powder cover-up as a sign of guilt and acknowledgement.

Seeking Her Approval

10 Jun

My mom was a pack rat—she kept newspaper and magazine clippings that she thought would have lasting importance and she even had piles of unread newspapers that she planned to peruse in case they had important information. I must admit that I do the same. Although I promised myself that I would throw out newspapers after one week and keep only a small file of newspaper clippings, I still have an excess of piles that I am sure I will need one day. This is actually a good topic for a future post or perhaps a reason why I am an excellent candidate for the reality show, Hoarders.

As I was trying to sift through saved articles tonight, I came across one that I planned to write about. One year ago, I read an interview with Leslie Blodgett, the Bare Escentual’s founder. In this New York Times article, http://nyti.ms/HPqF69, Blodgett confirms what many of us moms know—that we must guide our daughters, even if it they show resentment along the way. We can only hope that our love and guidance will result in feelings like Leslie’s, “’I love her, and she was an amazing mother,” adding “But if she wasn’t such a bitch, I wouldn’t be what I am today.””

Every day I run the risk of garnering the title, b…..” and I guess that means I am doing a good job! Of course I know that what my children consider nagging, might actually help them to be happier, well-adjusted or even successful. Whether I am telling my children to turn off the TV, start homework or cut their shopping lists in half, I find I must intervene. It can be easier to ignore their problems or decide that they do not need advice. And, certainly there are many situations that warrant very little motherly comment or action. But, if we are like Leslie Blodgett, who “’Until I was 39, I was driven to please her,’” we will meddle.

If we set standards and help our daughters develop goals, we are doing our job. We should be ready to go one step further and, like Ms. Blodgett’s mom, push them and remind them. My daughter has goals for college and I certainly will not stand by if she veers off her chosen (and approved by me) path.  My daughter has said that she feels pressure to succeed in certain situations and she quickly points out that she puts the pressure on herself. She came up with and pursued her own GPA goal. Knowing that she has drive and self-motivation helps, but that does not mean my job is done. My daughter knows that my love for her is unconditional and never-ending. But I do hope that she has a desire to please me. What does it mean to please me? That part is actually simple.  Pleasing me means setting and following goals. It means trying your hardest to purse these goals. Trying to please our mom, wanting their approval continues throughout our lives, just as Ms. Blodgett said. “And I guess I’m still trying to win her approval, in a way.”

While my mom was alive, I certainly did look for her approval, which was not easy to find. Fortunately, her standards were high. Even now, I wonder if she would approve of the things I do. I often think about what she would say if she saw me now. Writing this blog is about her important presence in my life even though she is not physically here.

Having our moms looking over us helps us find our way. A mother’s “yes” or “no” can have a huge impact on us. We certainly have the choice to ignore her, call her names or follow her advice.  Along the way we have plenty of opportunity for each of those options. I just hope that daughters lucky enough to have their moms involved in their lives, at any age, take advantage of their mom’s push and pull.

Who is Rich?

21 May

I am, according to Psalm 128:2 in The Old Testament. What matters, my Grandma Ray taught me when I was very young, is that you are rich if you are satisfied with what you have. My mom’s mom, Rachel Shapiro Tabak, was a very special woman who lived to be 93 years old.  I was reminded of this particular phrase/lesson this past Friday night as my Temple’s Cantor spoke during his retirement service/celebration. After 45 years as an exceptionally inspirational clergyman at Temple Shaarey-Tefilo Israel, Cantor Theodore Aronson gave those at services yet another  lifelong lesson.

