"Mom" - the word evokes so many emotions ~ of warmth, comfort, love, and home. Mom gave us life, and nursed us back to health when we had measles, mumps, chicken pox, and when we came home with scrapes and bruises from the playground, or when it was our egos that needed mending. She lovingly gave good advice, help and assistance when needed.
Motherhood is a lifetime labor of love, and Mom was always there for us (literally). She gave up her career as secretary to become a full time mom and homemaker. As we grew, she nourished our mind, body and soul ~ all while keeping a clean house, doing the laundry, and cooking homemade meals every night to enjoy as a family at the dinner table ~ where we all talked about our day. Mom baked us homemade cookies to have with a glass of milk after school, made blueberry or bran muffins for breakfast, delicious pies, cakes, and other goodies for dessert. She made us eat salad every night, which we all enjoyed ~ especially when it contained fresh produce from our Dad's garden. We also ate a lot of fruit - one of Mom's favorite foods throughout her life. Mom was totally dedicated to taking care of her family.
She attended our school events, made sure we did our homework and sometimes helped us with it. She helped me with many writing assignments, even in college! Mom was proud of all our achievements and accomplishments. She volunteered at the school, church, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, and other organizations we belonged to. She went to baseball and softball practices, lending a hand and toting equipment. Mom held parties and get-togethers once in a while, with a birthday bash now and then that included decorations, party invitations, homemade games, friends, music, and a cake she lovingly baked. During these parties she would let us eat potato chips and drink soda, a real treat! Our Mom always worked hard, and put in her very best effort in everything she did. Both she and my Dad were great role models.
Mom hosted every holiday and occasion at our house, decorating, and cooking several courses of food, always setting a beautiful table, keeping glasses full, brewing fresh coffee to have with dessert, and inviting relatives to share in the celebration. She never missed a holiday, and was always the perfect hostess. On New Year's Eve, she and my Dad loved to dress up and go out to celebrate and dance. This was one of the rare occasions she would spend time alone with just my Dad, welcoming in the New year. Her mother used to babysit us on this night ~ we always looked forward to grandma Cerra making us high balls to drink, and playing cards with us.
I do not know very much of my mother's life before my existence, but I do know that she traveled to the Jersey shore with her own family, and this instilled in her a love of the ocean that lasted throughout her lifetime. And even though she was an only child, she grew up surrounded by droves of aunts, uncles, and cousins, and never really felt alone.
Our Mom was a mom for all seasons ~ she encouraged us to go out and play ball, roller skate or ride our bikes when the weather was nice, or sit and read a book (from the library) on the covered back porch on a rainy day. In the winter, we would go ice skating as a family on the frozen lakes within driving distance of where we lived. There were always games and cards to play, record albums to listen to on her big stereo system, books to read, or sometimes we would watch a movie or show on TV together as a family. And on weekends in the summer, the time we spent at Promised Land State Park's lovely mountain lake provided many childhood memories and further strengthened our family bonds. Stopping for soft serve ice cream on the drive home was always a treat we looked forward to.
Mom would sew our clothes, including bikinis as we grew, and gowns for every occasion ~ Junior proms, Senior proms, Christmas Balls, and other gala occasions. She made many of her own clothes over the years too, and was an expert seamstress. Her sewing machine was a prized possession. She tried to pass these skills onto her daughters, but we had no interest in learning (that was Mom's realm). Mom believed in a good education, even for her daughters. My parents were far from rich, but put their money where their beliefs were - having us all attend Catholic schools growing up, then attending college, which enabled us to all have professional careers of our own. My parents always believed in decency, in treating others with respect, kindness and compassion ~ the same way you would want to be treated yourself. They instilled in us these same values, mostly by example. We never had material wealth, but our lives growing up were rich beyond measure. We never felt deprived of anything. Mom was very frugal, and could make a nickel stretch to a dollar! She planned our car trips to the Jersey shore, Cape Cod, Mystic Seaport, Niagara Falls, Howe's Caverns, New York City and many other adventurous places within driving distance (Mom didn't like to fly). She believed in expanding our horizons, and we all grew up to love traveling because of it.
Mom had such a powerful effect on our lives, being our first and best role model, that my sister and I both gave up our careers to become homemakers and raise our own children. We followed in her footsteps, choosing this life for ourselves and our own families.
When we were all grown and on our own, Mom and Dad spent weeks at a time traveling across our country to visit the National Parks and many beautiful landmarks and cities in the USA. Mom was very patriotic, and loved sporting red, white, and blue in her fashion and decor. She nursed our Dad through the recovery of two open heart surgeries. She greatly enjoyed making homemade crafts and decorations, such as wreaths (which still grace our front door). She loved painting, doing cross-stitch and every other creative endeavor imaginable. She became a prolific artisan crafter and as she had more time to herself, her creativity had no bounds ~ she was very gifted artistically. She had a great eye for color, and always made tasteful decor both for her own house and ours. Her homemade cards were heartfelt and unique to each person, which made us feel very special. Mom was a voracious reader, and the library became one of her favorite places to go, especially after Dad died. She always had a curious mind, right up until the day she died, and she passed on this attribute to all of us. When she became a grandma, she threw herself into this new role with the same vim and vigor as when she raised her own kids. She was always there to lend a helping hand with the grandchildren ~ from helping to raise my oldest son, to babysitting whenever it was required, to giving advice when the kids were sick or cranky, to playing indoors and outdoors with them, to sewing their many Halloween costumes over the years, to attending school events and concerts, to celebrating holidays with us, to providing the extra love and support that every kid should have growing up. She was the perfect grandma.
My brother gave Mom an iPad several years ago, then a newer version just recently. Move loved her iPad; she sewed a special cover for it, and took it everywhere she went! At home, it was always within arm's reach. She listened to music on it, took photos, looked up everything and anything, and checked out e-books from the local library. She emailed and learned how to autopay her bills online. She had trouble using cell phones, but never had trouble using her iPad. It opened up the whole world to her, and she loved having all the resources of the library plus more, right at her fingertips - without ever having to leave home. She listened to audio books and podcasts in bed to help her fall asleep. The iPad was literally a constant, reliable companion to her. My brother had given her the perfect gift.
For Mom, family always came first. Our close knit family ties enabled us to overcome all of life's many challenges ~ from illnesses to the deaths of our loved ones. She unconsciously taught us persistence, perseverance, and fortitude. She had a quiet strength and character that we all inherited.
In the years after our Dad died, our roles were reversed and it was our Mom who needed the love, help, and support of her family. We tried - always - to be there for her, just as she had always been there for us. She has given us so much. Mom has left her children and grandchildren with a lifetime of memories, which we are grateful for and will cherish for the rest of our lives. She will always be with us and in our hearts forever. Thank you Mom.