My mother made baseball a tie that binds together four generations.
An avid fan of the Braves (when they were in Milwaukee), it was a dream come true for her when the team moved to Atlanta in the mid-1960s.
My father came out of retirement to work in advance ticket sales, guaranteeing that his wife could get goodoften freetickets to just about every game. They had a ball literally and so did I on opening day and the multiple games each week the Braves were in town.
Long after he died and Mother retired, she took my young son, night after night, year after year, to sit just behind the dugout, collecting autographs and balls.
She wanted him to believe and believe he didat 30 plus, he's still playing softball, driving miles and miles to see the Braves and boosting the new minor league team where he lives.
Before she died, she gave a lot of her Braves memorabiliaincluding some signed photos from the only World Series the Braves ever wonto her first great-grandchild, Kayla, another mother-created baseball fan.
Mother, whose name was Blanche Stone, died almost three years ago, ending our almost nightly confabs about how good or bad our team was playing. Without Ted Turner's network, her last nights on earth would have been bleak. She cheered and cheered.
When she died, my son, David, her number-one cohort in this great American pastime, put a Braves hat on her before she was buried. The family of fans understood.
Now his baby daughter, Ellie, has a Braves outfit. Seeing her in it brings happy tears to my eyes.
-- Marcia McAllister, Northern Virginia editor
For her last eight years, my mother lived with leukemia. But, if you were not part of her inner circle of loved ones, you would never know it.
It wasn't because she was tough. Actually, she was shy and her feelings easily hurt. But, she was an extremely private person. She didn't tell her four grown childrenmyself includeduntil a year after her diagnosis.
My mother, Eleanor Friedman Gitelson, preferred to deal with things, large and small, in her own way and in her own time.
A week before she died, I received a call from my dad in New York: "Mom's in the hospital, again." This happened periodicallyfor a new chemo treatment, a transfusionso no one panicked.
But, this time, my inner voice told my workaholic self that I better take some time off and see her.
After I arrived, I spent every waking hour for the next four days in her hospital room, just talking. Though greatly weakened by what turned out to be her last battle with both leukemia and anemia, her mind and memories were as sharp and clear as ever.
We had a wonderful time.
Born Feb. 4, 1920, in the Bronx, she remembered what it was like to be the youngest of five children during the Depression;
What it was like to be a shy first-grader with a hearing problem that no one knew about and how it hurt when people thought she was stupid when she simply couldn't hear them;
How her brother Georgea wild child his whole lifewould stick his fist in her mashed potatoes, so she wouldn't eat them and he could;
How her other brother Martin, who ended up in show business himself, tried to talk her into becoming a chorus girl;
How my father almost scared her away by announcing on their first date that she get rid of all her other boyfriends because they were going to get married someday;
How as a shy, young, newly married woman whose husband was fighting World War II in Europe, she screwed up all her courage and resolve and got a job as an undercover agent for the OPA (Office of Price Administration), which prevented people from cheating on their ration cards;
What a mouthy, sarcastic teenager Iher first bornwas after being such a sweet, easy child;
And how much she loved her growing family, which was adding grandchildren, it seemed, all the time.
We talked and talked and talkedabout everything and everyone.
For months after her death, when something would happen in my life, I would forget, just for a moment, that I couldn't talk to her anymore. I'd think, "I've got to call my mom and tell her this" ... whatever "this" was.
I still miss our talks. But, I'm fortunate, my grown daughter now calls me.
-- Janet Rems, editor, Fairfax division
Growing up, my mother would never tell a lie. When I wanted her to at least twist the truth in front of my siblings, she refused. It infuriated me that she didn't understand every kid has to lie in order to survive in the kid rat race. I figured she knew my dad well enough to lie to him so I asked her to shade the truth about my TV habits. Shading the truth was called a white lie and wasn't like an outright lie. She refused to even tell a white lie.
One time, a kid at school named Hugo Blankenship lied about a fight we had. His mom said that her kid couldn't be lying because his dad was a lawyer. We took this as gospel. Lawyers don't lie so I must be lying.
My mom was a full-time mom who raised five kids. I have convinced myself that she would not survive in business because she doesn't lie. It makes me feel better about myself.
-- Peter Arundel, president and publisher, Fairfax division
My mom came to the U.S. from England when she was very young. I believe she was under the age of 10. She was not allowed to bring many items with her since her family had been sponsored by some friends. It was obviously difficult for her to get acquainted with our American customs.
