Monday, May 03, 2010

Mother's Day

me and Mom on my wedding day, April 8, 1978

Mom with Peter in 1982

Mom and Lesley in 1981

Mom at around age 5

Lesley, with her cousins Lauren and Kelly, dressed up in my mother's old clothes; photo circa 1991

a list in the back of her devotional book
with some of the names of people she prayed for every day;
she also prayed for every world leader daily;
and of course she prayed for us kids every day too

When Don, the kids and I moved to Istanbul in 1986, she had put cards and gifts in Lesley's and Peter's backpacks to open at the start of each flight of the long journey:

1. Detroit to New York

2. New York to Frankfurt

3. Frankfurt to Istanbul

One of the cards had a music-playing chip inside that started playing Zippidy-doo-da when you opened it. The kids had that card in their toy box for at least two years, the cover eventually ripped off and just the inner white card with the tiny white button that would play when you pushed it. One day it suddenly played Happy Birthday instead of Zippidy-doo-da. I guess chips like that have more than one song in them.



Gwei Mui said...

Oh Ruth what an amazing person your Mother was and still is as she lives on through her children. You are so fortunate to be able to recount all these wonderful memories.

VioletSky said...

Your mother sounds like a woman who could not sit still!
I cannot imagaine such a busy life as hers.

Cusp said...

A beautiful tribute to your Mum and the origin of some of your own grace is clear. I love the image of your Mum disappearing in the horse drawn cart

It's not Mother's Day here in UK but your post has accentuated all the memories of my own dear Mum who died 6 years ago.

flatrockcreeknotebook said...


What a tender,sweet tribute to your mom. Her giving you all cards is the most wonderful Mother's Day tradition I believe I've ever heard of. I loved looking at the photos over the years as well; they tell many stories too. This whole post was so artfully shared and moving. Happy Mother's Day to you!

Flat Rock Creek Notebook

Peter said...

I have already from your previous posts understood your mixed feelings about your parents... Don't wee all although the "mix" may vary? This is perhaps also a reminder about how difficult it is to be a perfect parent ... or a perfect anything. As long as we can feel that we have tried to do our best in the daily compromise between family life, work... And then of course, have we really done our best? Maybe as a comfort, we must remember that we are just humans?

I of course especially liked to read the last part... "I wouldn't be a mother if it weren't for you"! A wonderful attitude!

Bella Rum said...

This shows beautifully how much we learn about our mothers and ourselves after our mothers are gone. They continue to teach us.

Ruth, you look very much like your mother in the wedding photo.

Eight children. I can't even imagine. Lovely post.

margie said...


Deborah said...

Ruth, I don't know where to start - your words have such clarity and the whole of this post is beautiful.

What really strikes me about it is how accepting you are, or have become. The adult you sees your Mother in an adult way - which might seem perfectly obvious but we both know that just because people become adults doesn't mean they develop an adult point of view about their parents.

This relationship never stops, even after we lose our mothers. As I mentioned in a previous post, it drives all our other relationships, for good and for bad. I find that I think about my mother more now that she is gone, actually. Maybe that's not really true, but it seems so.

Sorry for meandering, and this wasn't meant to be about me anyway. I'm just continually amazed by how our mothers keep on resurfacing - and when you brought your own Mother back in this post, you did it with such honest grace and humanity. And appreciation. Somewhere your Mom must be sighing happily, so glad she didn't stop at seven.

(And thank you for your thoughtful comment on the 'Happiness' post.)

rauf said...

Mother Reclassification

A woman renewing her driver's license at the County Clerk's office was asked by the woman recorder to state her occupation. Emily had hesitated, uncertain how to classify herself.

"What I mean is," explained the recorder, "do you have a job, or are you just a .....?"

"Of course I have a job," snapped Emily. "I'm a mother."

"We don't list 'mother' as an occupation...'housewife' covers it," said the recorder emphatically.

I forgot all about her story until one day I found myself in the same situation, this time at our own Town Hall. The Clerk was obviously a career woman, poised, efficient, and possessed of a high - sounding title like "Official Interrogator" or "Town Registrar."

"What is your occupation?" she probed.

What made me say it, I do not know. The words simply popped out.

"I'm a Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations."

The clerk paused, ball-point pen frozen in midair, and looked up as though she had not heard right. I repeated the title slowly, emphasizing the most significant words. Then I stared with wonder as my pronouncement was written in bold, black ink on the official questionnaire.

