“What’s for dinner?”
“Where are my cleats.”
“How did I get inside your belly?”
If you have ever answered those questions – or ones like them – then you know Sunday is Mother’s Day.
But do you realize it is the perfect time to answer questions your children never asked.
Share your history, your stories and facts of your life. Consider them as gifts they will be grateful. Trust us on this, no detail will be too small or insignificant.
If your mother is still with us, now is the time to ask.
We, my siblings and I, wish we would have been more inquisitive but time is a funny thing. We always thought there would be a never-ending supply of it.
We have memories, of course. Our mom had green eyes and translucent skin that had not grown many wrinkles even by age 92.
Her name was Bess. She was a good cook (unforgettable meatloaf) and her pies won prizes at PTO events. She never graduated high school but went to Dyke Spenserian secretarial college and became a secretary for one of the big banks in downtown Cleveland.
Our mother was an “flapper” during the Roaring 20s. She met our dad on a double date. The problem was he was the blind date brought along for her friend. In the lady’s room the two women decided to switch partners. Mom loved our dad and confided, after he died, that she wished she had told him that more often.
Mom was a reformed smoker and a devout atheist who prepared Passover Seder dinner religiously every year because it pleased our dad who was not an atheist. This she did until every grandchild has a chance to ask the four questions and marvel at the magic that was Elijah’s wine glass and the dark red purple Manischewitz that disappeared from it.
My siblings and I are still trying to piece together the history of our mother and the people who came before her. We have had little luck finding anyone before our grandparents. Oh, those pesky unasked questions!
Mom was with us until 1998. She came into the world as Bashe Mansky, the first of four American-born children of Russian parents who fled to the USA when they were no longer welcome in their own country.
They came to the U.S. through Canada thus missing the Statue of Liberty “give me your tired your poor” experience that greeted immigrants arriving from Europe.
They were Americans-by-choice and by force. Citizenship would follow. Mom remembered her parents as devoted to the idea that living in America meant they should be as American as possible and scolded fellow immigrants who held tight to the old ways that set them apart.
My grandparents assimilated even though they broke their own rule by speaking Yid-lish (English and Yiddish). They lived above the grocery store they owned on Carnegie Avenue and were bootleggers during Prohibition, until the police came.
In an act of love and/or survival, my grandmother took the rap for my grandfather and went to jail in his place. He had TB and she feared he would not survive incarceration. We don’t know how long she served. We never thought to ask.
It is part of my grandparents’ love story told without shame. They struggled. They survived. It is not an exceptional story. Every family has a similar one.
As a child, my mother escaped life above the store when she found her “happy place,” the public library. It would feed her curiosity until her fading sight made even large print books difficult to read. By then she complained she had read everything in the library anyway.
Shortly before she died, she confessed a secret and unrealized desire. If she had it to do over again, she said quite out of the blue, she would have gone to art school and become a painter.
What else did we not know? If only we had asked.
Barbara Christian has covered the Chagrin Valley since the Johnson administration. LBJ, not Andrew. Email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org