Tag Archives: parents

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?

 

 

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My Dad’s Voice

1 Mar
My dad, July 1985.

My dad, July 1985.

“Then, why do you write about your mom and not your dad?” my son asked recently during one of our occasional reflective conversations. Our original discussion had gone off on a tangent, as often happens late at night and/or when he has an impending homework assignment. This tangent involved an analysis of parent/child relationships and how I had a close and loving relationship with my dad. Stumped, at first, to find the right response, I gave the very typical, “Good question” and then proceeded with an answer that I knew I would expand upon in this blog. After all, I only once focused completely on my dad a few years ago when I wrote about him on his birthday. And, today, his Yarzeit, the 26th anniversary of his death, is certainly a good day to celebrate the time that I did have with him and the relationship that, I’m sure, we each treasured.

As I explained to my son, I think that the innate female bond that I had with my mom also created typical and maybe even exaggerated tensions. And, I imagine, that the same might be true with dads and their sons if it’s a gender thing. So, naturally, there were times I felt more support, praise and “material gain” from my dad. It was easy to please him. My mom was a prolific and expert cook. And, since my dad could not even boil an egg, making him the simplest sandwich resulted in great gratitude.  I remember standing in the pre-teen department of East Brunswick’s Bambergers begging my mom for a white and pink sweater that I, of course, thought would change my life. She said she had reached her spending limit, but, to avoid my potential terrible tantrum, she agreed to call my dad. Using the salesperson’s counter phone, she attempted to confirm the purchase denial, but was told to let me have this one additional item. It was much more than this. My dad was the instigator of Sunday “I don’t know where we are going” drives. He would love to take us on short mystery drives. And, he was the one who announced one year just before Christmas, “We’re going to Florida next week. Be packed and ready for the drive.” I look back on photos and memories of my college graduation and I can guarantee that my dad’s smile was bigger than anyone else’s.

One of my most poignant and telling stories is a request my dad made just days  before he died suddenly at age 59 of a pulmonary embolism. My parents called from their Florida vacation to check up on me and I told them that I had just gotten back from a visit with my (now husband) boyfriend and his mom’s cancer was quickly consuming her. My dad’s response was immediate, “When mom and I return to NJ, we must meet her. I would really like to know her, especially since it seems like you and Scott might be pretty serious.”

I am sure if I wanted to, I could write about the bad times. Neither of my parents were close to the perfection I sometimes describe. The truth behind my blog is the feelings I am left with. For me, this pollyana-esque journal is more natural and satisfying.

As I’ve often noted, I find a similar theme as mine in so much of what I read and hear. I just started reading Orphan Train and in the prologue, the narrator says, “No substitute for the living, perhaps, but I wasn’t given a choice. I could take solace…or I could fall down in a heap, lamenting what I’d lost. The ghosts whispered to me, telling me to go on.”

I am lucky to have the whispers of both my father and my mother.

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.

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.

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….