Beauty Everywhere to See

Fall Patterns shadows and leaves

 

Many of us inherit our tastes from our parents. I am no exception. My mother was an artist with her own gallery. There she sold her paintings and a few decorative items that included carved wooden works by my brother and his wife, that might be bought by those who came in for a look around. She primarily painted abstracts, and she enjoyed wielding her brush to music. She had a brush in her hand most of every day. She once told me she had sold paintings to people all over the world.

She did not normally paint in bright colors. Even her rare red and purple paintings were slightly toned down.  Her subjects were simple, her canvases were uncluttered. Her personal palette was also muted. She seldom wore any colors but tan, ivory or brown. What little jewelry she wore wasn’t bold. By contrast my father liked bright, bold colors and was himself a colorful character. I inherited his tastes both in clothing and in life. I dress primarily in red, pink, and bright turquoise.  I like bold earrings and bracelets. My tastes are very different from my mother’s. She preferred muted simplicity while I, like my father, like vivid complexity.

The strong colors of fall make it my favorite time of year. The beauty of fall is spread over the roads as well as the hills and meadows like a cloak of brilliant hues, and the loveliness of it resonates in my heart. All during the months of fall when I am driving, I have to keep reminding myself to keep my eyes on the road, and when I have the treat of being driven, I am ever so grateful because then I can look at the landscape without fear of landing in a ditch.

Spring is lovely too. An astute observer once wrote that the colors of spring and fall were similar, only the colors of fall were more intense while the colors of spring exhibited a pastel palette. I hadn’t considered this before, however the next spring I observed the truth of what he was saying. Still, though the spring landscape is indeed lovely, for me it does not have the poignancy of fall. Spring heralds the warmth of summer, vacations, visits with friends and relations, and playtime for many. Fall, at least in the northern hemisphere, heralds the last of the warmth. Its bright days dwindle as the hours shorten. Soon winter will be upon us, and the bleakness of that landscape.

But wait, there is more. In winter, in contrast to the lush, rounded shapes of leaf burdened branches, the bare branches of the trees trace their design against the winter sky, revealing their essential shapes. Too, the dried weeds and grasses exhibit a delicacy that draws the eye, while once the flakes begin to fall their shadows decorate the snow drifts in subtle ways. Beauty does not always shout its presence, sometimes it whispers. The eye of the beholder needs to be attuned to the subtleties of beauty as well as to its obvious ones. If rather than turning my eyes inward with my thoughts I pay attention to what there is to see, I will find beauty everywhere I look regardless of the season.

 

Mothers are Everywhere and Always

Family women 1989My mother did not have good training for the task of mothering. Her mother was the wife of a diplomat and spent her days doing what she needed to do to support my mother’s father in his position. Her children were cared for by nursemaids and tutors. I knew her briefly: a proper, formal woman who came to live briefly in the states in the late forties. I was a young teen at the time, not very interested in this elderly person. Now of course I wish I had asked her more about her life. She returned to Germany and passed on soon after. Ill prepared as she was, my mother did the best she could, and I honor her for it.

When I think of the word mother, I envision a womanly figure with her arms around a child, though not necessarily her child.  Many women without children do their share of mothering. One definition of mothering is taking care of or caring for someone. The nature of the caring embraces many actions. A mother cat keeps her kittens close, yet disciplines them as well. A human mother hugs her child and also disciplines that child—hopefully in a loving manner. Mothers of all kinds help children learn limits and learn to respect them.

Growing up, I was fortunate in being given a great deal of unlimited physical freedom. Nobody minded when I climbed trees or played explorer in the marshes behind our home. As long as I stayed on the property I could do as I liked. The few times I ventured off I was punished. However, my punishments were not cruel, only restrictive: being confined to my room for a long period. I’m sure my mother kept an ear out for me while I played, in case I needed her. She was at home with me and my siblings. Today’s mothers are fortunate if they can do that. In some respects not being able to makes mothering harder now.

I went on to have children of my own; all of my girls are now mothers themselves. Sometimes they need me to mother them; sometimes they even mother me. Mothering does not end when the child is an adult. However as many a mother must discover, mothering must be modified if one does not wish to annoy one’s children. There is a fine line between caring for someone you love and overdoing it: smothering versus mothering. Kindness is defined by how it affects the recipient; helicopter parenting, as it is called can have negative results of all kinds. Limits are for parents as well as for children.