"Might I ask," said the clerk with new interest, "just what you do in your field?"

Coolly, without any trace of fluster in my voice, I heard myself reply, "I have a continuing program of research (what mother doesn't) in the laboratory and in the field (normally I would have said indoors and out). I'm working for my Masters (the whole darned family) and already have four credits (all daughters). Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in the humanities (any mother care to disagree?) and I often work 14 hours a day (24 is more like it). But the job is more challenging than most run-of- the-mill careers and the rewards are more of a satisfaction rather than just money."

There was an increasing note of respect in the clerk's voice as she completed the form, stood up, and personally ushered me to the door.

As I drove into our driveway, buoyed up by my glamorous new career, I was greeted by my lab assistants - ages 13, 7, and 3. Upstairs I could hear our new experimental model (6 months) in the child-development program, testing out a new vocal pattern.

I felt triumphant! I had scored a beat on bureaucracy! And I had gone on the official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable to mankind than "just another mother."

Motherhood...what a glorious career. Especially when there's a title on the door.

Does this make grandmothers "Senior Research Associates in the Field of Child Development and Human Relations", and great - grandmothers "Executive Senior Research Associates"? I think so!

I also think it makes aunts "Associate Research Assistants!"

ellen abbott said...

I'm so happy for you. there have not been nearly enough years since she passed for me to have such lovely memories of my mother. I may never.

The Bug said...

I've been thinking about my mom a lot lately - hadn't really realized that it was Mother's Day that was bringing her to mind (sometimes I'm so dense!).

I LOVE Rauf's job title! And I accept my position of Associate Research Assistant with honor!

rauf said...

oh sorry, that story is in first person Ruth. i just reproduced it here

Jeanie said...

OH, Ruth -- I shouldn't read this at my desk while I'm at work (for any number of reasons), but not the least of which is that there are tears in my eyes I'd never be able to explain to anyone popping in.

This is absolutely beautiful -- what a clear image I have of your mother. And you are so right about that Bugatti and cart. So much comes to light as we grow older, have the time and the wisdom to look back -- and what a treasure you discovered when you did.

"I wouldn't be a mom if it wasn't for you." So true -- and so insightful. But I suspect insightfulness was one of the qualities you inherited from her.

dutchbaby said...

Fantastic love letter to your mother, Ruth, mixed feelings and all. I adore the photo of Lesley and her cousins in your mother's clothes. The prayer list in the back of the devotional reminds me of the prayer list kept by one of the main characters of my favorite book of last year: "The Help". There is real power in writing down your wishes. I believe I found my husband that way...

babs said...

Being the second to last child of seven (+1) ;) I know that we sometimes feel that our mum's are a little distant. But as you say, when I look back, I realize just how much my poor mum had to do each day, and I am grateful for the moments she did have for us kids. One thing we were always sure of was her love for us all.

When you have some spare time, you may be interested in reading some of my fifties posts :)

Ruth said...

Gwei Mui, I guess I will never stop singing her praises. I get older, and the reality of her sinks in, gets into the core of me.

Ruth said...

Violetski, she did sit still, with piles of books around her, taking notes. She especially loved archeology.

Ruth said...

Oh, Cusp, I thought it was Mother's Day everywhere. I remember living in Turkey and there was Mother's Day. Maybe different days?

Brenda said...

That was the best tribute to her Ruth. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, as they say. She instilled into you some great qualities, for you to have put together such a wonderful post. Perhaps I am being too forward, because I don't really know you and have only visited your blog a few times, but I have been so impressed with your style of writing that speaks straight from your heart. I just had to speak my mind here.
I love the cards that she put on your table for each of you and your Dad. And that she prayed for so many people. Wow!

Ruth said...

Mary the amazing writer, thank you. I do think it is extraordinary what my mother did. I've never heard it from anyone else.

Sometimes I wistfully wonder what my life would have been like if she had devoted herself to us alone, and not extended herself to the church folk. But you know, it is what it is, and many, many, many people have become her children, like those broody hens that take all the chicks under their wings.

Ruth said...

Peter, I treasure my parents, even though I have issues with them. Their own parents were difficult parenting models, so I don't blame them for not being perfect. As you say, just as people we can't be perfect, so no one can be a perfect parent.

