Mom, Mary, & Me


Mary Tyler Moore holds a special place in my heart.

Not Mary in the Dick Van Dyke show (though we loved here there, too). I’m talking Mary in Minneapolis. Mary in the newsroom. Mary with Rhoda. Mary in her apartment serving drinks to Lou at a Very Bad Dinner Party.

artwork my own

Mary Richards seemed to be the seventies embodiment of my mother.  Funny, kind to a fault, determined, sometimes naive–and always fashionable–Mary was like mom is so many ways. My mom before kids, working as a bank manager, rocking blonde hair and wide-leg pants, hosting cocktail parties with friends.

When I heard about Mary Tyler Moore’s passing I immediately thought of mom and my many memories of watching the Mary Tyler Moore show with her–which, I will admit is a little weird as a high school kid in the ’90s. It wasn’t like any of my peers were staying up late to watch Nick at Night reruns of a syndicated seventies sitcom with their moms.

My mom’s love for the show was contagious. I became a fan with her. In re-watching her favorite episodes (Chuckles the clown’s funeral comes to mind as one of our all-time favorites) I got a glimpse into my mom’s life as a working woman in a male-dominated workforce int he 1970s.

I‘ve long seen my mom in Mary, but it is only now that I realize my mom saw a bit of Mary in me, too. As I went off to college, graduated and moved to bigger cities in states far from home, got my first suit, my first apartment. As she watched me experiencing all the highs and lows that come with tossing your proverbial hat in the air as a single working woman. As she saw me live out some of the Mary Richards’ experiences she never had.

R.I.P. Mary Tyler Moore (1936-2017)
Photo credit: “R.I.P. Mary Tyler Moore (1936-2017)” by Brian is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Those were the part’s of Mary’s story were foreign to my mom, who married my dad at the young age of nineteen, never attended college, or lived alone in her own apartment, or navigated the dating scene. This fact was lost on me much of the time, especially as I was living those experiences. I often resented what I perceived to be my mom’s desire to project her own dreams onto me as I made questionable choices about careers, men, hairstyles.  

It’s only now with the benefit of age, and becoming a parent myself, that I get it. My mom wanted me to get every ounce out of the Mary Richards experiences that she couldn’t have. She wanted me to get it just right, to savor these freedoms that were not in her reach.

My own daughter is only four, but I already think wistfully about how I hope things will be better for her–that though I am afforded more privileges that most of the world’s women, I still dream bigger. I hope my daughter doesn’t have to demand she gets paid the same as a man for doing the same exact job. I hope, should she decide to have children, that my daughter doesn’t have to navigate a workforce still trapped in the Mad Men era.

R.I.P. Mary Tyler Moore (1936-2017)
Photo credit:” R.I.P. Mary Tyler Moore (1936-2017)” by Brian is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I can’t wait to someday introduce Mary Richards to my own daughter and tell her how much her grandmother loved the show. I’ll tell her the stories my mom told me about life in that era, where her only career encouragement was to go to typing school. How she ascended the career ladder in a male-dominated workplace, without a college degree, to become a manager in a bank. How she loved working full-time and letting the dishes pile up in the sink at home–a wild version of my mom that I caught glimpses of but never fully saw, as she lived out her life within the confines of motherhood and part-time work and breast cancer and the damn patriarchy.

Until then, I’ll stream some episodes of Mary Tyler Moore just like old times. I’ll make popcorn on the stove like my mom did. I’ll sit in the dark and laugh and cry as I watch The Mary Tyler Moore Show–this time just me, with mom and Mary in heaven.

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What Four Looks Like


Four is learning to whistle along with Peppa Pig.

Four is puppet shows and pirouettes.

Four is nonsensical knock-knock jokes and pretending to read clocks.

Four is eating pb&j, cheese sticks and cereal–all before 9AM.

Four is finding loopholes in bedtime rules.

Four is big feelings, and even bigger hugs.

Four is winning at Memory and mastering big-kid puzzles.

Four is I got it!, I know!, I can do it!, and I love you you, mama.

Four is holding on tight to fleeting 6am snuggles.