Teachers mother students; some animals have been known to mother young ones not of their kind; I was comforted by the trees I spent hours sitting in– reading, and writing poems. Mothering is of the heart–the heart of the receiver as well as the giver. A difficult childhood results when the mother is unhappy or ill prepared for motherhood. It is easier to judge one’s childhood experience as an adult. Also, not only women can mother. Men can as well. I see them, infants on their backs or in a stroller, tending little ones in a loving manner. On this Mothers’ Day In my heart I honor all those who have mothered me, and I am grateful to each and every one.

Thank you, Mom for Your Gifts

M

Mama Watering the Roses

My Late Mama Watering the Roses

This week I received a loving card in the mail from one of my three dear daughters. In it she expressed her thanks to me for what I had given her as well as for what I continue to give her. She lives at quite a distance from me so we do not see one another often. We do however do our best to keep in touch with mail and emails. It was a precious card and it was even more precious to read her acknowledgement of the little things I do for her as we continue to communicate and to share our lives together.

Although I cannot write her a letter or call her on the phone, I began thinking about what I might be grateful to my late mother for. There is a long list beginning with how she always insisted on my wearing a hat on the beach and cover up as well to protect my skin from the sun. Today, with the prevalence of skin cancer among my contemporaries and even those younger than I, I am especially grateful for her good advice. It is thought that the early exposure to excess sun is a precursor to skin cancer. She had a permanent tan on her back from her teenage years of sun exposure in Cuba where her German father was in the diplomatic service; later she had numerous bouts with skin cancer.

Though I haven’t thought much about this until recently, I realize that she was an immigrant, and what that meant especially in her early years in the country. Like many others who came here from elsewhere, she cherished her citizenship and was proud to be an American. She also contributed in many ways, from joining in the war effort as a civilian—I remember the brown uniform she wore for some kind of civilian women’s defense organization to the lovely art she created that graces the homes of many even today.

It was the outset of what became WWII that she married my father and came to this country from Germany. As a child I remember seeing a movie taken of part of their honeymoon showing Nazis marching. She had to endure suspicions and even dislike for her nationality, even from her in-laws. Fortunately she spoke perfect English and quickly became a citizen. She was herself very courageous, and she encouraged me to stand up for myself when I was picked on in school for not being athletic or slender. In addition she always supported me when I shared my grief at not being able to fit in.

She encouraged my creativity, keeping the little booklets I made for her even until I was much older and then giving them back to me. She applauded my early efforts to play the guitar and urged me to write my own songs. She pushed originality as a virtue, praising it above all in everything I did. I think of her often and wish her well as she makes her way through whatever is next for us all in the afterlife. I am sure her bright spirit is still learning and growing and perhaps she is in some way practicing the art she did so beautifully in this life to enhance the walls of the angels’ heavenly homes.

More Than One Mother

Me and mama by Bachrach

In my life I have been fortunate to have some remarkable women friends who in certain ways could be considered in the light of mothers. Their age had little to do with it. It was their warmth, their acceptance, their caring and their love that helped to create the part they played in my life. I loved my late mother dearly, however there were aspects of her nature that were difficult for me to deal with, and while she was well meaning and did her best to be a good mother, she could not be everything I would have wished her to be. In my adult life the physical distances between us through the years also created a problem.

The depth of her compassion and acceptance were a special feature of one of the women who served my needs in a way my mother could not. We shared many of the same interests and in a climate where I had little support, she was very encouraging to me in my efforts to learn and to grow. She would frequently invite me to lunch and we would spend many hours in conversation about a variety of subjects. She had a wide range of knowledge and very little prejudice. She was also warm in a way my mother was not.

My own mother was a very good artist and once her family was grown devoted her life to her art. She had her own gallery and her paintings were admired and purchased by people from all over the globe. However, she and I had very little in common in our interests. Our telephone conversations were usually about what she had been doing or what my children were up to.

Another of my mother figures was also an important teacher in my life. Married at eighteen I had no work experience. As a result of studying with this person I gained a way to earn a living as well as a way to be of help to others. She took a personal interest in me and allowed me to assist her in many ways. I found in her a lifelong person to admire and look up to even after she moved away. She was a wonderful teacher and a good friend. My mother, who tried in vain to teach me to knit often said she was too impatient to teach me anything. However I am still thankful she was kind enough to pay a neighbor to give me sewing lessons.

