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death_maya angelou

My mother died five years ago today.  But, tears still come to my eyes.  My children have expressed (or discontinued contact) their opinions on their own childhood as each person packs and carries his/her emotional baggage.

 

Things were not perfect in my relationship with my mother.  I, too, have my own memories of difficult times, very different personalities, or way of thinking.  For those that hear the story, their degrees of separation make them smile at my mother’s behavior.

 

Her way is how she was and is remembered by so many.  Mom made people feel comfortable and welcomed in friendship even if they had met for the first time.  She wrote letters to a jailed community member to comfort him (we knew nothing about this until after she had died).

 

Despite the differences, losing my parent was very painful.  She died of a cruel terminal disease so we watched her suffer before she eventually passed away.  For her it was a blessing, but the gap that she left behind is so large that my father is still struggling to bridge it.

 

She left behind many grandchildren and great grandchildren who would be so grateful to have such a woman in their lives.  Now, she is a photo or the subject of a brief story.  Mom is a reminiscence or a smile.

 

But, for me, tears still continue to fall.  Grief is elastic but never fully leaves the spirit.  It is a goodbye that never ends because there is nothing like a parent and no depth of love that can ever replace it.

 

I don’t know if it is so, but I hope that she is still watching me from the door as I walk away…..

 

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Thanks for stopping by.  It means more than you know.
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chain

 

I don’t have a lucky rabbit’s foot or any other form of good luck charm.  My daily life has its own anxieties, but none that I could cure with a specific talisman.

However, one piece of jewelry remains with me and its presence has a very powerful influence upon me mentally and emotionally.  I am aware of the love and connection beyond time, the strength of a mother’s love, and the devotion to preserving memories of those who have come before and deserve to be honored long after their passing.

This particular necklace was 72 inches in length, in rose gold, and worn by my great-grandmother, Amalia.  As she had three sons and three daughters, at some point she chose to have the necklace broken into three separate chains, one for each of her daughters, as a legacy gift.

However, the gift became even more meaningful as it is literally the only physical item that we have from her other than our genetic makeup.

Exactly 80 years ago, in the devastating rise of the Reich and rampant anti-Semitism, my grandparents decided to leave Amsterdam for the safety of the United States. There was a great deal of paperwork, they needed to be sponsored by an uncle, and prove that they could support themselves with genuine employment skills and would not be a burden to the government of the United States.

This necklace was given to my grandmother, by her mother, at a train station in Amsterdam in 1938.  My grandmother was 25 years old and it was the last time that she would ever see her mother.

My great grandparents and my 12 year old great uncle were killed on September 24, 1943 in the Auschwitz concentration camp.  My grandmother was 52 years old.

All of the records of our family members’ birth and death dates, as well as the respective cities, was available from the Dutch Government Registry of Persons killed in the Holocaust.

During a trip to Holland in 1994, my mother collected and compiled all of the data that she was able to for her grandparents, first cousins, aunts, uncles, and great-grandmother. In all, more than 75 members of our family were killed in the Holocaust.  Many more relatives were not accounted for.  As my mother grew up with no extended family, she respected their lives with uncovering their stories and honoring their legacy.

My grandmother gave the necklace to me, her oldest granddaughter, in 1995.  My grandmother was 81 years old at that time.  She had many health issues that she survived including breast cancer and two heart attacks during her lifetime.  She felt that it was much more important to give her gifts to each of us “with a warm hand” rather than a cold one (after her death).  Throughout my grandmother’s life, until the time that she gave it to me, she never removed it from her neck and kept it close to her heart.  I believe that it pleased her as well to see her granddaughter, named after her mother, wear this necklace with pride and respect.

Perhaps, what gives it that spark of a talisman is that it continues to carry the strength of its history, love, and strong emotion each time that I wear it.

According to an actual appraisal from a professional jeweler, this necklace is not worth very much and may have a small boost in its value for strictly historic reasons.

As an actual link to family and my place on the chain of mothers and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters, it is priceless and could never be replaced.

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Thank you for stopping by.  I hope that you enjoy your visit.

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job of grandmothers to interfere

 

 

Thank you.

Thank you for raising my grandchildren and inviting me to be a part of their lives.

Thank you for face-timing me at the craziest time of the day just so I can see their smiles.

Thank you for running an endless stream of culinary delights to help them to grow strong.

Thank you for protecting them and showing them how strong and organized a mother can be.

Thank you for letting me learn gradually that you are right when it comes to your children and I have to learn to bite my tongue.

Daddy and I get tired just watching you. It is hard to believe that a quarter of a century ago, we were doing the same things. Now, we are grateful and thankful to let you learn from your children how to be a Mommy.

For now, breakfast in bed would too easily become breakfast on the bed.

Physically, mentally, emotionally ~~ motherhood is challenging.  So many sleepless hours pass into oblivion once your child can say “Mommy” and give you a special smile or cuddle.

So, when the time is right, I hope that your children will learn just how hard you worked to raise them. You are a full time teacher, librarian, laundress, caterer, chauffeur, mediator, playmaker, and social director.  You can tell time by your children’s yawns and cries.  You let them fall – where I just gasp – and teach them how to get up again while showing that you are always there.

Happy Mother’s Day Princess! Thank you for all that you do for your children — and for your parents.