Maybe that's why being a grandparent, as you are of little Poloma, is so appealing. We get a second chance.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Bella. Maybe you're like me, that I keep thinking of questions I would like to ask my mom and dad, stuff I didn't think of when they were here to ask. It drives me nuts. I wish I knew more about their growing up, things like that. Or things about me growing up. Although, I wonder if they'd remember what I did vs what my siblings did?

Ruth said...

You're lovely, Margie.

Ruth said...

Deborah, my mom was a person we teased and laughed about, because she was so cute, and had funny idiosyncracies. She knew we got a kick out of her and her intensity. It was best in small doses, and I had to be careful not to spend too much time around her or we got on each other's nerves. I loved it later in life when we went to lunch and caught up. She told me I was her best friend. Oh how I loved that.

Ruth said...

rauf, once I asked Bennett about a friend of his who had kids. I asked him, Does she work for money? He looked at me and burst out laughing. I think he misunderstood at first, and then he realized what I meant.

That was a charming rundown you found. I especially like that she is working for her Masters (the whole darned family) - hahahaha.

You know how they say that if you followed a crawling baby around for even an hour you'd be utterly exhausted? I am guessing if you followed my mom around for a couple hours most people would be astonished at how much she did.

Ruth said...

Ellen, that makes me sad, but I hope it will come for you too. Goodness, there is so much weight to our parents, no matter who they are.

Ruth said...

rauf, actually it could have been something you would write at your blog. You could write a book about how misunderstood and underappreciated mothers are.

Ruth said...

Jeanie, it is not false modesty if I say that my mind is a slug compared to the lightning of my mom's mind. We did have a grand time talking. She loved researching, and I loved listening and making connections. She remembered everything, it was like having a living encyclopedia.

Ruth said...

Dutchbaby, maybe that's why so many people were touched by my mother, she wrote so many names down and sent them her attention.

I do think there is something to asking for what we want, putting it into the air. Sometimes it takes a long while, and patience is necessary.

Ruth said...

Oh yes, Babs, I remember those posts. Baby formula, for one?

Our moms didn't have as many conveniences either. My mom actually walked to the grocery store two blocks away and walked the big cart home, then one of us kids walked it back. Laundry . . . oy vay. And the ironing - before permapress. Yikes! Once I surprised the family and did all the ironing (I must have seen my older sisters doing it). I was maybe 8. All I remember is how pleased everyone was. ;-)

Ruth said...

Sweet Brenda, that's not too forward, that's warm and generous, and I thank you with all my heart.

It's something isn't it, how children can't appreciate what they have fully, until they've had the responsibilities weighing on them and so much to get done, as their parents did.

Arti said...

I've bookmarked your post, Ruth... I'm deeply moved by your loving tribute to your mother. What a wonderful family you were born into and what blessing it is to be raised by such an extraordinary mother. And the beautiful pictures,,, I'm touched by your willingness to share such an intimate relationship with us. I will definitely read it over and over again. And what a marvellous quote this is: "But I wouldn't be a mother if it weren't for you." Also, I must mention that your drawing speaks volumes... simply beautiful... I've run out of words! Thank you so much for this most inspiring post!

Oliag said...

In many ways our mothers couldn't have been more different Ruth...yet you are able to put words to some of the things that I feel too...It would be fun to sit and talk about moms together!...I have enjoyed the comments here too...especially Deborah's...what you didn't say for me she did:)
...oh dear I may have to make Mr O a Mothers day card this year:)

freefalling said...

First of all - OMG - what is going on with Lesley's glasses??
Damn those 1980's.

I like the zippidy-do-da story.

i'm glad my mum is still alive - i quite like her.

freefalling said...

Oh yeah.
And Rauf - where have you been???
We miss you.

ds said...

"But I wouldn't be a mother if it weren't for you." Exactly. What a wise and wonderful, generous thoughtful, giving person she was. Hmmm....reminds me of someone I know.
Thanks for this glimpse into your past.

Ruth said...

Arti, I know that you have faith, and so it makes sense that this post means something to you. Beyond that, though, your appreciative words give me a big sigh of "it's worth it" and gratitude.

Thank you for mentioning the sketch. I would like to compile stories, photos and sketches in a family Bible . . .I mean book, hehe. I have a few started. Maybe after I'm retired, but I guess I shouldn't wait.

