Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Remembering Mom (July 2, 1915 to March 31, 2003)

If you could see me now, mom! In the village of Starobilsk, in eastern Ukraine, a Peace Corps Volunteer. Getting to know the people, the place, the customs and traditions. You used to call me your "Peregrine," that mythical bird who wanders the world. I guess I am a wanderer. I know it's how you thought of me when I was in graduate school in Madison.

It was a tough time for you. Dad was sick, you were alone. Andy and I were away in college, then in new marriages, starting families. Loren was home, and that was good, because you comforted each other. Still, it was maybe the worst of times, the times you wrote about secretly in your "Pensees," which we discovered among your momentoes only after you died.

But I know that is not what you want us to remember, the tough times, the sad times. You want us to remember the best of times. The times we shared as a family, 301 Landing Road South, Allencreek school, Harley. How you loved meeting our friends and having us bring them home, and how much they loved you and dad. Bob Gray, 50 years after graduating from Harley, remembers you as "elegant." His memory made me happy.

You want us to remember the music. Your singing. Practicing your arias. "My Madama Butterfly." You want us to remember our piano lessons. The choirs. The Eastman. The reception in our home for Leontyne Price, the great opera diva. The concerts and plays and ballets. Dad's Christmas music.

You want us to remember the family dinners and holidays. Your dad, our grandparents. Extended family gatherings, the fun ones, the fun times with cousins. The cookies you baked, the fruit cakes, the way you decorated our home, with such beauty and love. The trips we took, the times we shared, the dreams we had.
You want us to remember how you spent good times with your cousins when you were growing up in Rochester. How you excelled in languages in high school, went on to Geneseo college to study psychology and education, taught for a while. You want us to remember that you were an innovative teacher, teaching languages to young children, "the younger, the better," you said. You spoke several languages yourself. I wish I had inherited that language gene from you!

I remember your love of books and ideas, the great classics that you devoured and that we discussed at dinner. What discussions! One time, I was in high school and I think you were reading Sartre, you said something like "I don't believe there is a God," which set off quite an argument with dad. We three kids tried to get in our two-cents as best we could. I don't recall how it ended, or even getting up from the table. But oh what a memory! I am still at that table, mom. Still listening, still hearing you.

You want us to remember you with our children. The #1 grandmother in the world. The best Nana to every one of them, all four girls, Elissa and Michelle, Kaaren and Allyson. The games you played; the costumes and clothes you made, so many lovely clothes; the arts and crafts you did together; the trips to the art museum, to Nantucket, to Florida; the beautiful doll houses you created for each of them, family treasures. You are in their hearts, forever. They won't forget. "Nana banana," as Ali still calls you fondly. "Nana's candy dish, her piano, the Curio cabinet, I'm so glad I have them" Michelle says. "That chandalier and bedroom set," Kaaren laughs. "My beloved artist nana," Elissa says, as she gathers everything you left behind, even your shells from Nantucket. They love you still, and miss you. "I wish Nana were here."

I don't know why I sometimes wander back to sad times, when I was at low points, when I was ungrateful, insensitive, those times you needed me to be there, and I was somewhere else. I know you want me to go beyond that. You told me so yourself before you died. I mostly have, and it's better when I do, because then I am focusing on you.
I am appreciating your strength, grace, and dignity. I am appreciating your beauty and talent and all of your gifts that you bestowed on your three children so generously, with unconditional love.

I'm with you now mom. And I know you are with the angels. I know you are at peace, green eyes sparkling, a beautific smile. I like to think that you are filled with the love of all the people whose lives you touched: dad, your kids, your grandkids most of all. I like to think that this love is so powerful it is filling you with joy and light.

You are our light mom. Andy's, Loren's, and mine. Elissa's and Michelle's, and their children, Julia and Tony, Alli, Josh and Kyle. Elissa is now grandmother to Julia's son Philip, my great grandson, your great-great-grandson. Ali and Jay are parents to Ava Rose and Leo. All beautiful. All your legacy.

You are our role model for passing on love and wisdom, for cherishing a strong sense of family and family traditions, for valuing critical thinking and love of learning, for knowing the meaning of compassion and caring for others. We love you.

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