One of the earliest memories I have of my mom is walking barefoot with her, holding hands. It was summer and it had just rained so the ground was both wet and warm, with steam rising off the sidewalk. She wanted me to feel the moist concrete beneath the soles of my feet and encouraged me to walk barefoot with her down the block.
My mom had an appreciation for nature and beauty that she enjoyed sharing with me whenever she could. On too many occasions to count, she excitedly asked me to look at the orange/pink sky as the sun set. I’ll never forget the summer she and my dad came to visit me at sleep away camp and were waiting on the ski dock to watch me water-ski. Suddenly, my mom noticed a gorgeous rainbow over the lake, and announced to all the nearby counselors and campers to look at the beautiful colors. She then proceeded to pass around her sunglasses to everyone so they could better see the highlighted colors through her lenses. As a 13-year old girl, I was slightly mortified. But, now as a mom myself who continually tries to show my kids the beauty of the world around them, I get it.
One of my mom’s favorite hobbies was gardening. Every spring, my mom loved to come to our house and walk around the yard with Jon, while he showed her his latest plantings. At the upstate house in Stanfordville, my mom would garden for hours and hours, despite the blazing heat. She’d come in the house, dripping with sweat and I’d joke, “see, I knew you should have installed central air-conditioning in this house.”
My high school and college friends can attest to the fact that I had one of the “cool” moms. My friends loved to sit around the kitchen table with my mom and just chat or watch her and my dad in action at their house upstate, where they’d garden, banter, and revel in being surrounded by all my friends and me. In fact, I think one of my college friends described her best by saying she was a legend of sorts, a mom for all of us to model ourselves after. I couldn’t agree more.
I truthfully can only recall one time in my life that my mom attempted to punish both my brother Roger and me. I can’t remember what pissed her off so much, but she sent us both to our rooms. Roger and I decided to be smart-asses and pull our respective bean bag chairs up to the doorways of our rooms. We sat in them and began talking and laughing with one another. My mom heard us, looked up the stairs, saw us and began cracking up. We knew right then the punishment was over.
My mom has been a consistent source of support and inspiration for me during every milestone in my life. Planning my wedding with her was one of my greatest joys. We never fought over the details, but had tremendous fun during each step in the process, including the menu taste test at The Rainbow Room. My mom was never much of a foodie, but when the chef brought out the salmon for us to try, my mom casually said she found it to be “disappointing.” The color drained from the chef’s face and he apologized. Needless to say, we went with the filet mignon. We teased my mother about that day and she giggled with embarrassment that she caused the chef such angst.
With each of my pregnancies, my mom listened to me obsess or worry or complain as pregnant women often times do. When my first son was born and I was overwhelmed with being a new mother, my mother rescued both my sanity and me. She slept over for many nights and woke up for the middle of the night feedings and just sat there with me while I nursed, ready to take the baby if I needed her to change him or put him back down.
She was a devoted grandmother to each of her six grandchildren. She was a get-down-on-the-floor-and-play-with-the-kids kind of grandma. As well as a “let’s play a board game” kind of grandma. And a “I’ll-watch-you-shoot-basketball” kind of grandma. She bonded to each of her grandchildren in separate and unique ways, encouraging their interests and yet never giving up on making each and every one of them avid readers. Yup, she was the grandma who also gave books as presents. One day, I know my kids will appreciate that.
My mom was one of the smartest women I ever knew. And anyone who knew her would say the same thing. She was extremely well-read, as well as knowledgeable about music and art. Every year on my birthday, she gifted me with a book of poetry. And every year, I hoped to appreciate the poems as much as she did.
When I pursued writing, my mom was my faithful editor, as well as my biggest fan. She was the most loyal reader of my blog, and although she rarely commented on the blog itself, she always sent me emails cheering me on about my latest post.
My mom was generous in so many ways. Not just with gifts, but with her time. My mom could listen to you like no one else and always made you feel like what you had to say was important. When you talked to her, you had her undivided attention and you knew it. She was also generous with her love. She showed pure love for not just her family, but her friends too. My mom forged special relationships with so many people, including her niece and nephews, her sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, doormen, her doctors, her students, her co-workers, the baby-sitters for my kids. The list goes on and on.
My mom’s generosity also extended to our many shopping sprees together. Our shopping days started back when we were living in Great Neck, NY, a suburb of NYC. While many of the residents there would wear their finest outfits to browse the stores in town, my mom shunned convention and would wear tattered jeans and sneakers. Sometimes we’d be ignored in the stores, only to surprise the store help when we racked up an impressive amount of charges for our new wardrobes. Our shopping days continued all the way into my adulthood and we always cherished those times together, even though our tastes in clothes were frequently quite dissimilar.
My mom taught me so many things over the years, such as how to make restaurant reservations, a skill I’ve found increasingly important whenever I want to avoid cooking, which can be a lot. She also taught me how to parallel park, with her own special method that she showed me the night before my road test in the pouring rain. And she taught me how to stand up for what I believe in, even if it meant sprinkling in a few choice curse words to get your point across. I definitely inherited some of her feisty Bronx genes and for that, I’m proud.
I know my heart first started to break after her diagnosis almost three years ago. I thought she wouldn’t be able to handle the emotional toll, having already battled two other cancers as well as endured open-heart surgery. But, she once again proved to me that she was more than just a mom. She was Super Mom. She was rock solid, or at least around me she was, never losing her wonderful sense of humor and fighting cancer like a warrior. After her surgery, I was at home with her during her recovery. She was shuffling around the apartment in a bathrobe, and had a few grey strands of hair sticking out of her head, the rest of it lost to chemotherapy. She looked at me and said, “I feel like Yoda.” We both laughed. And with her blue eyes shining bright, I thought she never looked more beautiful.
I’ve heard several different versions of how my parents first met. My favorite one is that my mom was working as an emergency room nurse at Mt. Sinai, and my dad was starting his rotation in the ER as an intern. When he walked in the first day and introduced himself, my mom said, “Oh, so you’re the lascivious Dr. Mitty.” To which my dad replied, “What does lascivious mean?” Watching my dad and her in the hospital these past five weeks, was one of the more heartwarming times in my life. She’d smile her trademark crooked smile at my dad and his face would light up. My dad would hold her hand and call her “beautiful” and “gorgeous.” I feel privileged to have witnessed a part of a 52-year marriage that was real and strong to the end. I think my dad said it best the other day when he said to me, “what an amazing woman. How fortunate I was.”
How fortunate we all were, to have known such a loving, generous, intelligent, independent, interesting and beautiful person.
My heart is breaking today and will forever feel this loss. But, I am also eternally grateful to have had the most awesome mother a daughter could ever ask for.
I love you mom and will miss you every day for the rest of my life.