Grandma Ray’s philosophy and attitude had a great impact on me. She was an inspirational “other mother.” I am sure I did not appreciate my own mother telling me to be satisfied with what I had. She is the one I bugged to buy me another pair of designer jeans, another sweater…. How often are young or teenage girls satisfied with the “things” they have? But, when my Grandma quoted the Bible, I listened. She made sense. “Who is rich? He who rejoices in his portion, as it is written (Psalm 128:2) ‘You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.’” (from http://www.shechem.org/torah/avot.html) My Grandma made me feel good—like I was in charge. I could be whatever I wanted to be.  If you enjoy the life you created, if you do your best to create a wonderful life, you can feel good. She never went into that much detail, all she had to do was quote the Psalm and I understood. My Grandma had a very hard life. She fled Eastern Europe in the 1920s, following her husband to America. After a difficult, almost impossible journey via Cuba, she settled in with her husband who was already in New York. She continued to have personal and financial struggles. I am not really sure how she was able to endure the hardships she had. On paper, she was never even close to being rich. But, what was in her mind and heart made her a billionaire.

This saying puts the onus on us to create a life we love, no matter what we have. How many “rich with money” people do you know who are not really rich? I could feel “poor” because I don’t have my parents. I am deprived of their support. I could feel entitled to pity. But, I don’t feel poor. I feel fortunate for the parents I had. There are many worse alternatives. I know that.

“Other Mothers” (Post from Sept. 1, 2011- http://wp.me/p1lBgS-4f) are all around us, they can be our grandmothers and clergy. I really must credit my Grandma Ray for empowering me to accept reality, the lot I am given, and do the most that I can with it. I appreciate Cantor Aronson. He is grateful for the richness he feels. And so was my Grandma. And, thanks to people like them, so am I.

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?

Running as One

29 Apr

Run as One 2009

I’m back from a short blog hiatus. I’ve had a busy few weeks as my daughter, Sandra, debated her college choice, but I am excited to write after being inspired by this morning’s activity. Sandra and I participated, for the 6th time, in the Thomas G. Labrecque Run as One . This is always a very special and emotional day for us and is even more so this year since it is the last time we will participate together for at least the next four years since she will be at her chosen school!

We ran our first Run as One in 2006 after our friend and neighbor died from lung cancer 32 days after being diagnosed. Felice Jentis, a non-smoker and one of the warmest and most gregarious women we’ve known, was only 39 years old. To help her and her family during her illness, her friends created Team Felice. After her death a foundation, was started to help fund research and each year Team Felice raises money and awareness while running and walking with the Thomas G. Labrecque Foundation.

When Felice died, Sandra was 12 years old and was preparing for her Bat Mitzvah. Struggling with a desire to do something commemorative, she decided to base her Mitzvah Project (a service-oriented project intended to make a difference in the world) on lung cancer. After all, my mom died from the same type of lung cancer when my daughter was only 4 months old and she had always felt gypped and sad. This was her chance to do something about it. She created and sold bracelets and donated the money to the  Felice Lipit Jentis Memorial BAC Research Trust . And, we ran, together.

Each year, we meet Team Felice in Central Park and after hellos and hugs, we run. The gathering gives us all an opportunity to remember Felice and talk about her. Then my daughter and I go to the whiteboard that the Thomas G. Labrecque Foundation sets up for people to write messages. We write notes to my mom. Today, I wrote, “I’ll always miss and love you mom” and I include her name. Sandra added, “I wish I could have known you.” Today we looked for a special color and chose a fuscia sharpie marker. It matched the bright sunny sky and strong feelings we experienced.

I love this day. We struggle with the sadness and grief, but find energy and hope through today’s event.  We said our goodbyes to Felice’s family and friends today with the usual, “See you next year.” Then, we left Central Park with the bittersweet feeling that, although we cannot share this day while Sandra is away at college, whether together or not, we can always run as one.

Michael Bloomberg Doesn’t Go Home Much Anymore, Do You?

25 Mar

As I read a recent New York Times article, Mayor’s Ties to Hometown Fade, But for a Few, They are Still Felt, I wondered why this observation is newsworthy. After all, I thought, I have visited my hometown only a few times after my mom’s death. Why is it so unusual to stop visiting your hometown after it is void of your immediate family?