Just about the time she had become accustomed to her new home in New Jersey, my grandparents lost their home and all their possessions due to a fire. Once again, they rose above and began to establish yet another new life.
She attended high school a few years later and, during her third year, came down with walking pneumonia. In fact, she almost did not survive. She managed to get herself well again and finish out her school year. Shortly thereafter, she went on a double date and met my father. The two dated for a while and then decided to wed.
My dad is a strong-willed person and had encouraged my mom that he would handle everything if she would stay home and raise myself and my brother. That alone was a full-time job, especially with me as a part of that mix.
She did this for almost 20 years until one day, while I was in high school, my dad decided he did not want to be married anymore. This was emotionally challenging, but yet again my mother's perseverance prevailed.
My parents have now been divorced for almost 12 years. Within that time I have learned to be so proud of my mother. All her life she has endured obstacles. However, she has always risen above.
My mom now has her own life, one that exists without children and without a husband. She has rebuilt herself time and time again and been quite successful. My mother chose to give up her education for our family. She now has learned to be one of the top salespeople for a large cellular phone service provider. Her life now exists not just for my brother and me but most important herself. She has learned that it is OK to be independent and proud of it.
I love that she has now earned her wings. Suddenly, I am the proud spectator on the sidelines of her game. She'll never admit it but she has come so far and for that we love the fighter in her. Mom, this is a tribute to you. I am truly proud of you and love you.
-- Amanda Hynds, advertising representative, Fairfax division
When my son was cut from his high school soccer team, he went into quite a depression about it. This was something that meant a lot to him and something he was very good at. He was so dejected. He came to me one day and we talked about it. He felt he was quite a failure.
I told him about a woman who had to go to work after the sixth grade to help support her family. She worked two and three jobs most of her life. She was divorced and raised a daughter alone in a time when this was anything but fashionable. She went to work in the produce warehouse for a major grocery store chain, and, after 18 years, she was laid off because union demands caused the company to relocate to another state.
She then went to work in the US Steel cafeteria as a pot scrubber. She came home with burns up to her elbows from the strong detergent she had to use. Over the years, she advanced to the cafeteria, and, after 15 years, she was laid off and replaced with a vending machine.
She continued to work two side jobs to keep things going for her daughter and mother who lived with her and any other family members who needed her help. She had a great sense of humor and hid a kind heart behind a tough exterior.
She then found a job working at night at a school for blind children as a housekeeper. She worked hard and worked as much overtime as she could so as to give her family what was needed. She finally retired after 15 years as a supervisor of housekeeping at this school.
I said to my son that, by his standards, this woman was a total failure. She lost these jobs even though she did the best she could. She never became famous or made a lot of money.
He protested, of course, and said that she was a very brave person, that she never gave up and kept going no matter how hard life became. When I told him that this woman was my mom, his Grandma Pearl, he couldn't believe it.
We talked for a very long time about just what is important in our lives, and he seemed to understand a lot more than I thought he would. He got over being cut from the high school team but continued to play and enjoy league soccer. He grew up to be a fine man.
Grandma Pearl is in her late 70s now. She forgets things sometimes and has her aches and pains, but she has kept her sense of humor, and we laugh a lot. When times get tough, I look at her life and think how easy I've had it. Her life is my idea of Mother's Love.
-- MaryAnn Kuhn, production coordinator, Fairfax division
My mom always encouraged me to spread my wings. To fly where I was a little afraid of going. My mother had been very adventurous in her youth and picked up and moved to Korea with my father. She didn't know the language, culture or have any friends, but she made a life for herself and even had her first child there.
When the opportunity came for me to travel after college and live abroad in London and Australia, I was a bit apprehensive, but my mother's encouragement helped me to get over my fears. Even though in her heart she didn't want me to go, she always wanted me to succeed. I moved across the world and had the greatest experience of my life, due to my mother's faith and belief in me.
I was in the most beautiful place in the world with great friends, job and lifestyle, but all I wanted to do was be close to my mom again. I missed my walking partner, cheerleader and best friend. She has been my daily inspiration, and I strive to be the best person I can be because of her.
She gives without asking of anything in return and loves endlessly. I am in awe of what a wonderful mother and wife she is and strive to live up to her example.