Happy birthday today to my little girl (who does not seem so little anymore). I looked at what I wrote last year and I can’t believe how much my daughter has grown. I can only begin to imagine what she will be like when I write this next year. Oh, how the time flies.

And because I’m ridiculously sentimental, thinking a lot about the birth memories I shared in The Birth(day) lessons. That nesting-pregnant-woman seems like a child compared to what I have grown into during these last four years. It is truly a joy to watch how much we grow, too, hand-in-hand with our child.

Wishing You a Very Andy Williams Christmas

Guess which Christmas song is my daughter’s favorite?

A live recording of Andy Williams performing what might be the cheesiest, grooviest  rendition of Jingle Bells that you have EVER HEARD.

Those dancers! The jazzy flutes! I cannot get enough of this song.

What makes it extra special is that this cheesy CD was a gift from my grandma many many years ago and it brings back so many good memories. My grandparents hosted a party every year on Christmas night. Grandpa and grandma raised a blended family of twelve children, enough for each day of Christmas! As you can imagine it was quite a crew of grown children, grandchildren, and any and all assorted friends who had no where else to go on Christmas (and whom my grandma welcomed with open arms).

Pretty sure my beautiful grandma is tickled pink up in heaven knowing her great-granddaughter is in love with one of her old favorites. 

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and blessings for a beautiful season and new year, however you may celebrate. 





‘His name is Bob’ and other thoughts from the three-year old.

I have a secret. 

The bee on the Honey Nut Cheerio’s box is named Bob.

According to my daughter at least, who whispered that to me this morning.

(She was close. Wikipedia says his name is Buzz.)

Another version of the chemist game. Future scientist or bartender?

This morning was a jolly romp of chasing each other to the bathroom (she won the pee-pee race in case you were wondering), snuggling under a blanket to watch Dinosaur Train, and playing chemist on the kitchen floor. My name for the game, not hers. She takes little cups of water and dumps, sorts, stirs, arranges and, when it spills (it always does) she then cleans it up. She is a weird and wonderful one, my child.

The morning ended with me frantically putting hair into lopsided pigtails because that was the best we were gonna get before she finished sorting her shoes on her play slide. I realize that statement makes no sense to anyone unless they have a three-year-old. But trust me. She wasn’t going to last beyond the shoe-sorting game. 

The pre-schooler with wild hair, in mommy’s shoes and carrying around a bird feeder. Because why not?

Yesterday I was looking through some photos of my daughter from when she was around one year old. I was searching for a picture of a friend and ended up getting distracted by this tiny version of my daughter. Her arms were SO CHUBBY it is almost too much to handle. She was sporting a band-aid even then. (Always with the boo-boos from some kind of raucous adventure.) She had an intense look on her face, highly suspect of you taking her photo.

Oh but to breathe in the smell of that baby 15-month-old’s hair.

I cannot help but sound like an elderly aunt: I cannot believe how fast you have grown. 

All I can do is stay present to what she is right now. To her lip with dried yogurt, her feet in my way-too-large shoes, and her little whispers to me about Bob, the Honey Nut Cheerios bee. 

Do you have a kids who are growing way too fast? Isn’t it just astounding?





My Daughter’s Brand of Magic


It doesn’t seem to matter what stage my daughter is at. I often look at her with wonder and think, there is no way I will ever forget this.

But then she evolves and I struggle to remember. What exactly was she like at two years old? That other version of her fades away and the person who she is right now is front and center, stealing the show. Sure, I remember in broad strokes what she was like at two (there was a lot of climbing…) but the details of her brand of magic at that age seem so fuzzy.

Image source

Right now my daughter is 3 1/2. She still says “Lello” (yellow), yesterday asked for a “lollyplop” (aww!!) and would prefer being naked to anything else. I have a hunch this won’t last forever.

All I can do is stay present to it all. Soak in her little whispers (‘Mommy, let’s pretend to be an alligator and get daddy!’) and try not to laugh when she stands, pouting, arms crossed, imploring “I want a Pogistle (popsicle) right now!”

