Ode To My Mom
Poet, Writer, Feminist, and Super-Mom
Thank you to one of the most marvelous women who has ever graced my life -- my Mom. May I be blessed to know you again and again in every lifetime. I love you, adore you, "bigger than the Universe" and always will. Happy 70th birthday.
Born just before the end of WW2, my mom was the second child of the only open Communists on Staten Island, NY.
She grew up encouraged to be a "tomboy" in a house ruled by science experiments, wacky carpentry (Grandpa once hinged the roof and built a boat in the attic.) and political debate.
Some of her early memories include being challenged to climb a pole, a forever escaping horse, Tonka and finding razor blades *eek!* in the pasta sauce because my grandparents kept a rather cluttered house.
Then there was the...
This guy didn't like Commies and wasn't hesitant to say so, I'm going to try to set some records straight here:
What Communism/Socialism Is:
It's an economic philosophy that suggests that we go through various periods of feudalism, enslavement and community organizing. Big emphasis on the community organizing part as to what SHOULD be done. That's the basic definition I got from my grandparents and my readings.
Very sadly this philosophy has been used to support genocide. But that's the fault of the idiots who promoted it and not the theory itself. Lenin and Stalin are IMO nasty folks. Communism as a base idea is not a bad one.
I prefer to focus on community-ism. Working together. Being a team. Making the world a better place. I'm good with that.
But of course life wasn't as easy for my mom, shadowed as she was by the Rosenberg Trials which convicted a husband and wife for treason and left their children as orphans.
She was taught to "forget" the names of the people who visited her home and laid awake many nights waiting for the police to arrest her family. Any knock on the door could be it.
They met at Coney Island on the way to the Parachute Jump.
Mom was freaked out that she might be seen wearing her glasses, but Dad was okay with it. Even suggested she was sexy though he said she "walked like a duck."
He was eight years older and so she ditched him for a year or two, but he couldn't resist and returned. They got married when she was two months past her eighteenth birthday. I was born when she was ninteen. My brother and sister came three and four years later.
Feminist and Activist
Yes, back in the bra-burning era of the 70s, Mom was a ravening, raging, die-hard feminist. She says they never actually burned their bras. At least she didn't.
She was (and is) physically very beautiful. The photos here don't even do justice. Turquoise is her best color and one of my early memories of her is a date night with Dad when she donned a gorgeous turquoise dress and piled her hair high and looked like a supermodel. I remember being in awe. Asked on at least one occasion to work as a model, she declined that, saying that she wanted a job that focused on her brains, not her body.
And yes her brain is worthy of attention!
She marched with CORE, the Congress for Racial Equality, and took us to concerts with Paul Robeson and Pete Seeger.
Two of her favorite bands/musicians of the time were Carley Simon and Deadly Nightshade.
She insisted that I was suffused with books that gave me insight into the glorious women of past eras. Lili'uokalani, Marie Curie, Jeanne d'Arc, Boudicca, Earhart and others.
And of course she passed down the tales of the special women in her family who gave me their blood, wits and passion.
She's still an activist, focusing on issues of the environment and children.
Mom sends me books all the time. This is one she sent me recently. Marge Piercy is one of her favorite authors.(Mom says I write a bit like her in my fiction. I don't see the resemblance myself, but I'll take the compliment.)
Sex Wars is a smashing book, a fictionalized account of the life of Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to ever run for President of the US - back in 1872!
Feminist or not?
Did your mom consider herself a feminist?
As a kid, my mom tried to be Super-Mom. I probably got the a lot of the benefit that, being the eldest. Every single day she'd come up with a new craft project or cooking recipe or game or song or storybook, often more than one in one day.
Whew! It must have been exhausting for her.
I got taken to museums all over New York, fed the ducks at the local park, picked blackberries, rode the ferry. Any and every experience that would stimulate my growing mind.
Every night she would read us to sleep. Finally I got big enough to grab the books and start reading them on my own.
One thing I didn't know until many years later: When I was a year old she wanted to go back to school. She'd started a study of Veterinary Medicine and had interned as a research assistant before her marriage. Dad was one of those types who believed a woman should be in the home raising children. He threatened to leave her and kidnap me if she went back to school. She gave up her dream to keep me with her and safe.
Writer and Poet
Mom is credited with introducing me to writing. When I was about 8 she started writing a (sorry Mom) rather bad novel about a surrogate mother and her decision on whether to give up the resulting child. Now the subject may be old hat, but back then it was pretty groundbreaking,
As a first novel it deserved to be buried. Since then we joke about Sandraisms - after the character name, because she just kept asking so many questions over and over. That doesn't stop my mom from being a phenomenally brilliant poet and writer. She's just got better over the years!
