I Remember Mama

I Remember Mama

I Remember Mama (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Item 1:  Whether or not you’re a mom, no doubt, you’re somebody’s child, which is why I’m hoping you’ll check out a post I submitted this week to the Huffington Post. I call it,

The Best Mom, Probably

Why? Because my son, in his infinite wisdom, didn’t want to go out on a limb and call me the best mom in a text he sent me to wish me a happy Mother’s Day. No doubt, he was afraid I might get an inflated ego over it.

Of course, little did he know, telling me I was “probably” the best mom was enough to drive me crazy and I set out to discover what exactly he meant. I first wrote the post when I started blogging, but it’s perfect for Mother’s Day, so, please read it–and comment!

My son, during a trip to Venezuela, with Tia Olga, who passed away earlier this year.

Item 2:  This time of year, it’s easy for me to get all teary-eyed and start waxing poetic. This is because I lost my mother 18 years ago this month. Plus, I’m a romantic at heart and, as such, I’m prone to getting sentimental at the drop of a hat.

For years, my mother and I had a Mother’s Day tradition of watching I Remember Mama, one of our favorite films. (FYI: Turner Classic Movies usually carries it around this time.) It’s sappy as all heck but don’t you dare make fun of it because to me, it’s such a tear jerker. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about. It’s got everything–pathos, humor, suffering, a cat that dies then comes back to life, a crazy uncle who yells a lot, and a mysterious boarder who’s into reading. Add to that, a hard-working, ready-to-sacrifice-all-for-her-family kind of mother. It’s classic!

I Remember Mama, made in 1948, stars Irene Dunne as the matriarch of a Norwegian family, living in San Francisco, circa 1910. It is narrated by Katrin, the eldest daughter and an aspiring writer (Trivia: She’s played by Barbara Bel Geddes–Miss Ellie from the original Dallas series!). Here’s how Katrin introduces her mother–and the reason I start blubbering as soon as I see the opening credits:

“For as long as I could remember, the small cottage on Castro Street had been home. The familiar background was there; Mama, Papa, my only brother, Nels. There was my sister Christine, closest to me in age, yet ever secret and withdrawn — and the littlest sister, Dagmar.

“There, too came the Aunts, Mama’s four sisters. Aunt Jenny, who was the oldest and the bossiest; Aunt Sigrid; Aunt Marta; and our maiden Aunt, Trina. The Aunts’ old bachelor uncle, my Great-uncle Chris — the ‘black Norwegian’ — came with his great impatience, his shouting and stamping. And brought mystery and excitement to our humdrum days.

“But most of all, I remember Mama.”

Item 3: My mother had five sisters and one brother. Now, only one sister, Tia Livia, remains. Tia Olga, the second to youngest, died earlier this year. She was kind and gentle and deeply spiritual. She was the only one who never married nor had children. In her final years, living in Venezuela with no income of her own, it was the nieces and nephews who took care of her, making sure she had all she needed. I sent her what I could, including chocolates from the states and the latest issues of Reader’s Digest, one of her favorite magazines that she enjoyed reading in English. I loved her so much and miss her dearly.

Item 4: One of my favorite bloggers is Deborah Batterman. She writes honestly and with humor, and has a knack for making me laugh. In a recent post on her blog, The Things She Things About, Deborah wrote about her mother and how she once phoned Deborah, when Deborah was living in New York City, from their home in New Jersey, and left the following message on the answering machine:

“Close your window, there’s something coming from Jersey.”

Reading that made me fall over in a heap of giggles. What was coming from Jersey? Sounded dangerous and wicked! Well, you’ll have to read Deborah’s blog to find out more.

Deborah has also written a collection of essays titled, Because My Name is Mother.  Laced with humor, tenderness, and a bit of nostalgia, you’ll find these stories quite enjoyable, and, best of all, they’re now available for Kindle for only $0.99! A bargain, if you ask me, and makes for a great Mother’s Day gift for just about anyone!

