The sweetness on her face belied Mom's toughness. After arriving in the US as a refugee fleeing Hitler's Germany, she was educated at Baylor and became an Army nurse prior to meeting my father. Mom always worked, and I respected that ethic. For decades she was the County Health Nurse in Ashdown, Arkansas, and our only dread would be confronting the refrigerator after school on Tuesday afternoons to see if she brought any vaccine home for us. I still have a vivid image of my sister Laura with a hoe in her hand being chased by Mother with her syringe. Mom won of course. Work of course didn't preclude her from cooking 7 days a week, some of which we loved, and an occasional dish (calf's tongue) which I had to sneak to the garbage disposal.
We had our battles, as Mother and I were both stubborn as mules. What I cherish most about my Mother was that she always was my advocate. When the 7th grade math teach called to tell her I had corrected him in class, she stood up for me by telling him that my answer was right.
Mom was not just an advocate for me, she had a large flock under her wing. We sold poppies for the March of Dimes, and she was an early promoter of Planned Parenthood before it became fashionable, especially in Arkansas in the 60's. She never cared about the social status or skin color, as long as they were good people. She marched in a local parade for one of her causes, totally embarrassing my father, and it was not until later that I found out it was in one of her manic phases.
I respected her tenacity in dealing with her lifelong battle with depression. The down days were hard on us, and the up days (polishing her entire collection of silver in the middle of the night) were mysterious and hard on Daddy. I loved my father but when he committed her to a mental ward for shock treatment as it was done in the mid-60's to control the manic phases, the tables turned and my sister and I became advocates for her.
My sister Laura and I were always so chic, thanks to Mother's love of her Singer sewing machine. So many matching dresses for birthdays and other occasions. I always had something wonderful to wear.
My love for jewelry is rooted in Mother's gifts of jewelry for my birthday and Chanukah. The first piece which I still cherish is a gold locket engraved with my initials, and with pictures of my parents inside. This was followed by a gold watch, opal ring, and a sterling charm bracelet which carries a memory of each charm I collected. Mom's jewelry box was modest, but I loved trolling around in it.
In my rebellious college years, we disagreed on many things, but in hindsight, all was trivial. What was the most important to me was her unconditional approval and love for Charles from the day she met him and her total devotion to our kids and to my sister and her kids. Whether it be bingo or cookie baking, Grandparent's Day or shopping, she passed along her values and for that, I am forever in her debt.
Mother's energy in her later years in Dallas seemed to accelerate. She volunteered at the nursing home where my Father finished his life, and kept doing it after he passed away. She was a magnet for any friend who needed nursing, and she was game for anything when it involved her family, including a last minute 36 hour trip to see the last day of Christo's Gates in Central Park, even though her health was failing. She voiced her strong opinions on education by writing a letter to the Dallas Morning News (published), and when it came to friends, they didn't make the cut if they spent their time complaining about the food or living their life in fear. When half of a trip to Israel cancelled because of terrorism, my Mother stuck, and left on her 80th birthday as a present to herself. She was fine, I was crying buckets.
It has been 6 years since I lost my Mother, and not just on Mother's Day, but every day, I miss her. Here's to you Mom, for your strength, character, love, and caring for every human being who touched your orbit.