I will never get used to Mother's Day. It's been twenty years since my mom died suddenly at age 55, just three years older than I am now. I still want to throw something at the TV when commercials urge me to buy that special piece of jewelry or show me the joy a mother feels when she opens the perfect Hallmark card. Emails fill up my inbox, informing me every day for two weeks prior what flowers "my mother" would like to receive and when to order them to be delivered to her on time. I hit the delete button quickly, just like I do when I get what seems to be hundreds of press releases on "elegant, new, fresh Mother's day ideas" or "must-have gifts."
Writing about Mother's Day comes with the territory when writing for a jewelry magazine, and each year, I stare at the blank computer screen, struggling to come up with the copy. One day, I hope to get it done without breaking down and into tears while trying to describe something so simple as a charm, locket or an engrave-able keepsake. There are truly beautifully designed pieces created by jewelers, stores do an incredible job of advertising and there are plenty of moms that I know who are worthy and deserving of a special day and gift to celebrate and recognize their love and guidance.
Mine was one of them.
My mom preferred handpicked daisies to perfectly-arranged bouquets of flowers, a box of Mallomars to Godiva chocolates, my attempts at poetic verse and my brother's unintelligible drawings to store-bought cards.
She would send my grandmother a ticket to come up from Florida so that she could have her own mother as well as her children around her. Yesterday, I went to Union Square market in New York City and bought bunches of lilacs like my mom and I used to do a few hours before my grandmother would arrive. For a few moments, when I was re-cutting the stems, my apartment smelled like... home.
I can remember like it was yesterday the three of us pretending to be The Supremes with deodorant cans as microphones; my mother showing me how to find rainbows in puddles on the ground; and her talking me out of wearing my glittering, sequined-spangled nightgown (bought to dress up in at home) to nursery school.
When my niece was 4, I felt my mom's presence when I gently urged my niece not to wear her sparkly "Princess" pajamas to a party. Although I am close with my niece and nephews, sometimes, I think this day would be easier if I had been a mother with children to pass on and share these memories with.
Instead, I remember my mom being my style guru from the time I could tell ballet pink from a bright Bubblegum hue, much the way Diana Vreeland was to many a fashion editor and Audrey Hepburn was to women all over the United States. My mother had them beat. A mix of Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey herself, she was a runway and bridal fit model studying to be an actress before she met and married my father. After they divorced, she became a VP for a well-known clothing company. She knew colors and fabrics, she had taste, style and dressed in all the latest fashions as long as I can remember.
In the sixties and early seventies, she traveling to London with my dad for business, she maxi-d, midi-d and shimmied in short mini dresses from Mary Quant and those found on Carnaby Street. In the seventies, at only 35, liberated from a less-than-perfect marriage but still with the responsibility of raising three unruly kids, she gave up her little sheath dresses for elephant bells and traded in her charm bracelet, dangling with discs of her children, for macramé beaded styles and Zuni turquoise cuffs.
I remember propping myself up on her vanity while she took more things off than she put on, allowing me to play dress up next to her with the pieces she rejected while she applied blush and a little eyeliner to make me feel more grown up. But I also never forgot this lesson later in life: 'the woman is supposed to wear the jewelry and clothes, not the other way around." In the eighties, she did what every New York woman did and counted on basic black; she didn't stray far from the pack and fell in love with Donna Karan's ease of dressing, adding a piece or two of Robert Lee Morris sculptural jewelry and found herself wearing more of vintage pieces of cut steel, onyx and filigree. My grandmother asked why "her 'two girls' felt the need to look like two Sicilian women in mourning."
We took turns explaining the benefits of black: "Thinner!" "Easier to get out of the house!" "What other color would we possibly wear?"
While my mom's wardrobe was dark, her heart was light.
As style-savvy as she was, she was also down-to-earth-and got the most pleasure from the simple things in life like the first hint of summer when she could go to the beach and feel her toes in the hot sand.
On Mother's Day, she opted for "a great slice of Pizza, a Coney Island hot dog or good Chinese."
When she got remarried to my stepfather, she wore a simple antique wedding band. She liked her jewelry discrete and her displays of affection and love to be measured by how tight you could hug. I'm not sure I ever held on long enough.
There were things that were passed down, some in the genes, like the fact that I was blessed, not with her perfect nose, but with her humongous feet, her propensity for worry and the fine art of manipulation by guilt. I hope I also inherited some of her style, her big, gush-y heart and her ability to appreciate family and always remember their favorite things.
My friends and family often think that ruby is my coveted gemstone because of its fiery connections to romance and passion, but my mother knew better. My mom and I watched two movies every year: The Wizard of Oz (for me) and It's A Wonderful Life for her (now it's another of my favorites). When I was 4 (long before the days when you could fast-forward through films), she scrunched under the table where I was hiding out from the Wicked Witch and said, "Wait until you see what happens next." She coaxed me out and into the safety of her arms on the couch, and there they were, the ruby slippers on Dorothy's feet -- the ones that transported her back to where she belonged.
When I smell the lilacs, go out for the perfect slice of pizza and think of both my mom and my maternal grandmother (who passed away two years ago, just shy of her 97th birthday), I will celebrate Mother's Day, quietly, with a mix of longing, loss, love, sentimentality, humor and warmth.
I will remember always my mom's beauty, understanding and acceptance of me. And, whenever I think of her living on inside of me, I will recall how, together, we clicked our heels three times, and in that moment, I will feel... home.
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