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The Bliss Blog

10470929_1012468848780652_7009430228684982972_nToday would have been my mother Selma’s 93rd birthday. Born on March 27, 1924, in Philadelphia, PA, her parents and older brother Jim (he of the ‘Uncle Jimmy Parking Spots’ that I reference…he was our family parking angel and by invoking his name, I ALWAYS find the perfect parking spot anywhere I go.) welcomed her into the family.  She was adored by everyone. One of her uncles used to call her “Sally up the alley,” since many of the family members lived in the same neighborhood and she would run down the alley to visit.  Bright and creative, she loved music and sang in her High School’s acapella choir. Our home was filled with albums and singing was a daily occurrence. Silly songs like Mairzy Doats and  Three Little Fishies , filled the air. She would come up with all sorts of ideas for engaging my sister Jan and me with learning experiences. Reading, writing, creative games, drawing, building things with Lincoln logs and coloring, were cleverly disguised ways of preparing us for life. When frequent doctors visits became necessary due to asthma, we would use waiting time perched on the exam table to do flash cards, say and spell words, infusing knowledge along with allergy serum.

You know how many parents say that they can’t wait for their children to go back to school at the end of the summer? She cried because she said she would miss us. By no means was she a ‘helicopter parent’. She gave us mostly free reign to tool around the neighborhood on our bikes as long as we checked in periodically. She knew that we would get dirty, skin our knees, and make messes that she taught us to clean up. She and my dad encouraged confidence and resilience. My favorite ‘momism’ was “Walk in like you own the joint, with head held high, shoulders back, making eye contact.”  I would add, “knockers up.”

Throughout my life, she was my most ardent cheerleader, telling me I could do anything I set my mind to. Her encouragement sometimes took the form of telling me to “Knock it off!” when I perseverated on problems, getting caught up in worry. I can hear her voice in my head when I need to know that all is well. She had her que sera sera attitude, as she used to say, “What will be will be.”  She called people dear to her, “Babycakes”. I sometimes volleyed back, referring to her as “Mamacakes”.

On birthdays, we would sing a special song based on an iconic card created by Sandra Boynton. No matter whose big day it was, we could count on a phone call serenade. When my sister’s birthday occurred a few days ago, I called her and she answered and said, “Okay, I’m ready,” and I regaled her with a version of Hippo Birdies….

Before she died on November 26, 2010, we had many talks about death. Initially, when placed in hospice care, she was fearful and cried, saying she didn’t want to die. As her departure date approached, she had many portentous dreams that she would share with me, asking at the end of each one, “What do you think it means?” I would respond, “Mom, what do you think it means?” She would always smile and admit that they were breadcrumb clues to her journey. I treasure those last seven months of her life, as I was able to fly down to Ft. Lauderdale to be with her for days at a time. Still hard to believe at times that she isn’t a phone call away. I do talk to her in my heart and head throughout the day. Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I see how much I look like her. When I do, I find myself pulling myself up straighter, putting my shoulders back and standing, ‘knockers up’.

Hippo Birdies in heaven, Mamacakes.

 

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