I miss my mom. A lot. So, I want to write about my mom. But I could never, ever, confine that to a “post”…never just one. She is too big a person – even at 5 foot tall. My mom is the most powerful tour de force I have ever met. She deserves chapters. And so I will bring them to her…just give me some time. It’s hard to write about her and do it any justice so I’ll post this and keep trying here and there to share her with you all. Everyone should have my mom in his or her life. She is….quite plainly put – formidable.
Growing up, my mom loved the Beatle song “YESTERDAY” so I must embed it for you hear to set the right mood. Please enjoy.
My mother was a survivor of the occupation of Nazis in Russia. She is a survivor in every way. She taught me a little bit about that. But only a little bit, as she really never wanted me to feel any pain. Hence my wimpiness. But who could blame her. I used to ask her as a child why that was fair. That I too should experience something bad. I just knew something bad was going to happen to me. But, she always said she had seen enough pain for everyone else around.
My mom has a heavy accent. She sort of works the whole I am a former ballerina vibe but she kind of looks like Frieda Kahlo in some moments. She has pitch black – I mean Mortitia black long long hair that as far back as I recall was worn all the way down her back in a thick ponytail. No one I knew had a mom with long self-dyed hair. No one had a mom who had an accent. No one I knew had a mom who spoke 8 languages either. And by the way, corrected my English all the time.
Yes, my mom is very smart. She is a prolific reader – especially of her beloved New Yorker Magazine. She used to set out a towel on the grass with her New Yorker and yet another towel over her to take a nap. She would say to me “If I had a million dollars, I would take a nap.” Apparently her mom used to say that to her. The meaning escaped me since we were not millionaires and here she was…napping? She taught me all about napping indeed. And to this day I remain a power napper.
My mom – although tiny – loves large accessories. Mostly hats. She said she was a mushroom in a former life. She wore huge, huge hats – very dramatic. The bigger and more interesting the better. My father – who shall have his own more dignified chapter herein (he wears ascots…) has even painted her as his muse repeatedly and in his paintings she is often sporting a hat. (I shall post photos of those in another posting about him. Stay tuned.)
My mother taught me about true love. She loves me like no other person ever will. As a child, I was moved that she held my head if I puked. I was particularly touched when I had my wisdom teeth out and feel asleep on our couch after surgery and woke to find her tiny body perched half on the edge of that couch and half (really just the bottom of her legs) on some uncomfortable chair she had pulled up so as to sleep right next to me if I needed her. I was young but old enough to realize that this woman would make herself uncomfortable as all hell, just so I could be comfortable. I realized the depth of her love in that moment.
I try to be the mom that my mother was – but I fail miserably in comparison. There is no one who could be such a mother. She would shop with me — but only devoting all her attention to me in our famous trips to Loehmanns. (In the day it was the very best shopping for every designer). She taught me all about fashion – high fashion in that back room of Loehmanns. She taught me how to smell out a designer brand from the clothing and the quality and not the labels – they were all cut out of the clothes in the old Loehmanns. She taught me how to find a bargain. She taught me a great love of beautiful things.
You could say…she spoiled me. She ruined me for the harshness of true life. By trying to shelter me from her own pain and giving me so much love she really made me kind of soft. I have still been trying to recover from it my whole life – never understanding how harsh life is compared to the greatness of her fierce love. She woke me in the morning crawling in bed next to me making up names for me in a sort of Russian voice “Luchenkin…Karapuchinkin….” She scratched my back and said I would marry the first person who ever did so. How ironic that my husband never scratches my back. My daughter does when she wants something from me!!!
My mom could also cook. Not some fancy Giada thing. But whatever she made was amazing. Egg on the Island – with lots of butter (if you want recipe just ask). The best chicken in wine cream sauce with green noodles (craving it now as I write this….) Her favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. She feels so grateful for the United States and the freedom this country afforded her. She feels really happy to be American. And Thanksgiving was almost a religious experience in our home. Since we were never people of great spirituality, Thanksgiving – a representative of Thanks was huge for me. I loved the celebratory aspect to it. She would get up super early and cook all day long. I would hang out in the kitchen to “help”, smelling all the yummy different things she would make and snacking all day on the turkey neck. The homemade soup. She made it at point to invite anyone who didn’t have a place to go. I loved that welcoming. So no one had to be alone. Imagine my surprise as an adult when other people are not so welcoming.
My mom has radar. Seriously she could find me anywhere. When I was younger, and visited her home and brought a friend and we went out shopping. My friend still tells the story of that day — every store we went to I seemed to get paged by my mom. “Karenoia, please come to the register, you have a phone call”. We never told my mother where we were going so my friend was amazed at her resourcefulness. Her ability to sniff me out and anticipate my location. She was like a walking GPS system.
Don’t ever expect a short phone call or story from my mom. Oh no. She will have to take you back in time to the very inception of the origin of the evolution of birth of of the past of the story and who is who and how they knew each other and…. (Does this seem to be genetic…whoops!!!)? And her voicemail messages – long, long, long – telling me in her accent how inappropriate my outgoing message was, how unprofessional…and once leaving me a long message on why I should not use spray deodorant.
The most important thing I think my mom taught me was to “fake it”. In law school, my best friend was a very wonderful guy who had lost his mother only weeks before exams and I had brought him home to my parents to study for exams. He was lost and hopeless and alone. He was also struggling with coming out of the closet. It was a very had time for my dear friend. My mother would make us snacks and bring us treats and meals to nourish us during our studies. She shopped and brought croissants and the best cookies all to cheer us up along the way. We didn’t worry about shopping or laundry or anything as she fully supported our studying. It was so nurturing and wonderful. My mother was helping my friend by being a bit of a mother for him too.
That week, one night during studying I had a very bad moment (my first and perhaps only anxiety attack ever) when I realized I had an exam in the morning and had no idea what the course was even about. How I could’ve been in that class for six months and completely clueless had somehow evaded me. That night, when I was freaking out, I went to her to say, “mom, I am going to fail…. what do I do?”
The possibility of failure and the humiliation were fueling my anxieties beyond belief. My mother looked at me flatly and said – “You are an actress. Fake it.” I said, “Mom how can I possibly fake it, I don’t know the answers.” She said, “Trust me. Just fake it.”
I did. And guess what…. I passed the exam no problem. And I learned from the moment on to fake it until it becomes your reality. It was my mantra every step of the way in front of every jury I have ever tried a case. Inside shaking and quaking with fear but poker face and faking confidence on the outside. She taught me to hold my head high like a ballerina speak loudly and clearly and look people in the eyes. She taught me the tools to fake it. This one little life lesson has been amazing in every department of my life. “Just fake it.” Thank you mom.