-- Celeste Lassiter, advertising representative, Fairfax division
The Thanksgiving after Sept. 11, 2001, my mother, Muriel Jacks, wanted to help out a reeling New York City by being a tourist and spending some money in the "Big Apple" for a couple days.
I decided to tag along on the trip because it had been years since we traveled together.
On our last trip, I was probably a reluctant teenage traveler with a Walkman sewn to my head sitting in the backseat of the family car.
I also thought our two days in New York would be a nice way to reconnect after living on different sides of the country for several years.
What I rediscovered about my mom while walking the busy streets of New York City together is that she is an intelligent woman full of more life and energy than most people half her age of 67.
During two cold days, we strolled all over Central Park and Times Square, discussing the entire gamut of life's major issues, from failed marriages and losing jobs to favorite foods and songsjust like two old friends catching up at a high school reunion.
We dined in some of the city's best restaurants and sat in on several of the hottest plays Broadway had to offer that year. We had a blast.
I almost forgot this was the woman who raised me. We were equals for two days, enjoying a wonderful, but hurting, city. We didn't want to go home.
Since returning from our New York adventure, mom is still mom, but, because of that trip, she is also a close friendand I hope she thinks the same of me.
She better, or the headphones are going back on.
-- Jason Jacks, Springfield reporter, Fairfax division
My Mom is a wonderful, caring person whom I look up to so much. She has always been there for me to listen, support, talk, laugh and just have fun with. The times I cherish the most are on Sundays when my sister and I go to my parents for dinner.
Normally after we eat and clean up, Dad heads down to the couch, and my Mom, sister and I sit around the kitchen table and catch up with what is going on in our life with work, friends and relationships. We laugh, joke and just enjoy each other's company.
I love my mom for the person she is. I only hope that one day I can be as wonderful of a mother as she has been to me.
-- Courtney Meak, advertising representative, Fairfax division
My mom was never overly protective, but when I went away to college, she started to worry about me. One Friday night my freshman year, I went out with some friends and came back to my dorm room around 3 a.m. The phone was ringing, and when I answered it, I had a hysterical and very angry mother on the other end.
She was furious. Where had I been? Why hadn't I called? Did I have any idea what time it was? And how dare I stay out so late?
Confused and sleepy, I did my best to calm her down, which took awhile, and then hung up. Then I noticed my answering machine light was blinking. I checked the messages:
8 p.m.: "This is Mom, just calling to say hi. Give me a call when you get home."
9:30 p.m.: "Hi, it's Mom again. I was thinking about going to bed soon so I just called to see if you were home yet."
10:30 p.m. "It's Mom. Why haven't you called me? Are you there?"
11:30 p.m.: "OK, now I'm really starting to worry. It's almost midnight. Why are you out so late? Call me as soon as you get in."
This was followed by a series of hang-ups every 15 or 20 minutes for the next three hours. Apparently no one told my Mom that if she's waiting up for a college student to get home on a Friday night, she may be in for a long night. But by the time my brother started college four years later, she'd gotten the hang of it. All the messages on his machine just said "Hi, it's Mom. Call me sometime in the next few days."
-- Tara Donaldson, editor, Gainesville division
We'd been living on Maui, and, as much of a paradise as that may sound to some, it never really agreed with us. After about two years, my father decided to accept a job in Baltimore, but rather than yank my brother and I out of school early (it was May), my mother opted to stay behind, pack the house, let us finish school and then bring my brother and I to Maryland. Meanwhile, my dad was to get started at his job and find a place for the four of us to live by the mid-June deadline.
So the mid-June deadline comes, and, after a month of packing and tying up loose ends, my mother bravely boarded a flight from Maui to Baltimore (with convenient stops in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City) with her two sons, Tom (6 at the time) and Brian (9 at the time), and the family parakeet, Buddy (parakeets, unlike dogs and cats, do not ride down below with the cargo as they're too small, and temperature changes and drafts would likely kill them), which my mom carried in a little plastic box with a blanket over it to keep the bird quiet.
Typically, my brother and I were being as obnoxious as possible: running off to see this or that, talking to strange adults, asking for everything under the sun that we knew we couldn't have. My mother stayed cool. Even when the attendant at the X-ray machine took the plastic bird box and placed it on the conveyor belt, my mom stayed cool, calmly plucking the box from the belt and showing the clerk what was inside.
On the flight, my brother and I were as irritating as possible, spilling drinks, whining about having to go to the bathroom 25 times (my brother went so far as to crawl under the beverage cart on hands and knees to get to the bathroom), yet my mother never panicked or freaked out.