Unlike some people who are disappointed that Bloomberg does not visit his hometown, Medford, Massachusetts anymore and unlike others who (in comments entered after the article was published) do not care if Bloomberg visits any town, I thought his devotion to his mom and donations to the town are admirable. In a 2009 biography, Bloomberg admitted to not liking his hometown. He found it boring and uninspiring. Yet, he did visit his mother who remained in town, living in the same house he grew up in until her death last year. When approached to donate to the Medford Arts Council, Bloomberg gave $25,000. He has given even more to the public schools, a local orchestra, a hospital and a sports complex. He has even donated over one million dollars to the town’s synagogue. He did not stop there. He started a fund for the town’s public library. Due to his suggestions, Medford residents and New York City corporations have given generously to the library, certainly a project that wins my approval.

So, after reading about Bloomberg’s continued dedication, albeit financial, to his hometown, I was impressed. He has very strong, perhaps eternal, ties to Medford.

Unlike Bloomberg, I have very fond memories of  my hometown. Like Bloomberg, after my mom left Old Bridge, my ties to Old Bridge quickly faded. In fact, I have gone back only a few times, most recently when I found out about a neighborhood reunion at our pool club. Unlike Bloomberg, people who still live in Old Bridge did not pine for my connection and I certainly would not have expected them to.  It was great to see both the people who still live in Lakeridge West and those who returned for the reunion. Since I still live in New Jersey and, even more relevant, since I work in a school district only 20 minutes from Old Bridge, I do find out about what’s going on there. I have driven through the town a few times and I always love to look around and see what has changed. I might not have reason to return to Old Bridge again and that’s really okay.

All of this makes me wonder, what ties, if any, do you have to your hometown? Do you keep up with news about the town? If you no longer have family in your hometown, do you still visit?

Citation:

Grynbaum, Michael. “Mayor’s Ties to Hometown Fade, But for a Few, They Are Still Felt.” New York Times. 03 19 12, A14. Print.


							

How Kim Kardashian Inspired this Post

10 Feb

Strange—coming from someone who does not watch reality TV and knows very little about the Kardashians. Yet, somehow I stumbled upon a story about Kim reaching out to John Edward, the psychic, to communicate with her dead father, Robert Kardashian. Triggered by the story, my son asked me, “If you could ask your mom one question, what would it be?” I found Kim’s quest and my son’s query apropos since today is my mom’s Yahrzeit (18th anniversary of her death) and the one year anniversary of my blog.

Like Kim, or maybe to avoid a difficult decision, I replied to my son that what I’d really like is to have a conversation. One question would not be enough. But, what if that’s all I had, what would I ask? I truly feel stifled by this limitation. I have so many questions. Lately, I wonder what my mom’s childhood was like. I remember some stories she told about walking home from school and living near The Bronx Zoo. There are the mundane things I want to know: What did you wear to school? What was your favorite subject? Who was your favorite teacher? As I brainstorm, I wonder, do we really think to ask these questions while our moms are able to answer? And, I have serious questions about my childhood and her mothering: How did you endure my tantrums? What did you worry about the most while I was a teenager? And, then there are the questions about parenting, how did you decide when to give me an open curfew?  Did you know what went on at parties (not sure how I’d respond….)?  And, there are the philosophical questions—what do you most regret?

The real question I’d love to ask my mother is to have a lunch date with me. We did not indulge in enough leisurely lunches. Simple lunches. More than dinner, eating lunch out, a ladies’ lunch, is a treat. I’d ask her to got to Coco on Main Street because they serve Hale and Hearty soup and I remember her stories about eating lunch at Hale and Hearty in Manhattan. At lunch we could talk about the mundane and the heavy. We’d have the conversation I so desire.

I’d want to tell her that as time goes on and as I raise my children, I become even more certain that she and my dad were amazing parents.  I would ask questions, but really just hope for reassurance and guidance. I started this blog to express how much I am still influenced by my mom. I enjoy exploring our relationship, remembering details and imagining what could have been. I am grateful for your interest. And, I would love to know what question you wish you could ask your mom. And, if she is part of your life, maybe you can still ask.