May 9 is my mother’s birthday. I miss her, but in a warm, good way — far from debilitating grief. She had a long, healthy, and fascinating life. It’s almost four years now that she died at the age of 97. I think this portrait was taken in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s when she was working for Walden Book Company in Harrisburg, PA.
She and my father met at WKBO radio station in Harrisburg in 1939 when my father was adapting and producing Shakespeare plays for the radio. (I still have these adaptations stored away safely in my basement.)
She and my Dad married in 1939 and moved from Harrisburg to Shippensburg in 1947 when he was offered a job at Shippensburg State Teachers College, as it was known then. I was born in 1948.
Her name was Dorothy, and she studied music (voice and piano) in NYC. Music was an important part of her life wherever she went, whether it was singing in the Bach Choir, playing a church organ, accompanying vocalists on the piano, or teaching piano lessons. She was highly regarded as a piano teacher in Shippensburg and had many students. Teaching piano enabled her to be a stay at home mom and also supplemented my father’s meager teaching salary.
Dottie was a woman’s libber before it became vogue. She became involved with United Presbyterian Women on the national level because she believed strongly in social action. She did workshops nationally in peace, justice, and the environment.
She also ran for mayor in Shippensburg; she did not win, but she did make a statement!
Most of all she was an amazing mother. We were friends as well as mother and daughter. She believed in nurturing independence, and then lived long enough to regret it!
I wrote this tongue in cheek poem about her in 2001.
She calls herself the Crone who cannot be cloned,
but I see her as the mother who cannot be cloned.
Her DNA string is very twisted —
just like her sense of humor
and ability to look at issues askance.
Just give her a martini, (don’t forget the olives)
and watch the alcohol convert into
The only way to silence her is with a swift kick —
(under the table, mind you!)
Her daily NYTimes and weekly New Yorker
sate her crone-ish appetite and give fuel to her pen.
She complains loudly that NYTimes crossword puzzle editor,
Will Shortz, has no scruples.
knows everything about anything,
and anything about everything.
Her ceaseless appetite for the written word
has left her sneezing amidst printer’s ink!
Dottie leaves a paper trail, which, she claims,
is well organized.
But just ask her for something,
and she will find it. . . . by accident,
at a future moment.
She is mechanically challenged — and proud of it!
It is a crone-omedy of errors to watch her operate
the microwave oven, her TV clicker,
and thermostat — not to mention using the car radio
controls to work the air conditioning.
Her style is unique.
As my mother,
she liberated me at an early age,
and has lived long enough to regret it!
She frets and worries about “her only chick,”
She is a true crone;
a wise woman who has earned her berth
by living the stages, preceding cronehood,
to the ultimate.
As my friend, I know she is my protector, supporter, and champion.
Long Live Crone Dottie!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!