A Mother-Daughter Brunch and Fashion Show

My daughter went to an all-girls high school. One of my favorite events of the year was the mother-daughter brunch held each spring. After the meal at a hotel downtown, the senior class put on a fashion show, with the styles selected from several major retailers in our area. Each clothing store offered a different theme—casual clothes, beach wear, formals, etc.

I loved the fashion shows, which were an opportunity for the seniors to have a bit of fun after four years of hard work. Not every girl in the senior class participated, but most did—even those who were shy or overweight or who never wore anything but the school uniform or jeans. The show was a rite of passage. Kudos always went to the seniors willing to wear a swimsuit in public.

I worked in a corporate environment largely populated by males, and there was more estrogen in that hotel dining room than I was accustomed to. These young women strutted their stuff down the runway, proclaiming themselves young adults now out of the schoolroom as campily as they could. They showed their potential as independent women of the world, whether in bikini or gown or business wear.

My daughter and I attended this brunch all four years. The first three times I watched the show, I looked forward to the year my daughter would be a senior. I anticipated her role. What clothes would she model? Would she enjoy it as much as most of the girls seemed to? What glimpse into her future would I see?

Her senior year finally came. She didn’t tell me much about what she would be modeling, other than that it would be in the business wear section.

When that portion of the show began, I watched the girls parade in skirts and slacks. I saw them as they would be not too long into the future, after their college years when they would—most of them—enter the professional world.

My daughter is in white. Though she’d never wear a tie like that these days.

And there came my daughter. My tall, beautiful, intelligent daughter, striding down the runway in a white pantsuit, looking like the successful attorney she wanted to be.

Like the successful attorney she has since become.

I was granted a vision of the future that spring morning, now fourteen years in the past. I loved it—and her—then. I love her more now. She has become a strong, independent woman—both book-smart and street-smart, athletic, attractive, and caring. I couldn’t have asked for more from a daughter than she has given her father and me over the years.

As I’ve written before, she was my Mother’s Day baby—she has a birthday this week. I look back on her runway day and smile at the past. I smile even more at the present. And I await the future, still smiling.

Happy birthday, daughter!

Two Poets in the Family: Happy Easter . . . and an early Happy Mother’s Day

In going through the mementos my parents kept, I’ve discovered another way in which my mother and I were alike. We both wrote poetry to our families as children.

Here’s a poem I wrote for Easter as a child. I can’t date it exactly, but because I referred to “grandmother” and not “grandparents”, I think I must have written it after my grandfather died and before my grandmother remarried—which would put it at Easter 1966 or 1967, when I was ten or eleven years old. The handwriting looks about right for me at ten or eleven. (Another clue is that I refer to only one brother, and my second brother was born when I was eleven and a half.)

MTH poem Easter 20150311_152535

I had no memory of writing this poem, but the handwriting is clearly mine, so I must own it.

Then I found a poem my mother wrote her mother for “her special day”. She dated her poem May 9, 1948—Mother’s Day of the year when she was fifteen. Her poem shows more maturity than mine did. (Her handwriting remained quite similar until the last couple years of her life, when she struggled to write anything.)

MFC poem to Mother 20150311_152522

Neither poem is very good. In fact, both are quite dreadful.

But when I found them both on the same day, they made me laugh. Another example of how my mother and I were alike. Not only do the poems contain similar themes, but the pages are both decorated with flower borders, in typically young girl fashion.

I will end by wishing you all, as I titled my poem—

Happy Easter Family! . . . (and friends)

Icing on My Cake for Mother’s Day

My daughter's first picture

My daughter’s first picture

My daughter was born the day before Mother’s Day. Some years her birthday has been on Mother’s Day—including her first birthday.

Obviously, a small child’s birthday takes precedence over Mother’s Day. Even a grown daughter’s birthday takes precedence in our family. But I’ve never minded sharing “my” day with my daughter. After all, her birth was the icing on the cake for me.

Let me explain:

I had a perfectly fine little boy as my first child. He was a good baby and as good a toddler as one could expect. I was overjoyed to have him. When he was born, I thought, like most parents do, that no child could be loved as much as this one.

