Happy Mothers’ Day to….Me!

For many years, Mothers’ Day was a day of conflicting emotions for me. I had a powerful longing for recognition and appreciation that often was unfulfilled in some way, and I also had the accompanying guilt that maybe I didn’t deserve the rewards I hoped for in the first place. There were nagging doubts about whether I was doing a good job. There was also the burden of identity involved. I became a mom at 22, right out of college, and still had a lot of unresolved questions about who I wanted to be in the world. I relied on my husband to bolster my neurotic ego and assure me that I was exceeding expectations doing a job that was valuable and appreciated. He did a great job at that for many years, and for that, I will always be grateful.

I still long for appreciation around Mothers’ Day, even though my kids have all flown the nest years ago. I spent 12 years at home concentrating on doing my best at that one job and the next 12 years trying to do my best at that job plus another one outside the home. Now, I know that I did just fine. My kids tell me that, and I believe them. But my co-parent, my late husband, is not around to remind me in loving detail of the specifics….and I miss that. So this year, I decided to give myself the gift of cherishing myself as a Mother.

My chosen medium for cherishing, looking long and lovingly at something, has always been photography. I have taken countless photos of my kids and my husband — intimate, spontaneous, ordinary as well as posed. I wish someone had recorded my image with that kind of generous eye.

Well, it turns out someone did. Not exactly someONE, several someones. Whether with their own camera or with mine and my instruction (I used an AE-1 manual for 30 years), I have managed to gain a collection. I went through my albums and digitally scanned 48 images this morning.  Now, should my memory fail me in the coming years, I have photographic reminders that I did snuggle, feed, play with, teach, comfort, listen to, attend to, and applaud my four children year after year after year.

I have had a happy motherhood. I don’t need my husband to tell me that. I don’t even need my children to tell me that, although I’m really glad they do. I am owning my happy motherhood myself this year. I think it’s a great gift!

Here is a gallery from my collection as proof:

Expressions of Love

Last night I attended an Engagement Party in honor of my son and his fiancee, hosted by her beautifully kind and generous mother. It was the first opportunity for our two families to meet together as a group and learn about each other. The setting was a restaurant in Chicago owned by a friend of the host. The owner addressed us after each course to give us information about the wines he had selected to accompany the food. There was such a delightful atmosphere of appreciation and curiosity and exuberance flowing around that dynamic place!

After dessert, the hostess requested a song from the Galasso clan. We managed to respond with a 3-part round of “Dona Nobis Pacem” – give us peace. After that, the bride’s grandfather’s travelling companion, a retired singer from Haiti, sang a beautiful song in Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish myself, but easily recognized the phrase “Te quiero” returning longingly throughout. It reminded me of the first letter my late husband Jim wrote to me when I was a sophomore in High School. He was taking Spanish classes then; I was taking Italian. He wrote “Te quiero” at the bottom of that letter. I didn’t know what it meant. It wasn’t “Te amo” or “Ti amo”, but something different.  I had to look it up.

Te quiero. A new love, casual, close, lively. Not as intense and romantic as “Te amo”, it translates more literally to “I want you”.

I want Love. I want Peace. I want a future full of happiness…for everyone, really.

And now, I want to share a gallery of expressions from family and friends, expressions of love (especially for my mother and siblings in California!). 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Against the Odds

What are the odds of marrying your High School sweetheart and keeping your vows “until parted by death” in the 21st century?

scan0027 What are the odds of having open heart surgery at age 31?

ancient suffering

What are the odds of having the love you have, the life you have, the family you have, the memories you have? 

Well, I don’t think the odds mean anything. People don’t live by the numbers. We live by the moment.  Don’t you?

sunset-jim-001_new
Against the Odds

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Two years ago, I did a blog project that I called “80 Years in 8 Days” which was a birthday gift for my mother, who lives half a continent away in California. Today, she is celebrating the 82nd anniversary of her natal day. She is still my favorite friend to call on the phone and talk to about all kinds of interrelated subjects, artistic, intellectual, gastronomical, familial and otherwise. We usually take no less than an hour in our visit, and at its conclusion she says, “Oh, honey! Talking to you is like a month in the country! Which country, I’m not sure….”