You now the old adage, this too shall pass? Well I tend to like that saying when life is craptastic. But when life is lovely and joyous and maketh my heart overfloweth, well, it seems more than a tad unfair. photo-1460176449511-ff5fc8e64c35.jpeg

Nevermind. This version of her magic will blend in the background when the new one emerges. And I certainly wouldn’t want to miss that.

Do you have any tricks for remembering the magic?  Please feel free to share below or on Twitter orFacebook.





My mother’s slippers

They were slim and satin. She kept them next to her bed, or on cold days next to the heat vent. When we went Christmas shopping together, in between buying gifts for others she would stop by the racks of ladies’ slippers at Hudson’s Department store. This was a long time ago, before it became Macy’s. She would pick them out for herself and then wrap them with all the other presents, feigning surprise when she opened them on Christmas.

They were usually white or ivory, sometimes made of cotton or terry cloth, but always Isotoner Signature Women’s ballerina with the suede sole. In the later years she wore a white satin pair that would turn to gray, despite my father’s efforts to keep them white. (Nobody could do laundry like my mother. It was an art and science. Without her at the helm, we no longer had special containers going at all times dedicated to pre-soaks and stain removal.)

Her feet changed in these slippers. From strong and fast to warped and curled.1m7ZhI3

She carried the slippers with her hot tea and settled into them both at the end of a long day spent tending to others. She would tuck her feet under her legs, her legs under an afghan. I can see her, scooting over on the couch, a small sweet in her hand (chocolate or perhaps a cookie she unearthed from the freezer). She would look at me and say, Oh honey let me make some room for you. (As though her tall slender body was taking up too much space.)  And after I joined her on the couch, she would tuck in my feet under the blanket, too.

When she died, my sister took possession of mom’s slippers. I was relieved. I could not bear to see them, but it made me glad to know my mother’s slippers were still tending to toes, once again keeping strong feet warm under a blanket.



Taking the Long View

Grief is seriously unreasonable sometimes.

Last night I found myself getting annoyed with the photos I took in my teenage/twenty-something-years. And no, it wasn’t because of my fashion choices, though some of those were suspect. (Hello high-waist jeans and flannel shirts.)  I am talking about the subjects of these photos, or lack thereof.

So very few of these photos include my mom.

There are countless pictures of high school shenanigans. And don’t get me started on my twenties. My twenties were basically a series of pictures of cats. (Those years were rough.)

Gosh, I wish I had taken more photos of my cat.

 But my mom? There were hardly any photos of my mom. Hello, how could I have not known that those would be the last few years she would be healthy and vibrant?!

Heck, I would even be happy with some mom-daughter selfies. That’s right, I was pining for some way up close, slightly-blurry photos of me and my mom hamming for the camera.

But let’s be real: even if I had been taking selfies in my early-twenties I doubt that many would have included my mom. There would have been a series of Sarah plus cat selfies, and Sarah plus questionable-choice-of-boyfriend selfies, and on and on.

I get it: hindsight is 20/20. Plus, your teens and twenties are supposed to be egocentric. You are focused on your own development outside of your little family unit. This is good. This is healthy.

I realize what I am asking of myself is unreasonable. But grief is unreasonable sometimes, isn’t it? 

So there I was, stewing over these photo albums, when I remembered a photo I recently came across. It’s a picture of my parents with some friends at the beach, probably taken in the early ’70s. They are maybe twenty-two, twenty-three years old, and they look ridiculous. (Dad, is that a perm? ) And I am just going to say it: my mom looks smoking hot. She is wearing ultra-short cut-off denim shorts and her hair is long and flow-y and (out of a bottle) blonde. She looks amazing.

This picture is the epitome of youth.

It dawned on me that these photos of me, these silly ridiculous photos of me goofing around with friends, wearing my chucks and flannels and dark lipstick—these photos hold value that I can’t see with my griefy-eyes.

These are photos of a mom, just not the mom I was looking for last night.

Someday my own daughter will certainly laugh, and possibly even treasure, these albums.* And yes, I will too, when I am not looking past them in search of something else.

Sometimes you just need to take the long view of things.

*Except for those cat photos. Not sure anyone will ever treasure all those cat photos. 

If you can relate to the struggle of never having enough photos of you and your late parent, I’d love to hear your experience too.

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