The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 10, 2002

Features

Men at the Mosquito share their thoughts on Mother's day

Long-time members of the Mosquito staff remember their mothers and their early years, growing up in the 30's, 40's and 50s. By chance, they all grew up in New York City.

Bob Rothenberg writes. . .

Sylvia Rothenberg
I'm sure it wasn't a conscious sense of appreciation that motivated my sisters and me to create Mother's Day cards that would make Mom beam with joy. As kids, we looked forward to Mother's Day mainly because we knew Dad's gift would be a big, heart-shaped box of chocolates. If Mom heaped praises on our cards, which of course she always did, that just made the day extra special. I guess you could say we usurped the attention and the honor of the day ­ as kids are wont to do.

Thirty-five years or so later, awestruck at the energy and dedication which my wife put into her role as mother to our own kids, I finally and fully appreciated the responsibilities of motherhood and the gifts of my own mother. Who knew that mothers did so much, gave so much, protected, and taught and loved so much?

It's unfair and unfortunate that true feelings of appreciation are rarely expressed by a son to his mother until so late in life. I've been blessed with the most wonderful of mothers, who to this day (at age 86) is as giving and loving and supportive as ever. In fact, "giving" defines her as a person and as a mother. She has always given her love, her time, her advice, and her praise ­ and always with grace and dignity and sincerity. She even gave us kids most of her Mother's Day chocolates!

(Bob Rothenberg is the Forum editor for the Mosquito.)

Hal Shneider writes . . .

Frannie Shneider
My sister Sylvia and I grew up during the Depression, in the '30s.

We lived in N.Y.C. but moved to Harrison, N.Y., when I was 13. Harrison is in Westchester County, about 25 miles north of N.Y.C., and was considered "the country". It was about the size, then, that Concord is, today. We moved there because our father bought a hand laundry in the town. The laundry was labor-intensive and father, William, usually worked about 11 hours a day, six days a week, with mother, Fannie, by his side.

They wanted my sister and me to have a college education, so that we would not have the tough life that they had in Eastern Europe.

Our mother was always tired from the long hours she put in the store. She would get home about 5 o'clock and prepare dinner for us. I would carry down my father's to the store. Syl would help with dishes, but the only time we had to talk with mother was during supper time. Afterwards she insisted that we do our homework.

We never vacationed because of the store, but occasionally we would go to nearby Rye Beach and Playland amusement park on Sundays.

Starting college in the late '30s, Sylvia went to New York University, thus using all the college money my folks could afford. I had to find a free college and took the competitive entrance exam for Cooper Union. Fortunately, I passed.

Since we lived in "the country," every Sunday, during the summer, some relatives from N.Y.C. would come to visit, and mother would spend every minute she could spare, cooking for the company. She was happy to see them, but was happy when the summer was over.

My mother had been a fine seamstress before she married, and we always had a Singer treadle sewing machine. I was mechanically inclined so she taught me all about the sewing machine and to this day I always shorten my own pants, dungarees and pajamas on our own sewing machine.

Mother's Day was started in Philadelphia on May 10, 1908 and was declared a national holiday on May 18, 1914. On Mother's Day Sis and I would scrape together all the nickels, dimes and quarters we had, plus some additional money from our father, and buy our mother a small gift.

Thinking back, I never showed my mother the appreciation she deserved. She died on Mother's Day in 1984.

(Hal Shneider is part of the production team at the Mosquito.)

Rik Pierce writes . . .

Ellen Pierce reads to Ricky
When I was a youngster living at home in the outskirts of Pittsburgh, my mother made certain that both my father and I should NOT get her anything for Mother's Day. "This is just one of those holidays that Hallmark Cards invented," she liked to say. "Like Valentine's Day." So Mother's Day was neglected every year. She knew that we didn't have to have a calendar date to express our love and appreciation for her.

But as I look back now, I wonder if either Dad or I ever thought to do that special little surprise Mother's Day thing on some other day. I don't believe so. What did we do to express our love and appreciation? I can remember long afternoons in the summer watching the Brooklyn Dodgers on our little TV. Mom would be ironing until she heard the crack of the bat. Then she'd lift the iron, look up and give a little groan or holler, and so would I. I don't know which of us pulled the other into becoming baseball fans first, and then Dodger fans, but we both were quite serious about it.

Evenings she'd read to me, and then not many years later she let me read to her. I recall very few rules that she set down to guide me. When I was much younger, four or five, we lived in a small walk-up apartment at 64 East End Avenue. Mom would spend many days explaining about traffic lights and automobile traffic. Once she was certain that I understood, I had the run of the city by myself. This was in the 40s and my father was in the Philippines fighting the Japanese, while at home all I had to be careful of was crossing on the green. One day I lost my sense of direction and kept walking until I'd crossed Central Park into the West Side. I really didn't know where I was. A lady asked me if I was lost, and I told her that I lived at 64 East End Avenue. "My Goodness! That's all the way across town," she said. "Now, here's a nickel for the bus. You take that crosstown bus there and get off at 1st Ave." On the way home I witnessed a little fender bender accident, but to me it was momentous, and when I arrived back home I had a wealth of adventures to tell Mom. Bless her, she wasn't angry or upset. She joined in with my excitement and told me how generous the woman was to give me bus fare.

Another time Mom was visiting someone in the same building leaving me alone in our apartment. She got a phone call from another neighbor saying she thought I was throwing things out the window. Mom came running up into the kitchen to find me carefully dropping the silverware out the window listening to the clatter below. I don't remember this. It's a family story. Mom says all she could think was that she imagined it must have been fun.

In the years we lived in Pittsburgh, Mom had grown fond of her garden and participating in the local "Little Lake Theatre" where she played many a "grande dame." In her garden she planted the few vegetables she was willing to eat. We had corn and peas and a bed of asparagus. But it was the daffodils she'd plant every year at the edge of the wooded boundary that really made her the happiest. Every spring, when the yellow bells showed their faces, she was in heaven.

Years later when I was in college, my mother said to me that she didn't know if she had "raised me right." I think maybe she was concerned about what seemed to be a lack of structure and discipline. I managed to tell her that I thought they had been great parents. I don't really know how they did it. I don't think they knew either. I wish she were still here. If she were, to heck with what she says about Mother's Day, I'd go to Kabloom and get her a big bunch of daffodils this Sunday.

(Rik Pierce is a photographer for the Mosquito and the webmaster.)


2002 The Carlisle Mosquito