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


Redwood City Community Action Rally, January 21 and Canadian Women’s March on Washington, January 21

January 21, Saturday at 11 AM – 1 PM
Courthouse Square
2200 Broadway St, Redwood City, California 94063

Join progressive activist JOAN BAEZ, Congresswoman ANNA ESHOO, State Senator JERRY HILL, Supervisor CAROLE GROOM and many other local leaders for a non-partisan, multigenerational gathering to affirm community values about:

*Religious and Cultural Tolerance
*Immigrants’ Rights
*Breaking the Glass Ceiling

Other Speakers will include the Reverends Kristi Denham, Marlyn Bussey, and Michael Arase-Barham; County Superintendent of Education Anne Campbell; Sequoia Hospital CEO Lee Michelson; environmentalists Diane Bailey and Alice Kaufman; and the list is growing.

On the list of musical performers is San Mateo County’s own legendary folk singer, JOAN BAEZ, and the JOHN HENRY BAND.


Community groups include the AAUW, Sierra Club, and more.

You will leave the afternoon with the information you need to continue to make a difference.

This rally is inspired by and held in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington and other local Women’s Marches held on Saturday, January 21st, the day after Inauguration Day. If you are interested in finding out more about one of the Jan 21 sister marches in the Bay Area please follow the links below:

San Francisco https://www.facebook.com/events/1516849161665234/


San Jose

Women’s March Bay Area Website

Other California Marches:

15966293_1887766268171836_7232800696938119235_nThanks to Zena Hagerty of the documentary film company, HamiltonSeen, for giving this announcement to me to share with you. It’s heartening to learn that our neighbors on Turtle Island (North American Continent) are joining our Women’s March on Washington with their Hamilton Public Festival Event/Women’s March on Washington – Canada.  Zena says, “We will be meeting at the Hamilton City Hall forecourt at 12:00 pm with a march on to Gore Park to follow.”

Saturday, January 21 at 12 PM – 2 PM EST
Hamilton City Hall
71 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario L8P 4Y5

“We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.” – Malala Yousafzai


**PLEASE NOTE: This is the official #WomensMarch and #WMWCanada for the Hamilton local solidarity event. It is *not* the contingent heading down to Washington, D.C. See the end of the event description for a link to that page.

On January 21 2017, the first day of Donald Trump’s Presidency, women-led marches, welcoming all participants, will take place across the world, with the largest expected in Washington D.C.. We call on people of all genders to gather in Hamilton as part of an international day of action in solidarity.

The purpose of this *non-violent*, *inclusive* and *intersectional* protest is to take a stand for and support women’s rights — the rights of ALL women — with women from all races, all religious communities, all political affiliations, cis or transgender and all sexual orientations. Violence, whether from or against the right-wing, left-wing, centre or independents, is not welcome and will not be condoned. We are unabashedly committed to intersectional feminism and inclusion.

We will gather, wherever we are, for the protection of our fundamental rights and for the safeguarding of freedoms threatened by recent political events. We unite and stand together for the dignity and equality of all peoples, for the safety and health of our planet and for the strength of our vibrant and diverse communities.

We will come together in the spirit of democracy, honouring the champions of human rights who have gone before us. Please spread the word, so that our numbers are too great to ignore and the message to the world is clear.

The politics of fear and division have no place in 2017.

This event is just the beginning.

Unite with us. Stand in solidarity.

NATIONAL AND LOCAL MARCHES IN CANADA: Please visit http://canadianwomenmarch.ca/local-marches/

US Page is here, with links to other states’ pages: https://www.facebook.com/events/2169332969958991/

Selling the Shadow to Support the Substance: Ain’t I a Woman

373px-Carte_de_visiteOne of the many guises in which poetry presents itself:  Here American actress Alfrie Woodard delivers New Yorker Sojourner Truth‘s spontaneous speech, “Ain’t I a Woman.” Sojourner gave this speech at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio in May of 1851.


African-American Abolitionist and Women’s Right Activist

Thanks to Laurel D. for sharing the video.

Remembering JFK and a bygone era …

500px-John_F._Kennedy,_White_House_color_photo_portraitOUR MOST BASIC COMMON LINK is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), 35th President of the United States, serving from January 1961 until he was assassinated in November 1963, fifty years ago today.

Like 9/11 and other shared tragedies, John Kennedy’s assassination is branded indelibly on our minds and hearts. I was thirteen years old then, a freshman in high school. The news didn’t reach us until late in the day. Television and radio were not encouraged at St. Joe’s.

It was a Friday and after our last class those of us who lived on the convent grounds scrambled to the rail station to head  home to our families. Unaware, we apparently behaved just the way you might expect silly teenagers to behave when they are giddy with sudden freedom.  We didn’t notice that the adults on the train were somber and perhaps some were teary-eyed. To us, it was just another Friday. We joked and gossiped and one-by-one got off the train when it came to our stops; one-by-one we were met by our shocked and grieving parents. From them we learned the sobering news and wondered who would do such a thing – the communists? – and what were the implications. We all knew that no president in this country had been assassinated since President William McKinley in 1901, our grandparents’ and  great-grandparents’ time. It seemed unreal.

It also seemed unreal to return to school on Sunday night as though everything was normal. It wasn’t. The girls, the nuns, the school and convent, like the country, were in mourning. The majority of our parents and probably virtually all of the nuns, had voted for Kennedy, though not all thought he was a perfect man (who is?) or even a perfect President. I do remember one father speculating (the Bay of Pigs rankled) that Kennedy might have been good for the time and place in history and, after all, he was President of the country we cherished….and still do.  Respect the office if not the man.

Our own sadness wasn’t reserved just for the “President” and the country. It was for the man as well, for the handsome young man who’d fought in the war beside our fathers and uncles, the hero of P.T. 109, the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Profiles in Courage, and the dad whose life was cut short. We were sad for his now fatherless children. We felt for Jacqueline Kennedy too and admired her grace and courage. We wondered what it would mean to have the large, crude and boisterous Lyndon B. Johnson as President.

Those of us who rode the rails home that Friday were taken to task the next week by the nuns for our behavior on the train. Other passengers had registered complaints with the school about our “disrespect.” The nuns didn’t realize we hadn’t known about the murder. None of the other passengers bothered to tell us. I remember standing with our heads bowed while we were lectured. We took our punishment without defense or complaint. Something bigger than this moment of being misunderstood and falsely accused had happened. To this day, my mind can play back the news reports and see the newspaper articles, but I cannot remember what punishment was meted out for our perceived lapse in decorum.

I think after Kennedy’s assassination, we girls began to watch and analyze news and politics more closely than we had before. Among other things the evolution of Robert Kennedy, women’s rights and the growing support for the Civil Rights Movement, the horror of the Viet Nam War, and the murders of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy in 1968, dramatically marked the place and the era as one of growth and grief, triumph and tragedy.

© 2013, essay, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved, licensing for online publications is nonnegotiable and requires permission, attribution, link to this site, my copyright, no modification, noncommercial only and does not imply permission to include the work in the site’s printed collections or anthologies.
Photo credit ~ the Executive Office of the President of the United States and as such in the U.S. public domain