Mother’s Day Special

She loved you, held your hair back when you were sick, comforted you through break ups…no, not your college roommate. I’m talking about your mother!

This Mother’s Day will be like no other. I won’t be with my kids. I won’t be with my own mother. Yes, we call and we FaceTime, but that’s hardly a substitute for being in the same room together (which hasn’t happened for over three months now).

This pandemic has taught us many lessons, particularly that nothing is certain. So, I hope you’ll make a special effort to let your mother know what she really means to you. Some people are uncomfortable expressing their emotions. I should know because I am one of them. I tell my husband that he’s the luckiest man in the world because he married a woman who doesn’t like to shop and doesn’t like to talk about her feelings. But, set that discomfort aside and tell her what she means to you and why.

That said, I’d like to share just a few of my memories about my mother and why I appreciate her so much.

Misty

When I was five-years-old, out of the blue, my mother brought a little gray kitten home. This is one of the few times I remember her being spontaneous. She saw it, all alone by a garbage can, and decided to give it a home. I could not believe my eyes. Neither could my father when he came home from work. Misty, the name we gave him two seconds after meeting him, could not stay, my father said. Well, this was a pretty smart kitten, because when my father sat down to read the evening paper, Misty mewed at his feet until dad picked him up. It was that easy. We kept Misty and loved him until the end of his days. And I loved my mother for taking the chance on bringing him to us.

Hostess With The Most-ess

Some of my favorite childhood memories revolve around one holiday or another. It seemed like my mother was the designated hostess for most of them. She did Christmas, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day…you name it. Everyone would gather from our very large extended family. The food was amazing and my grandfather’s homemade wine would flow. When it wasn’t an official holiday, our house was still party central, especially in the summer. Since we had a swimming pool, we had a constant stream of guests during hot weather months, with barbecues every night. I loved those times. Everyone hung out, everyone was welcomed. Now that I’ve followed in her footsteps, I’ve come to realize what went into all those affairs and appreciate her even more.

Playing Hooky

There is a hazy memory in the back of my mind, when my mother took me to a pediatrician appointment and then, rather than bringing me back to school, we went to a movie. Such lawlessness was not her style, which made it all the more fun.

And speaking of the pediatrician…

After weeks of begging, badgering and cajoling, my mother finally agreed to take my sister and me to the pediatrician to have our ears pierced. That’s where you had it done in those days, unless you had a friend you trusted to poke you with a sewing needle (we did not). My sister, Diana, went first. One, two, three and it was done. Then it was my turn. Nothing to it. Then Dr. Laquadera turned to my mother, “What do you say, Alice? Are you game?”

My mother blanched, “Oh, no. I couldn’t!”

My sister and I started pleading with her to go for it. The doctor helped us egg her along. And that became the day we all had our ears pierced together. Just us girls.

Becoming a Mother

When I gave birth to my first child, I was bound and determined to breastfeed. “What could be more natural?” I thought. I’d read all the books. I listened to my friends extols the virtues of their lactation consultants (which, to be honest, still makes me roll my eyes). So when the time came, I felt ready and informed. My son, however, had other ideas. He was not on board. He would not latch on. My mother was in the hospital room with me and could see I was growing frustrated – which, by the way, all the books said not to do. Like you can control that. The floor nurse strolled in, for one reason or another, and started trying to coach me. At one point, she actually roughly grabbed my nipple and tried to force my son to take it. He started to cry, as did I.

My mother stepped in, dismissing the nurse. “We’ll take it from here,” she said, lifting my son into her arms and rocking him.

After we had both calmed down, she handed him back to me and said, “Just let him find it.”

Eureka! Success! Mother does know best.

Tattoo Parlor

When a daughter is determined to get a tattoo, sometimes her mother will insist on accompanying her. This is not uncommon. However, I never thought I’d be on the flip side of that equation. Yup, you read that right. My mother was determined to get a tattoo, and I accompanied her. You can read about it in a past post titled “Ladybug“.

Breakfast In Bed

I don’t ever remember serving breakfast in bed to my mother on Mother’s Day. In fact, I can’t remember a childhood Mother’s Day that didn’t involve my mother making breakfast for us like she always did. This year, I wish I could. She and my father are in isolation and they’re 300 miles away. But if I could, I know just what I’d make for her – baked French toast.

If you’re lucky enough to be with your mom tomorrow, you can make it for her.

Baked French Toast

This will be one of the strangest and, in many ways, most difficult Mother’s Days for many of us. And as if things couldn’t get any weirder…it snowed today.

Ladybug

When I worked on Wall Street, the CEO of our company would sometimes ask me for huge, labor-intensive projects, which were tons of extra work and would prevent me from doing the job I was supposed to be doing.

When I would turn these projects in, he’d say things like, “What’s this? Oh, did I ask for this? Gee, I don’t think I need this. Just hang on to it.” And he’d never mention it again.

**For the full podcast of Ladybug, with additional content and stories, CLICK HERE**

It happened frequently enough, that I decided if he asks me twice, then I’ll do it. So, occasionally, he’d ask a second time, “How’s that report coming?” Then I’d rush to get it done; only to be told later, “Oh, I forgot to mention that I don’t need it anymore.”

That’s when I developed the Rule Of Three. Here’s how it works:

  • Ask me once, I’d say, “You bet!” Then I’d make notes and do nothing more.
  • Ask me twice, I’d say, “I’m on it!” I’d then gather the data, and set it with my notes.
  • Ask me a third time and I’d say, “You’ll have it by the end of the day.” At this point, I’d compile my notes and data, then type up the report and hand it in.

