happy birthday dottie

Dottie portrait

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
table-pounding aphorisms.
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.
This woman,
my mother,
and crone,
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!


11 thoughts on “happy birthday dottie

  1. Hillary Shemin says:

    You captured her and shared her well in this short post. I think we were both quite fortunate to have the mothers we had. Thank you for posting the Deb! Happy Birthday to Dottie! Great honor to her memory!

  2. Fran Flanagan says:

    Deb, that was a lovely tribute! I’m sure Mom is saying now – yes indeed, that’s my only chick!

    Sent from my iPad


  3. Nadine Simms says:

    Hey Deb:
    Very well done. Can’t believe the time has flown. she was remarkable and left a special mark in everyone who had the pleasure of knowing her. Her legacy (you) is also remarkable!

  4. Katy says:

    Very enveloping description of a woman who defied stereotypes!

  5. ccmasney@comcast.net says:

    It was such a thrill to again read your poem about your mother. What wonderful memories of a remarkable woman.  We all have good times and very special moments to remember. Thanks, Debbie, for sharing Dottie! Love, Cece

  6. Pat Carney-Dalton says:

    She was one of a kind–and the mold was broken after she was born. When I think of her– at the poetry workshops and readings, I always smile. She has left behind many good memories for a lot of people! Pat

  7. I miss Dottie – she was such a lovely woman. I loved talking with her. We had many good times and as said above special moments that I will always cherish. Thank you Debbie for putting this lovely tribute together.

  8. Leslie Shuman says:

    Yes, you surely did capture your wonderful Mom in your poem. She had a tremendous impact upon my life and I will be forever grateful to her. Thank you for sharing her with me.

  9. Loretta Shatt says:

    Dottie was truely one of a kind and I will always think of her fondly. She, and you, meant a lot to me during the hard times and the good times of my life, always to be remembered with affection, love and laughter. Thank you for this Debbie.

  10. kyleann says:

    I was always inspired by her spirit and continue to be . . . . I enjoyed you poem – it’s my first reading:)

  11. Karen says:

    That was wonderful! It was nice to learn some new details about your mom and dad! Your mom’s birthday was the day before my mom’s birthday! How ironic!

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