Back to Item 1: It’s the not knowing why my son said I was “probably” the best mom that gets me and, frankly, I can’t stop thinking about it. In any case, though I might “probably” be the best mom, one thing’s certain: I know I’m the luckiest mom, for I have two great kids.  Kids that I never took to the tanning salon, nor left naked in the car while I ran errands. So, Josh and Sarah, if you’re reading this, you’re welcome. I didn’t torture you and that, if you ask me, ought to deserve more than a “probably.”

But, Readers, I’ll let you decide. Read my story in the Huffington Post, and then be sure to let me know what you think!

So, Happy Mother’s Day!

Now, how about you? What do your kids do to show you their love?

The Boomerang Kid

So much for my empty nest!  Just when I was getting used to it being void of offspring, life threw me a curve ball.  A curve ball in the shape of my son, Josh.  Yep, he’s coming home.  He’s quit his job and he’s packing up his things and moving back in.

Though not for long. It’s temporary, he says.  About a month or so. Just until he figures out his next move, and a new career path.  Oh, and, he has his sights set on Chicago. He’s hoping for a fresh start there and I, for one, am rooting for him.

Meet the Boomerang Kid

By moving back in, if only for a short while, Josh is officially becoming another statistic. He is one of tens of thousands of young adults who reach a point in their lives when the best option for them is to move back in with the parental units. And there’s even a name for it, the Boomerang Kids. These homeward bound kids are finding that there really is no place like home…again.

So while, Josh is boomeranging, I have a second chance at bonding time with him.  Last time he lived here was senior year of high school. Everyone knows how kids are at that age, and we certainly know how they can get a bad case of “senioritis,” which for Josh hit somewhere in 9th grade.

But now he’s older and doesn’t mind spending time with me.  So while he’s making a go of his future, I will be biding time, playing the role of a supportive mother.  Here’s my pledge: I will try not to give unwarranted advice, which, I’m afraid, I’m very good at and have already been doing (much to his chagrin, I suppose).  I will try not to get too stressed or too worried about his future. And I will not coddle or dote on him. Nor will I be a nudge. No way. Instead, I will give him his space and act nonchalant, like he’s just a roommate (and not my son), so that he won’t feel like climbing the walls and screaming, “Leave me alone!”

So, I’m preparing for his arrival.  Which means I have to move most of my things out of his room. The very room that over the last decade has become my workspace, my blogging space and a place for me to scrapbook.

While I’m at it, I have to make room in the house for all of his possessions!  He’s bringing home boatloads of stuff.  It’s amazing how much we can accumulate in just a short time, which in his case is eight years. Eight years of books, magazines, video games, CD’s, DVD’s, not to mention, two guitars, three basketballs and one football.

And if I know my son, he’s packing up all these things in beat up, old boxes and Hefty trash bags, which he’ll scatter all over my humble abode. Well, so much for trying to keep my place semi-organized and tidy. When it comes right down to it, that’s what I’m really dreading: the clutter. Yuck. All that clutter is sure to muddle my brain and get me all discombobulated.

So I’m waiting for his arrival.  Any minute, his car will pull up and the process of unloading will begin.  I’m ready.  Here’s hoping it all works out for him (and for me!). And here’s hoping that no one’s climbing the walls in 30 days.  Yes, it’s off to another adventure!

The Cartographer’s Daughter

That’s me, the Cartographer’s Daughter. That’s what I’ve decided I’m going to call myself.  It sounds much better and more exotic than introducing myself by just saying my name. Boring. That’s so yesterday and I, after all, like to follow a trend. You know which trend I mean. The one in the book publishing business.

Ever notice how many books are titled So and So’s Daughter or So and So’s Wife?  You know what I’m talking about.  Books with puzzling titles that tie relatives or spouses together, sometimes for no good reason, except that it sounds intriguing.  Here’s an example:

This is my favorite novel in this book title genre. Written by Audrey Niffenegger, it is her debut novel.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

The Heretic’s Daughter

The Hangman’s Daughter

The Virgin Queen’s Daughter

The Calligrapher’s Daughter

The Apothecary’s Daughter

The Hummingbird’s Daughter


The Zookeeper’s Wife

The Pilot’s Wife

The Senator’s Wife

The Kitchen God’s Wife

The Doctor’s Wife

The Time Traveler’s Wife

These are all actual book titles and from the title, I’m never certain who the book is about—the zookeeper or the wife?  The time traveler or his wife?  The hummingbird or it’s daughter? Or both? And what exactly is a memory keeper? I know what a hangman is. Never met one, but I have a good idea of what he does for a living. But half the time, I’m baffled by these cryptic titles.  And why are there so many books following this fad, anyway?  Have publishers discovered that books with such titles fly off the shelves and sell faster?