Around age 10 she took me to a New School (a college in NY) class and allowed me to participate. It was amazing!
Around age 12 I was invited with her to the Staten Island Writer's Guild. Since then Mom and I have shared and participated in many writer's groups and classes. I always am grateful for her wisdom.
My Primary Editor
Yes, although I have more than a few beta readers and writer friends, my one go-to editor and writing friend is my mom.
Okay you might suggest that she likes my work "just because" she's my mom.
Sure that's possible. But Mom has been a constant source of wise suggestions - stuff to leave in or keep out and everything else for four decades and counting. I'll continue to trust her suggestions, edits, and yes, even her praise.
The Video Ranger
For years Mom had a video camera and would go around documenting various events, local news and histories of the folks of our/her area. Her business name was "The Video Ranger" after a long ago TV series.
As a videographer, she was able to capture some fascinating and unique footage and often appeared on our local public access TV station.
Especially after I moved to Florida this became an increasing means of contact and letting me know what was happening back home.
I'm grateful that she captured an interview or two with my grandmother before she passed.
She Continues to Write
Two books of poems to date. A memoir/novel or two in progress. A collaboration with her sister on a memoir about growing up Commie and their childhood. Brilliant stuff but I won't tell her secrets till she's ready.
Coming Soon to a HubPage Near You?
I've just recently introduced her to HubPages and am hoping she will soon be creating articles here!
She Trusted Us When...
At age 16 me and my sister confessed a secret to her. I won't discuss what it was, you may read between the lines.
I'd dealt with it on my own, but having my sister with the same problem was not allowable.
Mom had been completely in the dark about this. Her firsts steps were to implicitly believe our truth and then get us out of the house and safe. I cannot begin to thank her for her trust and belief in us.
She and Dad divorced in about no time. Because of it all we lived on welfare/social services for a while. She is an incredibly brave woman and supported us through the entire process.
I know she has not entirely forgiven herself for not knowing what we were going through. It's okay Mom. You sincerely didn't know. You got us out as fast as you could. We are fine now.
My Sixteenth Birthday Poem
One of the most fantastic gifts I ever received (besides the gifts of life and love themselves) was a poem Mom wrote for me on my 16th birthday. She gave it to me with a long stemmed rose with the thorns still on. The poem ends with:
"I offer you a rose
your life will not be without thorns
hoping you will not be afraid
the thorns knowing the beauty of the rose"
It makes me cry to this day.
Besides the gifts of life and love...
...what's the best gift you ever got from your Mom? What's the best one you ever gave her? Let me know in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
More Mom Photos - All from our Family AlbumClick thumbnail to view full-size
Mom met her 2nd (last and always) husband over the Photocopier of the college she was going to, to better herself and get a good job so she could get us off welfare.
They bonded over their love of books. Right there in the library they found mutual attraction and a relationship that has been going on for thirty plus years. The family joke is that they're obviously photocopied clones of each other's hearts and souls.
Seriously, you cannot make this stuff up!
My new dad/stepdad, is the most amazing person. He's dealt with all our teenage angst and helped us survive it. We did not make life easy on him in those early years of their relationship and I feel terrible about that. It was a challenging time when all three of us kids were acting out in one way or the other.
I could not possibly adore a father more. He has been a constant strength for my mother.
Oh he's a weird bird. Very shy and bookish. Somewhat stilted until you get to know him. And a truly beautiful human being once you get there.
Both he and his mother took us 3 bratty kids into their homes and hearts, and helped mold us into better people.
Love you Daddy!
My sister has four children, my brother two. Lucky for my mother, I only have dogs and cats.
She can't do as much as she likes for my brother's kids, as he lives out of state. For my sister, she's been babysitter and protector, and has been instrumental in raising my sister's girls.
Half the time I talk to Mom, she's running off to take the girls to a class or concert or other event just as she did for me when I was growing up. I swear I don't know where she gets her energy!
Since my sister's been recently diagnosed with cancer, she's spending a huge amount of her "free time" looking into cures.
For the last two years my sister has been fighting cancer. She finally lost her battle in September.
During that time, I've been living 1500 miles away with no way to help other than being an over-the-phone support system.
Mom has been amazing! She's ferried my sister to appointments, cooked and cleaned and gardened, taken the kids to their appointments and spent countless hours researching cures.
She's worn herself to the bone. Now that my Sis is gone, I pray Mom will get some of the rest she deserves.
A couple of Mom links
- How To Celebrate Mother's Day When Your Mom is Deceased
Mom's still around and looking great, but both my grandmothers have passed. Wonderful page, thank you!