Then, it happened.
With about two hours left before the plane landed in Maryland (keep in mind that a flight from Maui to Baltimore with two stops takes at least 14 hours), the parakeet, who had been quiet the entire time, suddenly decided that, blanket or not, she needed to be heard.
Despite mother's attempts at quieting our feathered family member, Buddy began chirping, long and loud. Passengers in every row started craning their necks to get a view, several others actually wandered up the aisle to find out where the very un-airplane-like noise was coming from. After a few minutes and several laughs by the passengers, the bird calmed down.
By then, our airline attendants, who had been observing my mother and her irritating little brats all day, knew it was time to intervene. As the sounds emanating from the bird box died down, one of the attendants appeared, glass of champagne in hand. Handing it to my mother, she replied, "Honey, it's on the house. We thought you might need it."
That's my mom.
-- Brian F. Bauer, Weekender editor
As a teacher, my mother has had a maternal influence in the lives of many more children than the two that are hers biologically.
While any teaching job has its challenges, my mother's work with special needs preschoolers is particularly demanding. In addition to their learning difficulties, her students also qualify for free day care and they and their families often have many challenges.
Essentially, the job that she is paid to do is to prepare her students to move on to kindergarten and help determine what type of educational setting they should be in when they move on. This requires volumes of paperwork, usually completed on evenings and weekends.
But I have also seen her buy shoes for a student who desperately needs new ones and buy groceries for a family going through a rough time. She has shared frustrations with her students' parents as she helps them negotiate social services agencies and shared in a family's grief when one of her students died suddenly.
Thanks, in part, to the booming real estate market in Northern Virginia, I have spent at least half of the years since I graduated college living in my parents' home again. While this has not always been an ideal situation, it has given me a more adult perspective of my parents than I was left with after high school.
Among other things, I have developed a greater respect for my mother's career. I don't think I would have the patience or the emotional strength to do what she does.
Despite the days her job leaves her overstressed and exhausted, I am sure that she is making a difference in people's lives.
-- Kali Schumitz, Herndon reporter, Fairfax division
We lived at a place called Cobb Island, and our house was on the water. You could burn leaves back then, and my mother caught the porch on fire. The fire department came, put out the fire and then stayed at our house all afternoon. It turned out to be a great party! You see, there wasn't a whole lot to do on the island. I still love to go there when I need a break.
-- Jill Saupp, advertising representative, Fairfax division
I was about 8 years old at the time, and we went to the Natural History Museum in London on a school field trip. My Mum and her friend were chaperoning my small group (which was about 20 kids), and it was pretty uneventful up until we got to the Egyptian exhibit. My Mum and her friend apparently decided that the day just wasn't exciting enough, so they started "walking like Egyptians." I was so embarrassed that I hid behind an Egyptian mummy.
Meanwhile, a group of tourists had started taking pictures of the two as they continued their show. I thought all of my friends would share in my humiliation, but, by the end of the day, she was the coolest Mum ever, and all the kids at school were talking about her!
This is just one example of her fun-filled spirit; she is enthusiastic, loving and fun in everything she does.
-- Lydia Phillips, receptionist, Fairfax division
My mother and I have always had a special relationship. No matter what went wrong or no matter how much we disagreed on something, she has always been there for me in a way that only a mother can. Whether I've been in trouble or not, she always offered the utmost support and understanding for me. I guess you could call me a "mama's boy," and it would be justified. Regardless, she is the one person who has tried to understand me for me and not pass judgment.
One situation epitomizes her support for me. My father was in the Navy while I was growing up, and, as a result, we moved around the country several times before high school. The frequent moves were hard on me, as I was constantly having to make new friends and enter schools where I knew no one. Naturally, I felt alienated and had nobody to talk to.
But, no matter how difficult the situation, my mother was always there for me to encourage me and help me through all the tough times.
In particular, prior to a move to San Diego just before entering middle school, I was upset about having to move for the third time in four years. Instead of telling me to be strong and "suck it up," my mother sat me down and talked to me as if she were my friend instead of a parent. It meant the world to me and eased my anxiety about the shift. Now, she is truly a friend to me and not solely a parent.
-- Tom Lawson, sports editor, Fairfax division
First off, my mother and I are very close so I have a number of very fond memories with her. But, with that said, I guess I'd have to say the best memory I have of her and I is from high school.
