Mother’s Day Revisited

With Jan/Taffy during her last Christmas season.

A friend recently noted on Facebook that many of us who no longer have our mothers feel as though we are unmoored.

I occasionally have that feeling—but then I remember that my mother is still with me in many ways.

On Friday, I visited my friends at Mass Appeal, the lifestyle program on which I cook from time to time. The young hosts were celebrating Mother’s Day; their mothers were also guests that day and were deservedly feted. (They have raised pretty terrific children.)

For a moment or two I felt a little sorry for myself. I had no mother, I thought, and I was no one’s mother.

Co-host Seth Stutman snapped me right out of that little bout of self-pity. As a tribute to my mother I prepared a salad that featured one of her favorite foods, rhubarb. While Seth and Lauren Zenzie tossed the salad for me I shared the words on my mother’s gravestone.

Her epitaph was inspired by an incident that took place shortly after I graduated from Mount Holyoke. I returned to campus and as an adult (finally!) was invited to the college’s weekly faculty cocktail hour. There I met a retired philosophy professor named Roger Holmes.

“I believe my mother took a course from you many years ago,” I told him. “I don’t know whether you’d remember her: Jan Hallett, Class of 1939.”

My Mother in 1939

The elderly but spry man immediately replied, “Short and full of life!”

Obviously, my mother made an impression. When she died my brother and I decided to inscribe Professor Holmes’s description of our petite, lively mother on her grave.

When Seth heard the epitaph during our cooking segment, he stated, “Well, Tinky, I’d say the same thing about you,” and gave me a big Mother’s Day hug.

He went on to note that he thought of me as one of his “show moms.”

Since I’m officially only 39 and Seth is 31, I replied that I and his other show moms (studio manager Denise and director Deb) thought of ourselves as older sisters rather than mothers.

Nevertheless, I was touched and reassured.

My mother may no longer be walking around the house, but she is present to me—not only in my own small stature, but also in every dish I cook and every song I sing. She will always be with me.

And I may not be a mother, but I am an older woman friend to lots of children (and even a few grownups like Seth!) whom I can nurture and love.

I seldom quote the Bible, but in this case I have to agree with the “Song of Solomon”: “For love is strong as death.” I also concur with lyricist Leo Robin: “Hooray for love!”

Happy Mother’s Day to all.

If you’d like to see the segment (the salad was DELICIOUS!), here it is:

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Mother’s Day

My mother loved celebrations.

Mother’s Day is perfectly gorgeous here in western Massachusetts: perfect May weather. Our early lilacs are brightening up the landscape, and a few apple blossoms and daffodils remain.

In church this morning our minister, Cara, suggested everyone quietly name a mother who deserved remembering on this special day. I mentioned my mother, Jan (a.k.a. Taffy) and then heard my neighbor Alice softly say the name of her own mother.

Alice’s mother Mary Parker (whom we all called Gam) was a grandmother figure to all of us children in the neighborhood, one of the strong inspiring women of my youth. She was admirable, funny, and fierce.

Hearing that name made me think of so many other mother figures I celebrate today, including Gam.

I recalled my own grandmothers, Clara and Sarah, as well as my beloved aunts, Lura, Selma, and Connie.

I recalled my godmothers, Kay (who was named poet laureate of the state of Delaware) and Dody (who SHOULD have been named poet laureate of French film and key-lime pie). Both went to college with my mother.

I recalled my mother’s other close college chums—smart, fun women who taught me a lot about female friendship: Sylvia, Riley, Giff, and Bobby.

I recalled my mother’s other smart close friends: her partner in business, Claire; her partner in singing, Bobbie; and her partners in bridge and neighborhood gossip, Randy and Annie.

I also recalled some of the female teachers who have made a difference to me: Helen, who taught Sunday school and encouraged my personality (not that it needed a huge amount of encouragement); Bebe and Ma’am, my second- and fourth-grade teachers in two very different corners of the world; Penny, who taught me to play chords on the piano and to love music always; and Desley, Shelley, and Janet, who helped me survive graduate school.

It made me sad to realize that of all of these women only a few survive. Most of the teachers are still around, and my Aunt Lura is still with us. My mother, our other relatives, and most of my mother’s friends (except for the redoubtable Claire and Bobbie) are gone.

Nevertheless, my overall feeling was and is one of celebration that I am lucky enough to have been cradled by so many remarkable women over the course of my life.

I hope to continue to find mother figures as I age. (Someday I will have to turn 40.) And I hope to serve as a surrogate mother to others in their life journeys.

I realize that most of my readers are busy celebrating Mother’s Day today—but if you’re reading this at any time please take a moment to leave a comment below naming a mother figure who has helped shape you.

Writing her name and recalling her influence on you will make you feel mothered all over again. I promise!

Happy Mother’s Day … today and every day.

Esther, our church choir director, send these lovely roses home with me today in memory of my mother.