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Thank you for stopping by! I hope that you enjoy your visit.
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To all the remarkable women who are mothers, or who deserve the respect and adulation that Mommies deserve, I wish you much compassion, wellness, and humor.  After all, that macaroni frame is not going to hang itself!

things our mothers taught us

With Mother’s Day approaching, I am getting so much mail about gifts to buy, how to celebrate, and things to do with Mom. As we are in the transitions with my mother and grandmother, I empathize with others that are unable to celebrate on this day.  Ultimately, through good and bad, no one loves you like your mother.

I come from a long line of very strong women; I have even given birth to a couple.  The stories and memories that we share of our lineage bring smiles, tears, and laughter – especially to others who don’t have to deal with all of the other baggage! But the inventive sense of humor, creativity, and independence that each lived gives us strength when we need it.  It reminds us that they have not really left us, but remain alive in our hearts and minds with each memory.

Men may be the hunters and gatherers, but it is the mothers who cut the crusts off the sandwiches and make sure that everyone has exactly the same number of cookies.  Mothers can spend 12 hours in the warzone with toddlers, but when Dad walks in, he gets all of the attention. Motherhood is not always fair, sometimes fierce, often fractured, but it is an elemental love so deep and strong, that we persevere.

My mother gave each of us the legacy of family through stories, journals and photographs that she has researched, collected and created for us to acknowledge and remember family members that we did not get to meet face-to-face.  She grew up without grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins and therefore worked very hard to make memories, create family occasions, and document them with pictures and souvenirs.  We grew up with developing fluid in our veins. We knew that if it happened, Mom had a photo of it.  We have had more “natural” posed photographs than some, but we knew it was, and still is, done with love.

The oral history that passes from mother to child brings our ancestors to life. It creates memories and journeys to share with our own children. It is a reminder that mothers will do what they have to do in order to care for their families, and others, in a world that does not always stop to notice.

My great grandparents had to move from one country in Europe to another in order to find work and financially support their growing family.  My great grandfather went ahead to seek work, while my great grandmother waited in another country with my grandmother and her brother.  She waited until my great grandfather was settled and he was ready for them to reunite.  Each European country was tied up in its own borders, paperwork and bureaucracy.  It might be necessary to move families, but they did not make it easy and did not want to take in immigrants to swell the ranks of the social services.  My great grandmother did not let one such border crossing officer utilize his power to keep her from entering the country and beginning a new life with her family.  She was told that the paperwork was not cleared and that she could not enter the country. So, like the clever, strong woman that she was, she told her children to sit down and wait at the crossing, with the nice border patrol, while she went to find her husband and clear up any misunderstanding with the necessary documentation.

My great grandmother was allowed to enter with her family and belongings.

My grandmother was very frugal, as was my grandfather, who carefully measured each portion and calculated every penny of their combined paychecks. In the 1950’s, my grandparents traveled to Europe, by ship, with my mother and her brother to see what was left of the lives that they had been forced to flee.  There simply was not enough disposable income for lavish meals after the expense of the tickets and the limited income they were careful to protect.  Grandma traveled with a large black purse, a seemingly bottomless trapezoid, which opened and closed with a clicking snap.  She carefully planned for their modest needs and traveled with cans of tuna.  At each restaurant where they were able to eat, the bread basket was placed on the table along with the cutlery and linens.  Each time that the waiter turned around, Grandma would swoop the entire contents of the bread basket into her large black purse, and pleasantly request more rolls.  The family dined on tuna sandwiches throughout their journey.

My mother, undaunted by her own strict and occasionally domineering mother, was unfazed at times when she sought independence.  As a teenager living in New York, my mother dreamed of cozy cottages and country climes.  She had seen a wooden rocking chair and wanted to purchase it for her room.  My grandmother felt it was unnecessary and impractical in their modest-sized apartment.  My mother was told that she could not get it. Those are fighting words for my mother.  She purchased that chair and brought it home, remarkably, on the New York subway system.  Through many incarnations, and paint colors, that rocking chair has traveled through several moves across the country and today sits in her home office.

My mother does things on her own timetable and doesn’t let the seemingly impossible stop her. Where I am punctual, my mother found the concept of time to be more fluid. If we were supposed to be somewhere in five minutes, that was enough time for her to put on nail polish before we headed into the car.

When I was a teenager, my family moved to New Orleans for a number of years. Mom and Dad had to acclimate to the weather, so hot and humid compared to our New England winters, and become accustomed to a brand new way of life.  Both of my parents worked and had to figure out how to maneuver in their new environment while trying to find their way around the city.  In the days before Mapquest, and the difficulty in driving in the city while holding a large paper map, it was necessary to remember the minimum number of routes to arrive at your destination. On one shopping excursion, my mother had missed her turn and did not know another way to get back to the Mall.  As I was a teenager, fresh from driving lessons and my license still warm, I told my mother that the sign said “No Left Turns.”  My mother’s steely reply:  “Wanna Bet?”

How can we turn out any other way than strong, determined, caring, and possessing a wit and absurd sense of humor?

We are teachers, doctors, cooks, and personal shoppers. We are chauffeurs, social planners, bankers, and the butt of jokes.  We are tired, despairing, frustrated, elated and proud. We can be examples or warnings.  We are mental health counselors on call 24 hours a day. But wherever we are, and wherever they are, we are forever Mothers.

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Thank you for stopping by! It means more than you know.  I miss you Mom.
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