These are only two of the special women who were also maternal figures in my life. It takes nothing from my original mother to think of them in this way because they filled roles that she could not. No single individual can be all things to another whether as a parent, sibling or spouse. Yet we all may play roles in one another’s lives to be of help and to fill in the gaps that our actual mothers might not have been equipped to do. I am always extremely grateful to my mother who worked so hard to raise and in her own way mother me. I am also very thankful to those others who gave of themselves to me with love and acceptance in their hearts.

 

I Remember Mama

 

Mama and Me Maine 2005          On the TV Screen pages turned in a photograph album as the weekly TV show called I remember Mama opened. Each week the daughter told a story from her growing up years, about her mother and her family. Although the show was set in 1910, the themes were timeless and had much to do with family interactions and behaviors. Though I do not remember any particular episodes, I do remember watching it with pleasure. The mother in the story was resourceful and clever, much like mine.

With the approach of Mother’s Day I find myself thinking about my late mother and remembering little tidbits about our life together. She worked hard to put good, healthy meals on the table–my dad came home every day for lunch, shop economically and keep up with the laundry. I remember her hanging out the clothes almost all year round. She grew vegetables in the garden and canned them for winter consumption. We kept chickens, and while it was my job to take care of them, it was hers to prepare and cook them. Plucking a chicken isn’t much fun, yet she did it without complaining.

She made fairly simple meals. We usually had meat and potatoes for lunch and some kind of a casserole or simpler meal at supper. My kitchen memories are more about being chased out and sent either upstairs or out of doors to play, depending on the season. I remember staying up for radio shows with Mom and Dad. It was a wonderful treat to sit on one of their beds and hear a grownup show. Starting when I was about twelve they took me to the movies with them, although they usually skipped the first of the double features.

My mother was a brave woman who came to this country from Germany knowing almost no one except my dad. Though she spoke excellent English, at the time to be German national was to be suspected of being a spy. I believe she told me that at one point she was even under surveillance. She soon became an American citizen, however, and during the second world war she joined a women’s civilian motor corp. I can see her now in her brown uniform, wearing a smart cap with a brim. Along with some of her friends she did various things to be of help at home.

She left me a wonderful legacy of courage and curiosity along with a desire to do things right as well as get the details correct. She played card games and Chinese checkers with me. Though she was never one to help me win, she played fairly and enjoyed the competitive aspect of the games. Later on, while she did not believe in interfering in my life, she always did her best to advise me when I asked her to. I miss her presence in my life, yet I know that she is far happier and more comfortable now. With gratitude for all she did for me, in my heart I wish her a happy Mother’s Day.

Tasha Halpert

Thinking Of My Mother by Tasha Halpert

Me and mama by Bachrach     It makes me happy that there is a day set aside each year to be devoted to acknowledging mothers. The folderol that has grown up surrounding it is a product of the commercialism with which we are surrounded. Most mothers would probably be glad to do without the obligatory dinner out at a restaurant jammed with other families setting out to treat her to a meal she does not have to cook, or the trinkets she has to find a place to put on her crowded bureau.

To me what is more important is that Mothers’ day serves as a reminder that much of what mothers do all year round is usually taken for granted by their children. This ranges from the daily meals and laundry to the cleaning and tidying that goes with looking after a family. Trust me, I’m not complaining here, actually I’m thinking of my own mom and how much of what she did that I took for granted as I was growing up.

Of course she provided meals and did what she could to keep up a household with four children and a husband who was not inclined to help with housework. She wouldn’t let him cook because she said he burnt things and she intensely disliked wasting food. What she did do, personally for me, is more to the point in my memory.

She helped me with my homework, especially anything to do with languages. She worked hard to drill a proper French accent into me, and she faithfully reviewed my vocabulary and grammar lessons as well. She endured my piano practice as best she could. A trained musician with a perfect ear, I know that she cringed through my practice, and she quickly acquiesced when I said I didn’t want to take lessons any more.

When as a teenager I needed to reduce my weight she carefully counted my calories and helped me lose fifteen pounds two summers in a row. I remember that she did despair, Nor did she complain when I gained back most of what I had lost living at my grandmother’s, but set simply about doing it again. My robust grandmother did not count calories and she ate four good meals a day including tea with English muffins and home made cookies or cake.

My mother certainly tried hard to do the best she could for me. Often she went without to make sure I had what I needed. As I remember, at the time, I did not appreciate my mother’s efforts. I grew to understand how valuable they were once I had children of my own. It is truly said that one cannot fully appreciate what a parent goes through until one becomes one. I miss her. The four years since she breathed her last have sped by. I think of her often. Sometimes I feel her presence just as though she is with me, only in another room yet still within hearing distance.