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.

 

The Wisdom of Waiting

Pictures downloaded from my camera 2. 156

 

Children are notoriously impatient. I was no exception. The car ride into Boston for holidays was excruciating, especially as dad had to take traffic ridden Route One and what was then the Sumner Tunnel. Sitting still for any length of time whether in a car or on a couch was difficult for me. Today, given the current parenting advice I might be labeled with some alphabet letters and perhaps given medicine. However in those days life was simpler and that kind of behavior wasn’t considered abnormal.

Because of this my most disliked punishment was not a spanking but being made to sit on the piano stool for fifteen or more long minutes. In addition I would be, “put on silence,” Which meant no conversation with anyone. It was difficult for me to learn to sit still. Once I when I was the only child at a very tedious adult afternoon tea I manufactured a case of hiccups so as to get some attention. My parents caught on to what I was doing and put a quick stop to it. Patience training begins early.

Fast forward to today: On Friday a few weeks ago, a big cardboard box appeared in the hall. Despite its weight, I lugged it in. “I think our exercise machine has come,” I told Stephen. “Good,” he said, “lets open it later.” He was busy as was I. Saturday and Sunday came and went. There were things to do and places to go. Occasionally one of us would say perhaps we might open it, yet it was never quite the right time.

On Monday a dear friend came for lunch. I mentioned the arrival of the exercise machine. “Can I see it?” she asked. “Sure,” I said, “no time like the present.” I opened the cardboard carton and started to lift out the machine. It wasn’t completely assembled. “Oh, let me help,” said our kind friend. She looked it over, lined up the parts, followed the instructions, and in very little time had it all done and in good working order.

How glad I was that we had waited. I’m sure we would have had to spend most of a day figuring out what went with what, where, and how. My clever friend had it put together in no time. There is wisdom in waiting for the correct moment, for that is when success is attained. The moment itself cannot be hurried, nor can its arrival be predicted. No amount of wishing or searching can affect this. Sometimes patience practice can be frustrating.

For example, no matter how hard we looked, Stephen and I found every place we’ve lived in Grafton by stumbling over it. Because none of our deliberate searches brought good results, we were forced to be patient. The practice of patience, like the practice of a musician, needs to be lifelong. Eventually it can be seen simply as a challenge rather than as a tedious bore. However, one must be patient because that ability comes only with plenty of practice.

The Last Jar of Honey, by Tasha Halpert

Pink and white flowers  I don’t remember exactly when we met; it was between fifteen and twenty years ago. What I do remember is her smile. She never failed to greet me with it–that and a wonderful warm hug. Her name was Santina Crawford. I called her the Honey Lady because that was what I bought from her, delicious local honey from the bees her husband Howard tended so well that he won prizes every year at various fairs and exhibitions. He even proudly showed me articles that were written about him in the local papers.

I brought her all my glass containers and never failed to leave without a variety of different sized jars of honey both for us to enjoy and to give away. She and her husband also sold apples. Their farm with the apple orchard and the hives is in a densely commercial area just off highway 495 in Franklin. When I first met Santina and Howard they were well along in years, and I used to worry that they’d retire and the farm would get gobbled up by a developer. As time went by, each time I would visit I would relieved that the little sign reading “Akin Bak Farm, Honey” was still there on the pole by their driveway.

Once completely rural, the land around the farm now teems with businesses. Heavy traffic zooms past on 146 at a steady rate. Several years ago her grandson, a Cornell graduate, came to help. He revived the apple business, which Howard, because of his accumulation of years could no longer manage. He even built and began a farm stand not only for the apples, but also the produce and eggs from the chickens he and his wife began to raise on the farm. Then several years ago when I visited, with tears in her eyes, Santina told me that Howard had passed away. Santina kept on handling the honey, however, her son no longer wanted my glass jars.

During my many visits over the years we would sit and chat together in her kitchen. She shared much of her background with me. Part of a large family, she grew up on the farm where she eventually lived with her husband. While she was growing up, she and her siblings worked in people’s homes and on the farm. Every year I brought home quantities of their apples, some of them heirloom varieties, all of them special. I also brought many of my friends to meet my honey lady and to purchase jars for themselves.

When I called this fall to see the best day to get some honey from my friend I was told she had passed on in August. I was shocked and saddened. If only I had gone to see her sooner! I have only one large jar left from what I didn’t know was my last visit. It is nearly finished. I hoard the special crystals of sweetness that remain. One day the last of them will be gone. Still I will enjoy thinking of her, of our conversations and most of all her tender hugs. And although the last of the honey will eventually be gone, my heart will always hold the memory of her warm and radiant smile.

Time To Mail Those Gifts

Time To Mail Those Christmas Gifts, By Tasha Halpert

In the home I grew up in there was a small triangular closet with a slanting roof under the eves on the second floor. It was lined with narrow shelves. I believe it may originally have been intended for the storage of unripe fruit to be kept for later use in the cold months. My parents used it to store away empty boxes as well as Christmas and birthday presents bought for friends and family during the year, perhaps on sale or on the trips they took. As an adult I adopted this practice and put away gifts I came across during the year.

Once we got together, Stephen joined me in this. All year long, we keep an eye out for items we think will be suitable for friends and family for the holidays. We store what we find away until it is time to get them out and in some cases, mail them off. Having suffered from waiting too long in the past to mail them, we have learned our lesson: we have become true early birds at the post office. Now that Thanksgiving is over, it is time to wrap and send off all that we have accumulated.

