With Mary

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Love of Two Mothers

What was going through my birth Mother's mind on Mother's Day 1968? Hidden away from the world in her sister's attic did she realize the joy her pain would bring to another family just a few months away? My birth Mom K loved me enough to entrust my upbringing to another family and my adoptive mom loved me enough make her proud!

Mom J- who raised me- took her mothering very seriously, but with a 1960's sensibility. Free to Be You and Me was before our time.  Instead, Mom J looked to Jaqueline Kennedy for inspiration. Mrs. Kennedy was young, stylish, well educated, cultured, and Catholic. Mom J was about the same age, stylish (think Sofia Loren), intelligent, and Catholic too. Yet, growing up with a first generation traditional Italian father meant Mom missed out on cultural events and higher education.  He flatly refused to help any of his daughters attend college. A woman's place was in the home. Thankfully, Mom poured her ambition out on us, making sure we attended cultural events and earned college degrees.

Seemed like every weekend, Mom was dragging us to some art opening, festival, botanical garden, or ballet.  My brothers and I would groan and beg not go, but there is no arguing with Mom J.  Period. One out of the three of us would pout the entire time, lag behind, and make scowling faces for the family photos meant to document Mom's efforts in raising us right. Her efforts paid off. My younger brother has a master's degree in percussion and composition. My oldest brother studied design and architecture. I paint. Whether we liked it or not, Mom had our best interests in mind constantly.

When Dad got a promotion and moved us back to Pennsylvania from New Jersey, Mom insisted that they buy a modest house in a nice neighborhood known for excellent schools. He wanted to move back to where they grew up, but Mom would not hear of it. She wanted more for us. Ever heard the old fashioned saying, "Behind every successful man is a powerful woman?" That was mom. Mom entertained Dad's business colleagues with flair and grace, insisted he push hard to move up the corporate ladder, yet never be late for dinner. Supper hit the table at six o'clock not matter what (still does). Mom was regimented, which kept her organized and us in line!

Obviously, Mom J loved us, but it was not mush gushy love.  Instead, deeds proved her love. Did she get us to church every week?  Check. That was love. Did she keep us clean, well-fed, and educated? Check. That was love. Did she take us to an art exhibit? Check. Love. This 1960's parenting mentality taught me essential life skills like how to manage a household, throw an amazing dinner party, write a thank you note, and show respect for others. She was constantly preparing us to be model citizens in the "real world." As a parent of two, I commend what she accomplished. She has a tightly knit family of three well-educated children and many grandchildren who love and even like each other! A true gift.

Mom J set an exceptionally high standard for herself and her children and I wonder if she realizes on some level that her great joy came out of the expense of another. I like to think that our success is her way of thanking our original moms. As promised, she raised us right.

On this Mother's Day, I am eternally grateful to know and love both of my mothers. One who gave me life and who's courageous act brought so much joy to my mom and dad. The other who taught me how to "be" in the world. I am blessed to wake each day, continuing to learn lessons from both of these powerful, intelligent, passionate, and talented mothers.

Mom J, me, and Mom's Italian Dad