I know, this strategy sounds like the fast track to unemployment, but it actually worked beautifully. I stopped putting in hours of unpaid overtime, stayed on top of the job I was actually hired to do, and the CEO was always satisfied with the special projects that he actually wanted.

I haven’t worked on Wall Street in decades, but sometimes I still use the Rule Of Three. For example, when my mother turned 79, she told me what she wanted to do for her 80th birthday. Taking me aside, she whispered, “Here’s what it is…and you can’t tell anybody in the family: I want you to take me to have a ladybug tattooed on my ass.”

Now, if that doesn’t sound like a Rule Of Three request, I don’t know what does. I told her, “You bet!”

That was in February of 2010. When we saw each other that Easter, she didn’t mention it.   Then Memorial Day came and went. No further conversation about it. At our July 4th barbeque, she didn’t bring it up. So I figured either she forgot about it, didn’t really mean it, or changed her mind.

In August, I got a phone call.

It was my mother. “Did you find a pattern?” she asked.

“For what?”

“For my ladybug tattoo!” she said.

She was asking me for the second time. “I’m on it!” I said.

I searched the Internet for ladybug tattoo patterns.

There were hundreds of them. Who knew? So I picked out a few of the tiniest ones I could find and emailed them to her.

She called me back.

“These are too small,” she said. “Can you find something a little bigger?”

At this point, I should probably tell you my opinion of tattoos. Growing up, I had a Great Uncle Frank. He had a glass eye and tattoo of a hula girl on his forearm. Rolling up his sleeve, he’d say, “Kids, look!” Then he’d make her dance by flexing his muscles. He got the hula girl when he was in the Navy. Great Uncle Frank was only person I ever knew to have a tattoo – until I was touring with a  theater company many years later.

One of our appearances was at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY, and the cheapskates who arranged the tour booked us rooms at a place called the Dome Hotel (which I just Googled to make sure it doesn’t still exists – and it doesn’t, thank God). It was the scariest place I’d ever seen, and I was expected to sleep there! But it wasn’t just the ‘Old Chelsea Hotel of yesteryear meets heroin den’ ambiance…it was the elevator operator. A dead ringer for the crypt keeper, he had tattoos on his knuckles that looked like he’d done them himself with a sewing needle and a Bic pen. I was terrified of him, so I made small talk to perhaps win him over. I thought if we had a human connection, maybe he wouldn’t murder me in my sleep.

“Interesting tattoos you got there,” I said, feigning interest.

“I got ‘em on the ‘inside,’” he said.

Initially, I thought that meant there was such a thing as internal tattoos and he had a few somewhere inside his body. I later learned that “on the inside” was a euphemism for prison, which I’m very glad I didn’t know back then.

So these are my associations with tattoos. Only people who served in the Navy, or served time, have them.

It was this connotation that caused me to have underwhelming enthusiasm about helping my own mother to get one.

However, she hadn’t yet asked for the third time – until that November. She called me two weeks before Thanksgiving and asked me if I’d make an appointment to have it done on Black Friday. Now I had to believe she was serious.

“I’ll get it done by the end of the day,” I told her.

So, I called Big Joe & Sons Tattooing in Yonkers. I learned that tattoo parlors aren’t like beauty parlors. You don’t need an appointment.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving Day. I had 33 hungry people packing my house, waiting for grub. My mother kept pulling me aside to say how excited she was. Every time my mother caught my eye she’d wink, or giggle. As promised, I had told no one in the family. I did talk to two of my closest girlfriends who immediately elevated my mother to Rock Star status.

Finally, Black Friday was upon us – or, as I will forever refer to it, Red and Black Friday.   While everyone else was heading to the mall, my mother and I headed off to Big Joe & Sons.

As we entered, I saw an older woman, I’d guess about 75-years-old, paying at the counter. When she left, I asked the employee, “Is it National Nana Gets A Tattoo Day?”

The girl answered in earnest, “We do nipple piercing, too.”

Ooooooookay.

When it was my mother’s turn, she showed the pattern to the tattoo artist who, I must confess, really seemed to be talented. He showed us how he was going to add some shading and highlighting to give the ladybug more dimension.

While that made me feel a little better, I could not get past the idea that I was party to something that would come back to bite me. What if something bad happens? What if my mother gets an infection? What if my father has a fit and divorces her after nearly 60 years of marriage? But we were already in too deep; she was leaning over a chair and her pants were shimmied down, exposing the back of her hip.

The tattoo artist made lively banter with my mother, (they were sort of flirting, actually) and told her about watercolor tattoos and glow-in-the-dark tattoos, and about the most painful part of a man’s body on which to get a tattoo (take your mind out of the gutter! It’s his ribs, potty brain!).

The whole time, I sat in a chair, watching this surreal scene and wondering if I should revise the Rule Of Three to make it the Rule Of Ask Someone Else Why Don’t Ya. But when all was said and done, the tattoo actually looked quite nice. And I did get a little thrill that my mother had trusted me with her secret – which I had to keep until the following February, on her 80th birthday, when she unveiled her ink to the family.

So yes…we’ve all had some wonderful moments and memories with our mom’s. Some of us remember sitting with our moms, sipping cocoa at an outdoor café. Some of us have felt the touch of their comforting love and generosity in times when we needed bolstering and some of us have taken our moms to Big Joe & Sons for her first, and hopefully, her last tattoo.