Let me preface this by saying that she was never an overprotective type of mom when it came to me, but she was in this instance.
When I was a senior in high school, I played quarterback and my team ran the triple-option offense, so, needless to say, I was getting pummeled almost every play.
After one game, I came home with both my shoulders wrapped in ice and a number of bruises. When I got in the door, my mother began hugging me immediately.
She said, "Seanie, Seanie, my baby. Why were they hitting and pushing you down so much out there? You didn't even have the ball and they were hitting you. That was ridiculous and unfair! I'm going to call the coach!"
Although a bit over the top, this showed me that, although my mother and I didn't always get along (who gets along with their parents at that age?), she still thought of me as her baby and still wanted to protect me. I guess that motherly instinct never leaves, no matter how old a child is.
Thanks, Mom, I love you.
-- Sean Dunn, sports reporter, Fairfax division
At one point, between my two marriages, I had lived at home. This meant there were three women under the same roof, each convinced their way was the only way to raise a child. Since none of us was even in the same book, much less on the same page, the tension and undercurrent levels matched the estrogen levels when it came to the care and feeding of Laura.
Grandmother loved discipline, respect for one's elders, church, hymns and gardening.
Mother loved children, dogs, beaches and Broadway musicals, not always in that order but always passionately.
I loved any and all kinds of protests against authority, any and all kinds of music, any and all kinds of animals and the beach.
One of the things we all had in common was that we vowed we would never make the same mistakes raising children our mothers did.
And I didn't. I made a whole new batch of mistakes, mistakes my mother and grandmother hadn't even thought of.
My brother and I spent a good part of our childhood in the house Grandfather Davis built, surrounded by the roses, gardenias and camellias my grandmother planted. Sundays after Mass we ate on the good china and silver instead of the everyday stuff, and in the dining room instead of the kitchen. This was a huge meal prepared by mother.
In the summer, the scent of my grandmother's flowers was pulled into the room by an attic fan to mix with the smell of roast beef or fried chicken.
We would probably go to the beach later that afternoon, taking the dogs with us. Grandmother hated the beach and believed no lady would appear in public half-naked.
Years later I would introduce Laura to the wonderfully messy art of building sand "boats" at the edge of the water, have a crepe Suzette served to her in the garden of a Georgetown ice cream shop when she was 6, introduce her to the songs of Joan Baez and explain the teachings of Gandhi.
These memories, along with many others of my mother, my grandmother and my daughter, are like a soothing balm, more than healing the nicks and scratches of three generations of mistakes.
-- Eileen Carlton, Life editor, Loudoun division
There was a time when I couldn't go one hour without playing baseball. I had to have a playmate, someone with whom I could play catch with constantly.
Looking back, that's probably the reason why my little brother got so involved with baseball later in life. But, at that time, he was sometimes too young to keep up with a 9-year-old's energy levelnap time was strictly enforced in my house.
So, one time when Tyler wasn't available, my mother was the recipient of endless amounts of nagging and pleading to come out and throw the ball with me. There was no appeasing me; I had to be entertained right then. I could be a very egocentric kid at times, but my mother, being the wonderful woman that she is, gave into my whining and came outside to play catch until my dad got home.
Out we went to the front yard where I threw my first pitch unexpectedly hard. Before that moment, I never understood just how hard it must have been for my 5-year-old brother to hold his own against me. I came to this realization when my mom caught the ball in the palm of her glove-hand and let out a pitiful shriek. The leather in the palm was very thin and didn't absorb the shock of a hard-thrown baseball at all.
"Ouch! Why are you being so rough? That really hurt!" she said.
I have no idea what possessed me to throw at her as hard as I could. The best I can figure is that I was trying to prove some point about how good I was. Well, regardless of what I was trying for, I succeeded in proving one thing: I could be a real jerk sometimes.
I peeked at her hand and felt truly awful when I saw how red and sore it was. There was nothing stopping her from leaving in anger and going inside.
But I was wrong. Instead of storming inside, she put her glove back on with one simple instruction, "Don't throw so hard." I agreed and proceeded to play catch with my mom until my dad came home and relieved her.
It was a small, insignificant moment, but I never forgot it. To me it showed that Mother just loved being with her kids, even after they'd take advantage of her kindness. She's a very understanding and loving woman, and I'll never stop loving her in return.
