CELEBRATING MOTHERS’ DAY (U.S.) Part 1: Those Infamous New York Moms

 

1950 Brooklyn, NY – my mother, Zbaida, and me

“A woman in Brooklyn decided to prepare her will. She told her rabbi she had two final requests. First, she wanted to be cremated. Second, she wanted her ashes scattered over the local shopping mall.

‘Why the shopping mall?’ asked the rabbi.

‘Then I’ll be sure my daughters will visit me twice a week.’



Note: This is the first in a three-part series celebrating Mothers’ Day, which is this Sunday. All the pieces were published some time ago – here and/or elsewhere and it just feels right to publish again this year. I hope you’ll enjoy this short series … And Happy Mothers’ Day to all the mothers and to all the dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents and older siblings who are covering for moms who are gone.

I met my Jewish friend, Laurel, when she came to a meeting at our local Insight Meditation Center on the San Francisco Peninsula where we now live. Laurel and I  got on right away. We both like Broadway shows, opera, reading, writing, and good meals seasoned with great conversation. We’re both from New York and we’re about the same age. So we come from the same time and the same place.

Now New York moms get a bad rap, especially Jewish moms – but none of us gets off free. Laurel reminded me of that with a stereotypical New York joke at the expense of mothers. These jokes usually illustrate moms making caustic remarks or tell of their attempts to foster guilt in adult children. While we do use regional idioms and have a distinct style of delivery, I’m really not sure that mothers from our time and place had the corner on either caustic commentary or the laying on of guilt.

Like all of us, my mother was very much in process and very much a product of her place and time. Among other things, what that means is that modesty was a primary concern. For my Catholic mother this included modest dress, which in turn included girdles. Now I’ve got to tell you that until I hit forty I was mostly underweight. In fact at Christmas when I was nineteen, I was ninety-three pounds, stood 5′ 3 1/2″, and was three months pregnant with my son. Nonetheless, from seventh grade and until her death when I was forty-four, my mother was adamant that I should wear a girdle so that I wouldn’t “jiggle.” That would be immodest and unseemly. Only my mother, I would think, would put me through this torture for nothing. As my husband said, “What’s to jiggle? If she turned sideways and stuck out her tongue she’d look like a zipper.”

Those old, typically New York jokes at the expense of our mothers were funny because there’s an element of truth in them. They did pave the pathways to their homes and hearts with guilt. They could be cruelly caustic. Often, their fall-back position was stone-cold silence. They were as tough as life. They tended to be rigid and narrow on some subjects; their lives woefully circumscribed. Often they were unworldly and painfully unread. But they were also largely present.

They were idealistic. They worked hard, often at jobs as well as at home. Many of them worked for hours each week to make the most unbelievably complex old world dinners for traditional Sundays that included religious services and family gatherings. No matter how difficult things got, they did not resort to drugs or alcohol. They got us into the best schools they could afford and kept us in school for as long as they could afford to do so. They protected us from young men who did not have “honorable” intentions. Though they’d never admit to us that they were really pleased with us, they would proudly show photographs of us to all their friends and boast of our accomplishments.

In the parlance of the sixties, it took me years to understand where they were “coming from.” You can tell by the posture in the photo that ends this post, that well into my thirties, I was still struggling with mixed feelings. The reason in this particular case: Before I left for work, I left money on the kitchen table for a pizza. I called home at 5:00 p.m. as I was leaving the office and asked Mom if she’d order the pizza right away because I was “starving.” I got home and “binged”: I ate one slice of pizza and left the crust. “I thought you were hungry,” Mom said. “I was. Now I’m stuffed.”  The fact that I was in my thirties and still “eating like a bird” and underweight disturbed her. In turn, I was disturbed because she was still trying to tell me how to eat, which given my habits was a legitimate concern.  I do the same sorts of things to my son now, not about food, but about other things. Mom’s long gone now, but often I think of her and wish she was here nagging me to clean my plate.


♥ ♥ ♥

© 2011, words and photographs, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved


ABOUT

the blanket of my love

THE BAX

2006 – MAY 17, 2017, 6:06 PM

Baxter died of kidney failure Wednesday evening.  I held him in my arms as he went painlessly, fearlessly and peacefully into that good night. If there is a literal heaven, then surely Bax passed through whatever doggie door there may be into that Eternity.

Much thanks to Muttville, Joe and Raphael for the gift of Bax. They saved him from premature death in a rescue that has a kill-policy. Muttville is an elder-dog rescue with a no-kill policy. They rock big time.

Much appreciation for Dr. Linda Hall of Peninsula Avenue Veterinary Clinic in San Mateo for compassionate and professional care. We love her and recommend her without reservation.

We are fortunate to have Pet’s Rest Cemetary and Crematory available to us in this area. They also provided our family with gentle and respectful service when our feline family member, Gypsy Rose, died a while back. Javier is kind.

Our love and appreciation for professional jazz singer and world-class friend, Candice Hawley, for getting us back and forth to Linda Hall and Pet’s Rest and other related appointments and errands. Before we went in for our last visit with Dr. Hall, Candice took Bax’s paw and sent him off with a prayerful good-bye.

And most of all our love to my son, Richard, and my beautiful daughter-in-law – writer, blogger and photographer –  Karen Fayeth –  for loving Bax so much and having my back in this as in everything. ♥

I hope to return to email and Facebook and to my regular posting schedule on WordPress this Sunday with Sunday Announcements. Meanwhile thank you for the kind and understanding comments (here and Facebook) and for the messages and emails.

Warmly,
Jamie


Tribute To A Best Friend

Sunlight streams through window pane
unto a spot on the floor….
then I remember,
it’s where you used to lie,
but now you are no more.
Our feet walk down a hall of carpet,
and muted echoes sound….
then I remember,
It’s where your paws would joyously abound.
A voice is heard along the road,
and up beyond the hill,
then I remember it can’t be yours….
your golden voice is still.
But I’ll take that vacant spot of floor
and empty muted hall
and lay them with the absent voice
and unused dish along the wall.
I’ll wrap these treasured memorials
in a blanket of my love
and keep them for my best friend
until we meet above.

– Anon

 

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Thanks to
Cindy Tailor for sending this cartoon. Sweet and it did make me smile. xo

tears into light, a poem

Only in art will the lion lie down with the lamb, and the rose grow without the thorn. Martin Amis

“Only in art will the lion lie down with the lamb, and the rose grow without the thorn.” Martin Amis

if my voice was an angel voice
i’d sing you into ecstasy
if my hand was a healing hand
i’d touch you into grace

would that i could measure poems
to turn tears into light
to put dance in your feet
if i knew my own soul, i could
touch the tarnished silver of yours
and bring your smiles back again

© 2013, poem and photograph, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved