Last Saturday about 60 people gathered to remember my mother at the Play House here at Singing Brook Farm in Hawley, Massachusetts.
Up until the last minute we weren’t entirely sure how many people were coming. I did ask people to let me know … but I wasn’t worried when I didn’t hear from a lot of them. I knew there would be plenty of food–there always is at pot lucks–and plenty of good company. Of course, I was right. (I usually am.)
In the end we were missing a few people we expected (a couple of them called a day or two later and asked me to remind them when the party was!) but gained a few we hadn’t expected but were thrilled to see.
The day was pleasant enough to enable some guests to sit outside to eat lunch. We all came inside when it was time to remember Jan/Taffy officially.
Many of the speakers and guests were relatives. My mother’s siblings Lura and Bruce were in attendance, full of memories and good cheer. Aunt Lura was particularly thrilled that all six of her children had come, along with several grandchildren and even a couple of great-grandchildren.
We also had honorary relatives—several of my childhood cohorts from Singing Brook Farm; my sort-of cousin Eric, nephew of one of my mother’s closest and most colorful college friends (We’ll always have Paris, Eric!); dear Anna, whose father went to graduate school with mine and whose children were like grandchildren to my mother; and Amy and Lyzz, childhood friends whose mother was my mother’s business partner and who looked pretty much the same as they did when they were kids. Lots of neighbors showed up—and my mother’s beloved caregiver, Pam, brought not only herself but enough tea sandwiches to feed the whole crowd.
People spoke of my mother’s literal and figurative equilibrium, her … forthrightness (a much more diplomatic word than rudeness, don’t you think?), her brains, her humor, and her giant smile. My sister-in-law Leigh noted that Taffy viewed her as adding to the family rather than taking my brother away, a good attitude in a mother-in-law!
I didn’t speak officially, but Alice Parker Pyle and I led the group in a couple of Taffy-appropriate songs … and I concluded the festivities by reciting one of her favorite poems, “The Owl and the Pussycat.” She always performed this verse with great gusto and drama; I like to think I replicated a little of her style.
As I looked around at the group in the Play House my heart warmed. There I was, surrounded by people I loved … my own playmates and my mother’s playmates, plus people of a variety of ages down to the very young Michael, Elijah, Audrey, and Malia. It felt as though we were all joyfully eating, drinking, and talking inside a kaleidoscope of the past, present, and future.
At the center of that kaleidoscope was our mother, who as my brother pointed out early on always enjoyed a good party.
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.
If you’d like to hear my recitation, click on the play button below. I apologize if the poem is a little hard to hear; I’m still working on recording technique!
Visit my food blog for a recipe from the day’s feast. And if you have any memories of my mother to share, please leave them in a comment!