Ruth said...

Oliag, I bet he'd like that. :)

Lately I can't stop thinking about how a person's life is shaped, each one utterly unlike another. Yes there are similarities. But when you think about every moment of a person's life, things that are done and said to them, and the variety, and the genes involved, family histories, geographies, cultures, religious constraints . . . it's actually a wonder we relate to each other at all. But our humanness is in common, and many things are universal, so, we keep relating.

It's like songs. How can there be so many songs, with just eight notes.

Ruth said...

Hahahaha, Letty, hahahahaha. The only reason I even have this photo digitally is that Peter has been in a major family photo scanning frenzy. He recently got some of those BIG glasses that are all the fashion trend these days, and in the meantime he's been scrounging through old photos from the '80s when we first wore those big glasses. So when he found this of Les and him, he posted it on Facebook, hehehe. She loved it. We had gotten her these glasses in the U.S., and when we went to a very cool eye doctor in Istanbul, he said (bless him), "these glasses are too big for her face," and he recommended new ones. :)

I think your mom is . . . (looking for one of the words you've taught me in Aussie) . . . a . . . oh dear I can't remember any of them. :|

Yes, isn't it nice to have rauf visit? It was a grand surprise.

Ruth said...

Thank you, DS, you are kind.

I don't think my mom had an ounce of guile. Me, I have some.

dirt clustit said...

That was the best Mother's day reflection I have ever read. And now I know why.

They left the nose with the mothers. You people guard the knowledge. Thank God!

Ruth said...

Thank you so very much, Dusty.

However, you have lost me. Nose?

who said...

all the secrets that were basically "keys" of knowledge. They were hidden in the Sphinx's nose. That nose housed the knows. (it's sort of an old wives tale)

but I always believed it. It makes sense that they would put mothers in charge of the info. It's too important to let man guard it.

Ruth said...

Dusty-who, ohhhhh. I love that.

The nose. You taught me something good.

Susan said...

Ruthie, so sorry I'm late to the Mother's Day party in your salon.

Ahhh, mothers, what a mixed bag we are. We love, we yell, we kiss boo-boos, we put noses in corners, we stay up late to help finish a forgotten project, we mete out punishment for forgetting something important, we cheer at basketballfootballbaseballsoccertennisswimming, we complain about sitting at practices, we pick up all the bits and pieces and cry when there are none there anymore, and etc., etc., etc. How do we stay sane through all that? I don't think we do...I think we're all a little nuts. ;)

I loved this post, Ruthie. Your mom was really tiny. :)

Sidney said...

Great tribute to your mother !
My mother passed away many years ago but she continues to live on in my heart !

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post, as always :D Ever since I came back from Japan, I really feel like my mom has changed. I think she has made the shift from being a career woman to being a mother. It pleases me a lot because I must confess there was a hole in my heart. I've never really done anything special on mother's day, but I think this year I will.

Ruth said...

Maybe that's the key, dear Susie, we have to be mad to survive. It's a madness gene, or instinct, and we can't help ourselves. Did you see that there is now a hormone spray to make men more cuddly? :)

Yes, Mom was little: 5'2". I once knew a couple - she was 4'9" and he was 6'7", and her hair was past her butt - but of course that would have been shoulder length on most people. ;-)

Ruth said...

Mothers never leave us, Sid. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Wow, that's so cool, Kanmuri. She must have missed you a lot. I think it's about consciousness. I know sometimes I take my kids for granted and don't focus on them the way I would like to. Then I remember.

I get to visit Lesley next week! :)

Oh said...

Oh, Ruth. This is so evocative. The pitures are great. I love the drawing "map" of everyone's place at the dining table. This is all about love. Just wonderufl. Thanks for this.

Come on over and check out my book giveaway when you have a minute. Woudl love to hear what fictional character you wouldn't mind spending a day as...(I know, bad sentence structure).

Ruth said...

Oh, hi, Oh (I had to type that, because it sounds like Ohio).

In the second house we lived in, the one I have most memories from, the dining room was set up in a downstairs bedroom, just a few steps from the kitchen. I love that room, where we kept the record player too. And there were honeysuckle, I think, some flowering bushes anyway, outside the bay window where five or six hummingbirds would hover every morning.

I signed up to win AS Byatt's Possession! Fingers crossed.

deb said...