When a daughter and her mother get along famously, it is cause for celebration, even if they aren’t celebrities like Carrie and Debbie. I am fortunate to be in a grand relationship with a grand mother. If you care to get to know her better, take a look at the 8 days of blog posts: Day 1 – Ten Background BitsDay 2 – Ten Family Foods, Day 3 – Ten Musical Memories, Day 4 – Ten Parenting Principles, Day 5 – Ten Silly Sayings, Day 6 – Ten Administrative Aids , Day 7 – Ten Lessons Learned, and Day 8 – Ten Inspirational Instructions. If reading these gives you any renewed awareness, gratitude or appreciation for your own relationship with your mother, then then this New Year’s Birthday gift will be doubled. Thank you!

Granne Louise

Weekly Photo Challenge: That Marvelous Face

First Face:

mom laughing

My Mother’s Face had to be the first face I learned to love. I am sure that I gazed at her for long stretches while nursing. I learned to get over my teen-aged embarrassment at her lazy walleye, her “long Celtic chin” (as she called it) and the fact that she never wore make-up. Her face is particular and characteristic. Her prominent eyes and small nose and mouth have been gradually swaddled by more wrinkles and folds as she ages. She is now 81; this photo was taken 3 years ago. What I love most about this picture is that she is in her natural state – enjoying life! 

Second Face:

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This is the face I see continually in my dreams, the face of my true love. He was 19 when I took this picture with the camera he bought me – a Canon AE-1.  We were married for 24 years and had 4 children. He died in 2008. This face has echoes in the living expressions of my kids, and I love that they inherited his warm eyes, his strong jaw, his brilliant smile.  

I have what might be called a photographic memory.  I close my eyes and see faces. Sometimes they are faces that I don’t recognize. I used to play with that ability to imagine crowds of strangers with particular faces and wonder if I had actually seen those faces in passing or if my brain was just making them up. I do know that I pay close attention to faces and always have. Perhaps I do carry those faces within me and always will. No matter how many I collect, I think these will always be #1 and #2. 

Face

Weekly Photo Challenge: Admiration

optimistic 2

“Guess what, Mama! I got another scholarship!”  

My middle daughter was battling major depression at the beginning of the year, experiencing crippling panic attacks and an ED that was out of control. What did she do? She quit her disastrous job, went back to school, and found a new job. She enrolled in Communications and Psychology and did a PowerPoint presentation on Depression. Her school essays have all earned A+ grades and have been used as examples for her classmates. I am incredibly proud of her and in awe of the personal reserves of strength she has had since she was a baby! There was never something too difficult for her to tackle, once she put her mind to it. 

Admiration

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dinner’s Ready!

What a fun challenge! Dinner, supper, the evening meal is an opportunity to establish a daily feast or celebration of sustenance, to gather your nuclear family together, share stories of the day, and unwind .

Yeah, right. I am amazed at how rushed and chaotic this time was for me when my four children were living at home and involved in extra-curricular activities!

However, they are living on their own, now. Their schedules are their own, and my schedule is that I work part-time 2 days a week and my partner works from home. I have re-claimed dinnertime for savoring food and conversation! I like to have a glass of wine or a gin cocktail or simply ginger ale with a lime wedge to wet my whistle while I prepare a meal for two in our tiny kitchen. Jazz by Chris Botti, Chet Baker, or any of the vocalists from the ’40s-’60s keeps me humming along in a great mood for evening pleasures.
My camera comes out for special dinner occasions, a new recipe or a holiday meal with family. I love the bustle of a potluck dinner with my children, and I fully acknowledge that they are better cooks than I. My mother’s dinners were elegant affairs where she was the clear Commander in Chief. (There’s one photo taken at her table – a distinct difference in style.) And I love dinner outdoors by the campfire or on the lawn of a music festival. Such a lot of delicious memories! 


Dinnertime