Monday, May 09, 2005

Mother's Day Memories

Although yesterday was Mother's Day, due to technical difficulties, and the fact that I was too pooped to post, I thought I would still share the Keynotes article that I wrote for the May issue, regarding Mother's day.

Like every holiday, Mother’s Day has a story behind it. The earliest Mother's Day celebrations can be traced back to the spring celebrations of ancient Greece in honor of Rhea, the Mother of the Gods. During the 1600's, England celebrated a day called "Mothering Sunday". Celebrated on the 4th Sunday of Lent (the 40 day period leading up to Easter), "Mothering Sunday" honored the mothers of England.

In the United States, after a successful campaign by Ana Jarvis to establish a national Mother’s Day holiday, President Woodrow Wilson, in 1914, made the official announcement proclaiming Mother's Day as a national holiday that was to be held each year on the 2nd Sunday of May.

Mother’s Day in our house when I was growing up chiefly consisted of my fixing my mother breakfast in bed as a special treat. Considering how well I used to cook as a child, I have to commend my mother for her fortitude at choking down what must have clearly been over-cooked scrambled eggs and burnt bacon. Even the toast needed to be scraped, but my mother ate it as if I had fixed her a gourmet meal.

My mother and I were extremely close. Before it was fashionable for women to have babies well into their forties, my mother was a trend setter by having me at 45, 17 years after her last child. How to describe my mother in three words? Crazy, committed, and funny come to mind. She was a broad in the best sense of the word. Think Bea Arthur but shorter and blonde. She was once almost thrown into jail for contempt of court for talking back to a judge in housing court, and I’m sure Andrew Stein, the former City Council President, remembers my mother’s harangues at Community Board meetings with great fondness. Despite the fact that she had no tolerance for the sun, my mother persisted in sitting outside until she turned red as a broiled lobster. She once grabbed Telly Savalas in the middle of the street, and kissed the living daylights out of him.

I have my mother to thank for my love of old movies, reading, and expensive clothing. My mother was the only woman I knew who would wear a red Christian Dior suit to check into the hospital! She introduced me to the movies that used to be shown on the late, late, show on television. I would stay up every night during my school vacation, watching movies until I fell asleep. In the morning, I would tell her what movies I had seen and she would share her memories of when they first came out. She would tell me stories about the movie stars like Robert Taylor and John Wayne that she spoke to in her job working for an answering service.
She never censored what I read, although I’m sure she must have had her qualms when her eleven year old daughter used her allowance to buy Rich Man, Poor Man, and The Bastard by John Jakes. She trusted that I was mature enough to read whatever I wanted to read.

Considering that her own taste in books ran more towards Harold Robbins, Ed McBain, The Executioner series, and Doc Savage, she probably figured that she didn’t have a leg to stand on. I can still see her sitting in front of the TV, cigarette in a holder clutched in her teeth like FDR, drinking a gin martini.

My mother and I didn't always get along. We had some huge fights during my high school years. She could be incredibly critical, and I was too sensitive to filter it out. She pushed me when I didn't want to be pushed, but she believed that I could do anything or be anything that I wanted to be. She never understood my desire to act really or to write. She was too practical to understand a daughter who was a dreamer.

I never learned to cook until after she died after she declared that no man would marry me if I couldn't cook. I was determined to prove her wrong. Did I mention that we were both extremely stubborn? We were incredibly close, almost too close. I think I spent so much time in England, because her influence couldn't stretch across the Atlantic. I felt free there to be myself, and not just a reflection of my mother.

Unfortunately, my mother passed away sixteen years ago, from lung cancer. We were just starting to be friends, instead of just mother and daughter, but I still have the memories of serving brunch in bed, and scooping out the Mysterious Bookshop for the latest Executioner novel. I like to think of her up in heaven sipping a gin martini with Telly Savalas, and getting all the sun that she wants.

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