-- Adam Modzelesky, sports editor, Loudoun division
It's 6:45 a.m., and where's my mom? She's either up to her waist pulling invasive plants out of her pond, or she's single-handedly unloading a sectional couch and maneuvering it through the labyrinth of a yard she has created, which, by the way, rivals Busch Gardens. At about 5 feet 6 inches tall and I'd guess about 105 pounds, if that, she is capable of just about anything.
My mom was 16 years old when she had me. Five years later we moved from the comfort of being close to family in New Jersey to New Mexico, "The Land of Enchantment." Once there, my dad started working as a miner at Kerr McGee, a uranium mine that spawned the boom of the town of Grants.
After a few short weeks at a waitress job, my mother grew restless and knew she could do anything she wanted, including work in the uranium mines. She was hired as a miner's helper and later became an underground train operator.
It was not easy at first; women in the mines was something new, and a few of the men did not like it. They tried to make it hard on her, but through hard work she managed to earn their respect. She worked there for seven years, accident free, until the mines were shut down after the Three Mile Island nuclear incident.
My father's side of the family was in Florida, so we moved to Jensen Beach where my mother now makes a living buying and reselling things from yard sales, thrift stores or "Dumpster diving." She has literally found diamonds, really, diamonds, rolls of money, no kidding, and valuable artwork curbside.
I have had such a strong positive female role model in my mother who has done so much for me over the years. I can't begin to put into words how amazing my mom is and how much I love her.
-- Shamus Fatzinger, photo chief, Fairfax division
When my father passed away two years ago, my family was undeniably affected, my mother especially. We all dealt with the loss in our own way but my mom definitely took it the hardest. Though my parents were divorced, his death hit her like a ton of bricks. Afterward, it was as though she gave up on everything and everyone else in her life.
My mother and I have been through our share of fighting over the years but particularly after we lost the man in our lives. It was only after about six months that we were finally able to let go of the past and began to mend our relationship. I had come to the harsh realization that she is the only parent I have and I think she was realizing that, as well.
That was a year and a half ago, and my mom has made leaps and bounds since thenin her personal and spiritual life and in her relationships. She has begun to exercise again and has lost 60 pounds (she used to be a marathon runner but gave it up when she and my father started having problems). She has regained her sense of self and her confidence. She is taking better care of herself, and we are closer now than we have ever been.
I am so proud of her and amazed by all that she has made it through. I feel blessed to have the unconditional love of such a woman in my life. Happy Mother's Day, Omo!
-- Rachael Kesler, Centreville reporter, Fairfax division
My mom studied journalism at Louisiana State. After World War II broke out, like so many women of her generation, she was enlisted into a job traditionally held by men. She worked for a time as a crime reporter, sometimes going out in a squad car.
She met Erol Flynn on an assignment, the impossibly handsome rake who flirted with all the girls, including her. Then, she met my father on assignment. After the war, they moved to Washington, D.C. Dad became an editor. Mom raised six children. Now, when I call to tell her about what I'm doing, she wants to know everything. Becoming a journalist was a gift I never intended to give my mother. I know she's proud.
-- Bonnie Eaton, editor, Friday Times
To my Mom I was born;
This mighty woman I so adorn.
I admire your wisdom, courage, spirit, demeanor,
and your gentle smile;
I'm so honored to be your child.
You loved me, cared for me, I was never neglected;
You are eternally loved and infinitely respected.
I thank God for you Mom, and to you I say,
Every day is Mother's Day.
-- Calvin Ross, advertising representative, Fairfax division
Thinking of my mother, I think of unconditional love. She's always ready, willing and able to help in any way. There are a lot of examples of her supportsmall gifts for every holiday, support while I was on bed-rest pregnant with twins, caring when I was too preoccupied to notice. Yet, my mind always comes back to the quiet times and the traditions. In this go-go world, her remedy for preoccupation and stress and too little time, is ... tea.
Not Lipton in a mug at home, although we do that, too. But, once a year, we take a break from the men in the family and do high tea. High tea was started by the English in the 1700s to keep hunger at bay from breakfast to the late dinner. For the Truzinski clan, the tradition started in the early 1980s.
Planning starts weeks ahead. What kind of hats will we wear? Do we need gloves? And, the most important question, where will we go?
No matter where we go, we wear hats. My mom is definitely in charge of that part. I'm no fashion fanatic, so my mother devotes her parental energy to making sure I have a few clothing items that match current trends. And, after all, no one goes to high tea without hats, preferably new hats.
