My emotions were mixed today, heading out to the annual Montrose School Mother Daughter Brunch. I was proud that my baby girl Emma would be leading the crowd in prayer as the Senior Class President but also sad that this would be my last time attending this lovely, memorable event. I was also quite nostalgic thinking of past bunches which I attended with both my girls and my beloved mother. As a family centered school, Montrose welcomes grandmothers to this elegant and intimate affair and Mom loved coming along with the girls and me over the years. It would be hard to attend without her this year.
The morning unfolded like a gentle flower. I experienced the love and support of long time friends who have known Mom and understood the depth of my pain. Despite the difficulty, it was good to be among this group of happy and holy women. Sometimes we have to push ourselves to do things that are tough, especially when we don’t feel like it. Mom lived this truth and thus I had no choice but to follow her incredible example on such a special day in Emma’s senior year.
Our Head of School always gives a talk to the girls and mothers at this event which makes me especially grateful to have found this wonderful school. Today was no exception. Dr. Bohlin recounted a story about her mom driving carpool in her bathrobe and curlers when she and her sister were in high school. To the giggles of the girls in the room she shared “My sister and I were so embarrassed that our mom wore her bathrobe in the carpool. We decided we had to give her a makeover so we scoured the basement for old photos. What we found astonished us. Our mom was a fashion beauty in the 1940’s – so stylish. The more photos we went through, the more we realized that our mom was a person, a real lady who was so much more than the woman in the bathrobe on carpool mornings.” Her talk went on to give more details of her mom’s deep faith and willingness to share it with everyone. Then Dr. Bohlin turned to the Montrose girls saying “Girls, your moms give you so much. Take time to get to know them before they were moms. Take time to realize how much they love you. Cherish the stories about their early lives – ask your grandmothers to share their stories, they are the greatest gifts you will receive.”
By the end of Dr. Bohlin’s talk I was having a hard time keeping the tears in check, but I didn’t care. I was grateful for the wonderful memories of my incredible, loving and faithful mother who would have enjoyed this gathering.
As I departed the brunch, I called Dad to share the loveliness of the morning with him. He was excited to share something with me. “Jen – you’ll never guess what I received in the mail – a photo of your mom from high school in her cheerleader outfit.” Wow, I thought – what a coincidence. We talked for a while about the photo, her long blond hair and her youthful smile. I drove home thinking of my mom at the age of 17 (Emma’s age) as a high school cheerleader. What a happy ride.
This conversation with Dad reminded me of something else Dr. Bohlin said “remember your mother as a person before she was a mom.” I recounted the story to Emma about Nona and Papa’s first date. “Do you know where they went and what Nona wore?” I said. “It was a Bruins game and she wore heels, a dress and a faux fur.” I laughed out loud thinking of the scene and of her signature style – evident at only 21 on her first date with Papa.
Mom was a stylish, classy young woman full of life, dreams and hopes before she was our mom. She was a professional nurse, Papa’s girlfriend – then his beloved wife. They went to dinner, met friends and had a life that was lively and fun. Then she became our mother and she put herself second, so we could be first. She took care of our needs and most importantly our souls. She wanted to make sure she passed on her Catholic faith – a faith that was so important to her – so that we may have the promise of eternal life.
Mom drove carpools – perhaps in her bathrobe. But tonight I remember her as Joanie – a young woman who loved to cheer in high school and wear high heels to Bruins games. May we all look beyond the veil that clouds our site to clearly see our mothers for the incredible women that they are!
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