When I became pregnant a second time, people asked me repeatedly, “Do you want another boy or do you want a girl?”

I gave the expected answer. “All I want is a healthy baby.”

My daughter at two months

My daughter at two months

But secretly I wanted a daughter. No matter how wonderful my son was, I wanted a little girl. Someone to buy frilly dresses for. Someone to talk to. Someone to be like me. (I said of my son that all he inherited from me was straight hair and a high-pitched voice. . . . And his voice has deepened now.)

So I hoped in silence for a daughter. And never told anyone I really wanted a girl.

After my labor, when the baby finally came, the doctor announced, “It’s a girl.”

Icing on the cake, was the thought that came to me as I heard the doctor’s words. In that instant, I knew that it didn’t matter whether I’d had a boy or a girl. I would have been equally as happy with either. I was ecstatic to have my little girl, but I would have loved another boy just as much.

Throughout her life thus far, my daughter has been my icing on the cake. Even though she never much liked wearing frilly dresses—she couldn’t crawl in them, nor hang from monkey bars.

Happy Birthday to my daughter this Sunday! Happy Mother’s Day to all!

What memories do you have from your children’s earliest days?

Sharing Mother's Day with my daughter on her first birthday

Sharing Mother’s Day with my daughter and her brother on her first birthday


Mother’s Day Memento

20140428_094756On one of the spring vacations my family took, we were in a gift shop full of tchotchkes. Neither my husband nor I am fond of tchotchkes, and I was ready to move on. Nothing in the store looked interesting to me. But our children wanted to browse, to find some small mementoes to take home from the trip.

Then I saw my daughter pulling her brother over to their father. The kids giggled, and my husband frowned. Then he nodded.

My son approached me and pulled me over to something he wanted to look at. He collected pens with pictures of the national parks and other sites we visited, so maybe he wanted me to buy him a pen. I don’t remember what we looked at. He distracted me sufficiently that I didn’t notice what my daughter and husband were doing.

Anyway, we left the gift shop and went on with our travels.

My daughter had a secret. I could tell, because she was bubbly, eager to talk about something, but she didn’t say a word, kept her lips zipped.

We used to tease her, because she was not good at keeping secrets. Up until the time she was in grade school, we could ask her, “What are you giving me for my birthday?” and she would tell. One year she and her brother were giving me a blouse. I asked her what my gift was, and she told.

When we laughed at her, she said “At least I didn’t tell you what color.” So I asked “what color?”

“White,” she said. And then burst into tears.

This time, within hours or a day at most of our visit to the gift shop, she couldn’t keep it in. “We got you a present,” she said. She handed me a small brown paper bag, folded into an even smaller square. “Happy Mother’s Day.”

My husband and son gathered around as I opened the sack.

Inside the bag was a heart-shaped china box, a little trinket for pills or pins or other treasures. Inside the pillbox was the message “God Bless Mom.”

“Did we surprise you?” my daughter asked.

I nodded. I’d suspected something was up, but the gift was a surprise—a delightful early Mother’s Day gift. I may not like tchotchkes, but I smile every time I see this one. It still sits on my dresser today, over twenty years later.

Mothers, what little gifts from your children do you hold dear?


Remembering: It’s What Mothers Do

Daughter on her 1st birthday

Daughter on her 1st birthday

My daughter chastises me for not documenting her childhood completely in her baby book. She claims I didn’t write as much about her as about her older brother.

This week – the week of her birthday as well as of Mother’s Day – I’ve gone back and looked at her baby book. I didn’t do too badly.

Her first birthday was actually on Mother’s Day, and we had a family celebration with both grandmothers, a grandfather, and a great-grandmother on hand. I wrote about everyone who came to see her, and also wrote:

M. was sick – she had an ear infection, but bore it bravely, and looked very pretty in a navy blue party dress which Grandma and Grandpa gave her when she was born.