I do weigh in on questions of hat color and style, preferring wider rims and natural weaves. When the question of gloves comes up, I just do what I'm told. Fortunately, it's usually the children who have to wear gloves (whew).
My daughters have been to tea since they were 2. Even the swankiest establishments offer grilled cheese or PB&J finger sandwiches. And, they're always excited to dress up, drink caffeine and eat off fancy china. Somehow, the experience seems to bring out the elegance even in the youngest child.
Our most recent tea together was last spring at Oatlands. My mother and I went without my daughters and my sister to have a few quiet minutes of alone time. It was a nice time to talk, sip tea and nibble goodies. Afterward, we strolled through the gift shop, picking up some of Oatlands signature Calendula tea to bring home for the girls.
It was a reassuringly calm ritual in our otherwise hectic lives.
-- Pam Lettie, deputy editor, Loudoun Division
My mother, Genevieve Goles, never graduated from high school. By the time she reached her teens in the late 1920s, she was needed more at home to help care for her brothers and sisters. Home was Yonkers, N.Y.
Though she made the best homemakerand the best homemade pierogiher greatest achievement, I believe, was stressing the importance of reading as we watched her devour The New York Times every day, even listening to her read some stories out loud, including their punctuation!
Maybe my 20-year career as a copyeditor stems from her insisting that I would have won the county spelling bee if I had only known the difference between "breadth" and "breath" and that I spell out loud for her every "big" word I dared to throw around.
Today, my mother is 90 and resides in a retirement home in Gettysburg, Pa. They tell her she may have dementia. To that, she responds: "Spell it."
-- Joanne Richcreek, senior copyeditor, Fairfax division
Mother smiled at me today.
I sit beside my boyhood creek looking for her face.
I ask who is the man
Who feels he knows about sorrow.
I speak to all the quiet darkness
Of the forest.
Where have I come to?
Who is here?
What a sad cry to release from the heart.
Now I speak to all who care to hear.
I remember the quiet of childhood.
I want to unclutter myself.
Look, Motherno hands.
I can see my voice swaying
On a long stalk along the muddy bank
Its roots beginning to tear loose inside my chest.
Mother smiled at me
Through the sparkle of her ashes
Filtered through sun rays
Softly flowing with the water's rush,
-- Michael Birchenall, food critic, Weekender
One of the most vivid, and most touching, memories I have of my mother dates back to November 1963, when I was just 6 years old. I had just walked in from school, and I made my way to the kitchen where I knew my mother would be. She was sitting with her head down on the table, sobbing silently. I asked her what was wrong, and she told me the unthinkable: that President Kennedy had been shot.
Now, it's true that I was only a small child, but I understood the significance of this event even then. My parents worshiped Kennedy and had taken my two sisters and me to see him when he gave a speech in Mineola, a suburb of New York City. They spoke about him a lot, and it was as if the world had crumbled away when he died.
While my father, a school teacher, always talked of current events, my mother made sure I learned about them myself. She read everythingbooks, newspapers, magazinesand encouraged me to do the same. In addition, the radio was constantly on in the kitchen, programmed, of course, to the news.
One of our favorite things to do on a Sunday was to watch Dan Rather on 60 Minutes, as a family. I learned how to devour the newspaper, section by section and cover to cover, as a result of watching her.
I credit my Mom with my lifelong passion for the news, and interest in what is happening in the world around me. She's also the one who made me go to church, thus planting the very important seed of faith that has sustained me over the past 46 years.
-- Lise Hausrath Simmons, Reston reporter, Fairfax division
There are two things I will forever remember about my mom, Diane Melson. She is a great baker and gardener.
Every Christmas, she uses a recipe handed down for generations to make homemade fudge. My sister and I end up eating a good portion of it so she has to make double the amount. She also makes cookies and her tea ring, or "stollen," but the fudge is always the best part.
She is also a great gardener. Every year, except these last few because they just moved into a new house, she would water and feed her rose bushes religiously so they would produce the most beautiful blooms I have ever seen. I also remember her flower garden in the front of our old house being envied by all the neighbors because it was absolutely gorgeous.
As my mom helps me plan my upcoming wedding next month, I just want her to know that these little things and so many more make her the greatest mom and grandmom.