Well, I'm crying.
so I'll have to come back.

Wow. Ruth. Wow.

CottageGirl said...

I like the fact that you are so honest about your relationship with your mom. No candy coating, just straight forward tell it like it was.
None of us is perfect, nor are our relationships.

Those pics of your mom on the floor with Lesley ... what a special way to remember her.

Ruth said...

Deb, thank you for the gift of tears. I think you were feeling introspective, now that I've seen your post of inner dialogue and flowers. Just stunning.

Ruth said...

CottageGirl, thank you very much.

Don't you think sometimes that it would be good if we had memorial services for people while they're still alive? Then they could hear how people perceive and love them. I think it could shape people into different choices - more confidence, acceptance, understanding.

Pauline said...

This made me weep and smile and laugh aloud and sigh - all the things marvelous writing should do to one! Happy Mother's day right back, and thanks!

Ann said...

You look so much like your mum.

My wedding was Dec 1979. so a year after you.

Jane said...


Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

Your thoughts, recollections and remembrances here are beautifully expressed and illustrated and show that, mercifully, our mothers never ever leave us entirely. You are still discovering new aspects of her and of your relationship with her years after her passing. Thank you so much for sharing them with us.

Ruth said...

Hehe, Pauline, that's very good. I laugh myself at some of the pictures, hehehehehe. Ohh, little Lesley and Peter, and my mom. And those girls all dressed up, Kelly acting so coy. :D

Ruth said...

Ann, oh, ok. And happy birthday to your daughter. :)

Ruth said...

I'm glad, Jane. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Lorenzo. Judgments I've made of my mom are turning into graces, and they help me think about being a better mom too.

Terresa said...

Tears, streaming tears, woman!

I love this post. I want to sing it to the world. What a glorious woman your mom was. And no doubt, you are, as I can feel in this post.

Thank you. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Terresa, thank you for the precious gift of your tears. Having just read about your mother, and the unique person she is, and was to you growing up, and knowing how she helped shape you, and mine me, I feel a real poignancy in this mother-daughter thing. And about being Mom too, to our poor sweet children who just have us in that role. We fail, we burp, we get up and go another day. And we have the treasure of our relationships as long as we're here.

Happy Mother's Day, dear woman.

Ginnie said...

This sounds so strange when I say it out loud, Ruth, but I think you knew Mom better and have better memories than I ever had BECAUSE you were #8. Of course, being 11 years older also makes me farther removed in time and I just don't remember. HA! But you have given Mom to me (again) as a gift. Thank you. And on this day, Happy Mother's Day.

gwen morrison said...

Happy Mother's Day! This was so beautiful and heartfelt. I'm glad I found it.

Shaista (Lupus in Flight) said...

Ruth, what an incredible journey I feel I have just been on. So many subtle, unspoken things, so many spoken truths revealed. Much healing.
I am most intrigued by the list of names in your mother's devotional book - who are these people, their ethnicity is clear, many indian, chinese, latina, japanese... do you recognise their names? How did your mama come to have such a diverse international group of friends to pray for? I'm intrigued.

Loved Rauf's story :)

Ruth said...

Boots, it makes sense, what you say. For one thing, you first four bore the weight of the first years of Mom and Dad's parental energies. :)

The later years with Mom, before Alzheimer's, she and I did get to know each other quite well. We lived close, and she and I had lunches together regularly. I know that helped.

Ruth said...

Why thank you, Gwen, welcome to this room. I hope you'll visit again.

Ruth said...

Dear Shaista, thanks to a few good friends, I have had some healing. Thank you for your attention to that.

Oh yes, aren't those names wondrous? When Don found this prayer diary the other day, and I happened to see this at the back, I pored over those names and some of the faces came back to me. Many Indian and Thai, a few Chinese. From the time I was in 6th grade my parents hosted international students - both as live-in members of the family, and for dinners, retreats and tours to our local places of interest. At one point we had nine foreign students living with us. I was the only child left at home, and most of the students were from Thailand. One woman was a PhD student from China who was close to 70. :) Many, many of my parents friends were from India, which is why I first began to fall in love with your homeland.

Yes, rauf is the #1 advocate for women and mothers.

Sandy said...

Your mother, how unique, some of the things she did, like how she had cards for each of you on her Mother's Day. I love your memories the photos, etc.

Great post, Ruth.