For her second birthday we had another family celebration. That year, I wrote in part:

M. was very aware of how important the celebration was, and told everyone she was “two on my Happy Two-Day.”. . .

M. had her arm in a cast on her birthday, because she had fallen off a slide at school two weeks before.

Daughter with cast on her 2nd birthday

Daughter with arm in cast on her 2nd birthday

How ironic that she celebrated her second birthday recuperating from a broken bone, and is now about to celebrate a twenty-something birthday in the same condition – this time a leg instead of an arm. (But other than these two fractures, she only had a stress fracture in high school. She’s not that accident prone. Well, she had hip surgery in college. But that wasn’t an accident; that was a bone spur.)

Her baby book also contains lists I wrote of the words she could say at 14 months, 17 months, and 19 months. I detailed the songs she sang in her first few Christmas programs in preschool.

I have her birth certificate, Baptismal Record, and First Communion certificate.  I can tell you her height and weight until she was ten years old. I even kept her Driver’s Record Examination form from when she was 16 (she passed the driver’s test on the first try) and a copy of the form we sent when she enrolled in college listing all her immunizations to date.

The baby book is one repository for the details of her life.

But it doesn’t contain everything. It isn’t even the most important repository.

The note from her second birthday about the cast on her arm doesn’t record my memories of when it happened. The daycare center said she had hit her head, and not to give her Tylenol in case she had a concussion. But by bedtime it was clear to me that it was her arm that was injured, not her head. I gave her the Tylenol.

That night was the only time either of my children ever slept with me, but I put my daughter in bed with me that night when she cried with the pain. Neither of us got much sleep.

The next morning – a Saturday – was the only time I ever showed up at the pediatrician’s office without an appointment. “She needs to see a doctor,” I told the receptionist, in a tone that made clear I wouldn’t be put off. We were seen right away, then sent to the hospital for an X-ray.

“Mommy!” my little girl screamed, reaching out her good arm over the nurse’s shoulder toward me as the nurse carried her off to X-ray. Without me. My heart broke as she sobbed, but I was not permitted to follow.

No, those memories are not in the baby book, but they are written on my heart.

Fast forward to this February. The text message my daughter sent announcing her ski accident (“In a clinic – probably broke my leg . . . ”) will disappear from my cell phone at some future date, as will her follow-up message (“Surgery! I’ll let you know.”).

But what won’t disappear as long as I have a memory is my sinking feeling and then certainty that I needed to be with her. Twenty-four hours after her first text, I was at the airport ready to fly to her side. I dropped everything to spend two-and-a-half weeks with her. We both survived me giving her shots of blood thinners, getting her in and out of her car (around her friend’s skis and poles), and living together in her small apartment.

Each notation in her baby book, each card and email and text, bring back my memories. The real repository of my life as a mother. As the Bible says, “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” Lk 2:19 NAB)

Remembering. Reflecting. It’s what mothers do, what we have done throughout the ages.

Happy Birthday to my daughter. Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers.

What do you remember about your children? Or your mothers? Write it down. And tell them.

Diversity in Families: A Mother’s Day Gift from My Son

IMAG0724On Mother’s Day, when he was eleven or twelve, my son gave me a pair of earrings – dangling strings of tiny freshwater pearls. I was surprised when I opened the little box he sheepishly handed me to find such a personal and beautiful gift.

The earrings must be inexpensive, because he bought them with his own pocket money, but they are precious to me. They were the first gift my son gave me that he chose on his own, without anyone’s assistance, and he made a lovely choice.

My son had gone with his friend and the friend’s mother to some craft show. That isn’t the kind of event I would patronize, so I doubt my son had ever seen such an extravaganza of homemade merchandise for sale. And had I been the one to suggest the outing, I doubt he would have agreed to accompany me. But he wanted to spend the day with his friend, and that’s what the friend’s mother had planned, so my son tagged along.

His friend’s mother later described for me how my son had shopped for the earrings. “He was so sweet. He looked at every pair, back and forth from one to another, trying to decide which you would like best. The little pearls were what he finally chose.”

Unlike me, my son has always had a hard time making choices. On the Myers-Briggs scale, I generally test as an ISTJ (Introverted Sensing Thinking Judger). I am extremely strong on Judging – which means I will make a decision on a split second, whether I have all the facts or not. My son tests the opposite as me. He is an ENFP (Extroverted Intuitive Feeling Perceiver). He is as far out on the Perceiving scale as I am on the Judging – he can’t decide what to have for breakfast without wondering if he is restricting all his future life options.