Here’s another mystery: Why are there so many books about the daughter yet hardly any about the son? What is he, chopped liver?  In fact, in a search on Amazon.com, the only book that came close was one titled, “The Poacher’s Son.”  If you ask me, I’d be more interested in learning about the poacher than the son, whose only claim to fame is that his dad was a poacher.  Or maybe it was his mother that was the poacher. Kind of like that classic riddle about an injured boy and his dad, who were both rushed to the hospital and the doctor, upon seeing the boy, said, “I can’t operate on him. That child is my son!” Turns out the doctor was the boy’s mother. So maybe the poacher is too.

Well, I’m the Cartographer’s Daughter because that’s what my father was when he was young and dashing, and still lived in Venezuela. He’d fly over the Amazon Jungle in small propeller planes, taking photos of the landscape, which were then used to make maps.  How exciting and thrilling that must have been! Wish I’d known him then. I could have joined him on one of his many adventures. Sigh.

Anyway, I’d rather be known as The Cartographer’s Daughter than by the title of the job he got after he graduated from New York University. Somehow, The Life Insurance Agent’s Daughter doesn’t sound quite the same. And I’m not alone in this judgment. Notice you don’t see any books titled, The Dental Hygienist’s Daughter or The Trash Collector’s Wife. Not exotic enough, if you ask me.

So now that I have my new title, guess I’ll have to write my memoir to go with it.  And even if I end up writing the worst book ever, with a title like this one I can’t go wrong.  The Cartographer’s Daughter is going to sell like hotcakes.  And that you can take to the bank or, better yet, to The Banker’s Daughter.

Empty Nest, Indeed

Sarah, during freshman orientation. Clearly, she had no qualms about leaving me behind, in my empty nest.

It’s time to partition off my life again now that my daughter, Sarah, has returned to school. She’s a sophomore now and you’d think, having survived my oldest child’s departure as well as Sarah’s freshman year, that this would be old hat. But Sarah was home all summer, giving me a taste of life pre-empty nest and spoiling me rotten by wanting to spend time with me—the little fiend! Sigh.  And now she’s gone, and all I can say is,

Vaya con Dios!

Turns out, I’m pretty good at partitioning off my life. Sarah’s gone? Well, I’ll just close my Sarah box and put it on a shelf until she returns for winter break. Now that I’ve tucked away her box, the Work box just got a little bigger. Oh, and now there’s more room for my Blog box too!  Josh coming down this weekend to see a San Diego Charger‘s game with me?  Better dust off his box and get it ready.

By keeping myself organized in this way, I can focus on the here and now.  Kind of like when Scarlett O’Hara didn’t want to bother thinking about what wasn’t right in front of her and said, “Fiddle-dee-dee! I’ll just think about it tomorrow at Tara.”  Trust me, by concentrating on what is in front of me, and not pining for what is beyond my control (Sarah off at school and not here), I can find fulfillment in the present and in what I’m doing now.  Empty nest, indeed!

9-6-09 Empty Nest

Empty Nest, indeed. (Photo taken by roswellsgirl via Flickr.)

Of course, I first started to brace myself for the empty nest syndrome when my first child, Josh was a mere six months old.  He had awoken in the middle of the night, crying to be fed. While I rocked him back to sleep, this sweet bundle of a boy, it suddenly hit me:  My son would be wanting to move out soon.

Oh, sure 18 years seemed like a long time away, but not to me. That was his “sell by” date. Do you have any idea how fast 18 years can go?  Have you heard the expression, “time flies” or “gone with the wind?”  How about “gone in a flash” or “later, gator?” (That last one has nothing to do with the speed of time, but a friend of mine says it a lot so I thought I’d throw it in.)