-- Krista Melson, copyeditor, Fairfax division
My mother was loving and kind, and, while being a mother in every sense of the word, she was also my best friend. She always had a supportive word or time to listen when I needed to talk.
I remember she kept the house immaculate. I felt when I was small that we were having the Better Homes and Gardens people come to photograph our house since it was so well kept at all times.
I used to think about some of the things she did. I'd tell myself that I would never say that or do that with my kids. But I am finding myself saying and doing the same thing and feeling that it is wise or good. Go figure.
I can remember one time when she made a phone call and hung up after saying sorry. She said it was a wrong number and she had told them "that's funny, that's the dial I numbered" and we would laugh and laugh. She would be doing so many things at once she would forget and put the milk in the cabinet and the sugar in the refrigerator. She always caught herself doing it and we would laugh and laugh.
She was a peacemaker, engineer, painter, hurt fixer, comforter, friend, sounding board, wise sage, encourager, gift giver, what we call these days a multi-tasker. She did it all with a smile, an uncomplaining willingness to give of her self. I could only wish to and strive to be half as good as she was.
It has been almost 20 years since she passed away and still I miss her like it was yesterday. I am thankful she was my mother.
-- Jan Katcham, sales assistant, Fairfax division
One of my favorite "mom moments" took place back in the summer of 1979, just before 8th grade. Mom, dad and I had just moved from the comfy confines of Fairfax County to Sri Lanka, a small country off the southern coast of India. The country was beautiful and the new house was great, but I had the worst bout of jet lag known to man.
For the better part of two weeks, I spent my days sleeping and my nights wide-eyed. Realizing that my world had literally turned upside down, mom decided to create our own version of Midnight Madness, starting with a couple hours of Incredible Hulk and Dragnet reruns (that's the only American programming they had in Sri Lanka), continuing with a 2 a.m. game of canasta (a South American card game) and concluding with a marathon ping pong match on the patio.
Our routine went on for five or six more weeks before my internal clock finally caught up with the country's. To this day, whenever I find myself tossing and turning at night, I think about grabbing a deck of cards, jumping in the car and heading to mom's place.
-- Steve Cahill, editor, Fairfax division
My siblings and I loved to be sick enough to stay home from school. It meant a day of chicken soup, Jello and ginger ale, of watching whatever TV shows we wanted and of long talks with Mom. It was rare to have her one on one. There were just so many of us, it seemed.
Mom isn't perfect. Her housekeeping, for instance, is something short of Martha Stewart. I remember when I was little and my dad would call to say he was bringing home a guest. Mom would yell RED ALERT, and we'd all run around and stuff all the clutter and mess into closets. This was her idea of tidying.
Mom had a short attention span when it came to cooking, too. Her homemade tomato sauce was runny, her beef stew devoid of flavor, and most meals were overcooked. She never meant to overcook them. She would just get caught up helping my brother with his homework or teaching my sister how to tie her shoes.
One of the very few times I ever knew of Mom going against my Dad's wishes was when my older brother stuck a tooth in his ear (the tooth had fallen out).
Dad wanted to have a go at it with a screwdriver, but Mom ignored him, grabbed her son and drove to the emergency room.
One cold day in January about five years ago, she called me at work to tell me that she had slipped on the ice while getting the mail and broken both her wrists. Her biggest worry was about how she was going to cook dinner for Dad. She was also concerned about being able to work the can opener to feed the dog.
Whenever I go to visit Mom with my children, she makes all of our favorite foods and fusses over making our beds and whether we're too hot or too cold.
I find that, when I am under her roof, I have to remind myself that I can get my own bowl of ice cream and that I should be doing the dishes. My siblings and I all experience it. We all fall under the intoxicating spell of Mom's nurturing.
-- Robin Earl, editor, Fauquier division
A woman with faith is stronger than a thousand men.
Keep faith and you will be the strongest woman in the world, not physically but mentally and spiritually.
This is how I see my mother. A woman with faith who has so much strength. You sacrificed so much for us to have a better life. How did you do it? Your love is unconditional and unselfish. You always stood strong and firm with us. I admire you! I adore you! for being the woman that you are. I'm proud of you for accomplishing as much as you have, doing most of it on your own. The strength of a woman.
Your baby is now a grown woman, who is soon to be a mother herself. I look to you for strength and advice on how to be the mother that you have always been to me.
You are my rock, my inspiration, MY MOTHER.
-- Samantha Ball, advertising representative, Fairfax division