So the gift of the pearl earrings was all the sweeter for having been my son’s choice – a selection he made with me in mind.

Our son went through some difficult times as a teenager – the normal resistance to parents trying to control him when he no longer wanted (or needed) to be controlled. He tested his limits, as most kids do when they don’t think they need limits, but aren’t yet old enough to realize that we all need limits.

When my teenage son tried my patience, I opened my jewelry box and saw the earrings he gave me. And I smiled, remembering his pre-teen self spending his own money to buy something he thought I would like.

During and after my son’s teenage years, I was on my corporate employer’s Diversity Council. The Council members talked about diversity being more than racial and gender differences. We described diversity as including such things as education, family status, and personality style. I had no difficulty with this concept, because my son was my example of diversity. Though his personality was different from mine, though he often resisted and resented his parents, he had many gifts, and one of them was his thoughtfulness, as displayed in the gift of the earrings.

Jamie from FacebookIt has now been about twenty years since my son gave me the little freshwater pearls. Each time I open my jewelry box, I remember him with all his dissimilarities. I think of him poring over his choice of earrings and picking these out for me. And I realize that love overcomes all our differences.

What have the different personalities in your family taught you?

Catalpa: Fine Dining in Arrow Rock, MO

On Monday, I wrote about the Oregon Trail emigrants choosing their leaders on the Kansas and Nebraska prairies. This post back-tracks to Arrow Rock, Missouri, where my first Oregon Trail novel begins. And today’s post is about a superb meal I had in Arrow Rock in 2012 – 165 years after my novel takes place.

Arrow Rock is a small town on the Missouri River about two hours east of Kansas City and three hours west of St. Louis.  It is well worth a day or weekend trip from either city, or as a stop if you are driving I-70 across country.

Arrow Rock is an old Indian site, and developed into a frontier town on the Santa Fe Trail. Today, it is a National Historic Landmark, where many of the buildings depict life in the 1830s and 1840s.  Some of the buildings are original and have been carefully restored; others are replicas.  The Lyceum Theatre operates in the summer to produce Broadway quality productions.

My husband, mother-in-law and I ate at Catalpa Restaurant in Arrow Rock last Saturday to celebrate Mother’s Day.  Chef Liz Huff has created a fine dining experience to rival any restaurant in the nation.   Liz trained at the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont, and has worked in a number of restaurants and other food service positions, including a stint at the butcher shop where Julia Child placed her orders.

We started our meal by sharing a spanakopita, which was plenty large enough for the three of us. The spanakopita was served on a bed of fresh spinach and topped with homemade Greek vinaigrette and feta cheese. (The table behind us each ordered their own spanakopita, and they had a pile of leftover boxes when they left.)

Our appetizer was followed by a house salad of spinach tossed with strawberries and blueberries and a creamy sweet dressing.

My husband and I ordered duckling as the entrée, which was roasted in a ginger-teriyaki glaze and served on Thai-like rice noodles in a peanut sauce.  Al ate all his, but I took half mine home, and it was almost as good leftover for lunch on Monday. Al’s mother had red snapper steamed in parchment with herbs and peppers and served with orzo.  Her meal looked as wonderful as our duckling tasted.

By the time we had finished the entrées, we didn’t have room for much dessert (though I was sorry not to have tried the lemon pound cake). But we stuck to homemade ice cream – lemon sorbet, cappuccino, and the best chocolate custard I have ever had (more precisely, it was “Belgian Chocolate Spiced Rum Chocolate Chip” custard). I could have dined on the ice cream alone, and I am not an ice cream fan.

To be sure, the emigrants to Oregon did not eat as well as we ate at Catalpa last Saturday night. But don’t take my word for it; see other reviews of Catalpa at TripAdvisor.

You can find out more about Catalpa on their website, on their Facebook page, or by calling them at 660-837-3324. Catalpa is small and their hours vary with the Lyceum schedule, so be sure to call ahead for reservations.

Other restaurants in Arrow  Rock include J. Huston Tavern and Arrow Rock Station. These establishments are also worthy of a meal.

For more about what to see and do in Arrow Rock, see the town’s website.