Because our apartment is small we have to squirrel things away here and there in out of the way corners. Finding all of the presents we have acquired and bringing them all out into the open is the first step in the giving process. They need to be sorted and decisions made as to for whom we bought which gift. Sometimes what seemed just perfect for someone several months ago evokes question marks when examined in the light of now. It’s fun figuring it all out. Once the gifts are arranged, we consult the address book for those we intend to give to and the wrapping begins.

The actual process of wrapping can be the most difficult part of all. Fortunately I learned some tricks a few years ago from a friend of mine who used to wrap department store gifts. Boxes we have been saving come in handy now, as does the extra tape I purchased and the paper bags we cut up and use to wrap DVDs and books. It is more fun to make use of free stuff than to depend on purchased padded envelopes or boxes. In addition, the rising cost of postage makes it important to be as thrifty as possible when it comes to the mailing of what we have chosen.

Over the years this little ritual has become the opening chords to Stephen’s and my Christmas celebration. Because many of our friends have moved away and some of our family live at a distance, we seldom if ever see them physically. Now the gift giving ritual of choosing and wrapping becomes a heart warming pleasure. As we prepare and address what we have chosen, we spend time thinking of our dear ones and chat about our memories of them. Thus in giving we ourselves receive a gift, and it is even more precious than anything we may mail away.

 

An Attitude of Gratitude

Fall Maple Gold 2            When we first moved to Grafton I knew nothing about the surrounding area. We were back in New England because we had moved up from Virginia where we had lived for the past seven years, to be closer to family. A friend who lived in the area and liked it, had invited us to check it out. She helped us find a real estate agent, and we fell in love with a house in Grafton. Soon we met and became friends with an artist who lived in Worcester.

She offered to show me some of her favorite spots in and around the city. She and I spent the next months tramping around in the woods with her dog as we picked raspberries, blackberries, swam, and simply traipsed through in her favorite little wildernesses. It was a wonderful experience for which I am very grateful. Although I don’t see much of my friend these days, my memories of our adventures in the nature spots she showed me still warm my heart.

In my life there is much that has vanished away. As I have grown older I have lost friends and family members. I live differently now than I did twenty or even ten years ago. Of course all of this is appropriate. However when I was growing up and even in my early adult years I had no concept of the amount of change that I would live though. Were I to be regretful of these changes I might be filled with bitterness and sorrow for what no longer is part of my life. However, I do not choose to do that. I have too much to be grateful for.

When I was growing up Thanksgiving meant gathering with family at the home of either my Great Aunt of my Grandmother. I don’t remember anyone suggesting we speak about what we were grateful for, though of course someone always said Grace, a prayer of gratefulness. In those days I didn’t think much about gratitude. I was too busy caring for my home and family.

When I was in my early thirties I was invited by a friend to go to a conference where I met a remarkable teacher. She introduced me to the concept of expressing gratitude for those things in my life that I needed to be grateful for. I began then to practice my attitude of gratitude, and for many years I have said a short prayer of thanks whenever I am grateful. Some years later I had a houseguest who expressed gratitude toward his various and tools. I found this intriguing and as time went on have done this also, thanking my car for a safe journey, or my computer for helpful performance.

In a grateful heart there is no room for regret or resentment. My attitude of gratitude changed my life for the better and continues to enrich it today. The more I remember and express how grateful I am for the richness of my life and the joys that fill it, the less I miss what has passed from it. This year, on Thanksgiving as always I have much for which to be grateful, yet during the rest of the year there is no day on which I do not give thanks over and over again.

 

Hospitality by Tasha Halpert

Deb's party food 2As she does whenever she comes to the States, our friend from Denmark was visiting us. Over a lunch I had enjoyed making for us all, we had fun catching up on our recent activities. She was exclaiming over the food, saying how good it was and how happy she was to be with us. “I love cooking for my friends,” I replied. I do. It is one of my favorite occupations. Stephen and I both enjoy entertaining friends, and making meals for them is a big part of my joy.

She commented that she too enjoyed cooking for her friends. She then went on to say that her experience here in the States was that when they were entertaining, many people seemed to prefer taking people out to eat rather than preparing food for them at home. She said that in Europe it was more common to prepare dinner for their guests at home and less common to take them to a restaurant. I thought this was an interesting commentary, and I wondered what it indicated about Americans.

Around the holidays, the newspapers overflow with advertisements for meals to which you are supposed to bring your whole family. Alternatively, supermarkets and other providers of food advertise “home cooked” meals delivered to your door. My parents would never have considered eating anywhere for the holidays but at the home of a relative. Eating out was only for very special occasions, perhaps to celebrate a victory or a special anniversary.

Thinking back on my childhood years I remember that when my parents entertained it was usually relatively spontaneously and for cocktails before luncheon after church or dinner. Afterward our guests either went home or to a restaurant. My mother did not like to entertain and seldom had people for dinner parties. She had had a lot of that as a young child in her parents home and had been as it were inoculated against it. Her mother had given her all sorts of jobs to do related to making ready for guests, none of which she particularly enjoyed.

Her father had been in he diplomatic service in Germany prior to World War II and they had lived all over the globe. Her mother had entertained at lavish dinner parties with food prepared by a cook or catered. To my mother fell the task of setting the table, arranging flowers and so on. Later she and her two sisters would be called upon to perform musically for the guests. No wonder she disliked parties.

My first husband didn’t care to entertain either. We had one big party a year. it. My cooking was confined to the family. I have found it wonderfully different with Stephen. He has always loved to entertain and there have been many times in our lives together when I never knew how many would be sitting down to dinner. Because I have plenty of supplies on hand, this has never bothered me. To be sure, I enjoy dining out, especially as someone’s guest, however I am very happy to eat loving prepared home cooking.