So basically, the only reason Josh woke up that night—and every other night until he was three—was because he wanted nourishment so he could grow into a healthy and strong young man and be fully prepared to leave me. His big goodbye.  His swan song.  Adios, amigo, it’s been swell!  Later, gator! And sure enough, like clockwork, 18 years came and went and all I have now are the memories of my little boy. Empty nest, indeed. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Thankfully, I have my partitioned boxes. A box for Josh, and one for Sarah. Another for friends, for work, for my dog, and for my extracurricular activities. There’s even a box for shopping. These are the boxes I’m using now. They are the sum parts of my life and I switch them out, depending on the moment.  For these boxes keep me sane and keep me motivated. Most of all, they keep me happy.

Hooray for Football Season!

Football season is here! I’m so excited that I’m beside myself! It’s time to get out all my San Diego Chargers gear—my a-bit-on-the-snug-side Charger tees, my Charger sweatshirt and my Charger baseball cap. My Charger banner too. I’m a big Chargers fan, you know. At least that is the case since I figured out that my son Josh, really, really is a BIG Charger fan. He’s a mega-obsessed fan who knows every member of the team (I’m lucky if I can name one), where they attended school, their statistics, their injuries and what their odds are for playing well this season.

A True-Blue Fan

And he’s been so patient trying to teach me everything about the Chargers and the game, so I can be a true blue fan too. I listen and nod and I try to take it all in. Emphasis on try, but the thing of it is (and please don’t tell him), I just don’t get it.

Guys running across the field and then they run back, throwing the ball a few times and man, can they throw far! Of course, the other team makes it so hard for them to run across, constantly tackling and flinging themselves unmercifully on their opponents. Why can’t they just take turns? Why do they have to play so rough? It’s no wonder they have to wear all that heavy equipment, if you ask me. How their mothers can stand it, I haven’t a clue.

So obviously I don’t know much about the game. But that doesn’t matter. The real reason I’m so excited that football season is here is because it means my son is bound to come down to San Diego and visit me! Josh will want to go to a game or two and he will want to stay over because it’s too much trouble to make a round trip drive back to Ventura in one day. So I can’t wait. I’m going to pour over the home game schedule. Then I’ll call him and nonchalantly ask which games he’s planning to attend this season. I’ll make sure I’m free on those weekends so I can be available for quality time. I’ll act as if I know a thing or two about the Chargers, and ask him what he thinks about the new roster. I’ll offer up a word or two about this year’s defense. Maybe I’ll drop a few statistics that I’ve just researched extensively online, so that he’ll be so impressed he’ll want me to come along again.

Thanks to a friend at work, Josh and I scored tickets for a game against the Cincinnati Bengals last December. Another win for the Chargers!

Last fall, Josh’s boss gave him a pair of tickets to see the Chargers play the Miami Dolphins and Josh invited me to join him! It was right around my birthday so I figured it was his gift to me, which made it truly special. What better gift could a mother desire than to go to a game with her son? A chance to spend some extended quality time with my son, all decked out in our Chargers team best, watching him get all worked up over a football game! His favorite team in the world playing the Dolphins!

Problem is, I just adore dolphins. I have been to Sea World many times and I find the dolphin show to be amazing; they’re so clever and smart. Which made me feel sort of bad about rooting against the Miami Dolphins, particularly since they wear such bright and cheerful colors—turquoise and orange—reminiscent of Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas on the “Miami Vice” show. Why do we have to pick sides, anyway? Can’t they all be winners? Still, for my son, I overcame my fashion sensibility and firmly planted myself in the Chargers’ corner, which meant cheering for every Charger field goal, groaning each time the Dolphins scored and doing a happy dance when the Chargers finally won the game.

Yes, it’s football season and I’m changing the sheets on the guest bed which actually used to be Josh’s bed. And I’m baking my special recipe for banana bread, his favorite. I’m also stocking up on laundry detergent so I can get ready to wash the stacks of dirty clothes that he’s sure to bring with him. It’s football season and I just can’t wait. Go Chargers!