My mom died a year ago but, for me, she’s more alive than ever.
My parents divorced when I was six months old. My dad just disappeared and all the responsibility of raising me was left to my mom. And for a woman during the 1950s, it wasn’t easy. She told me that finding a place to live was tough as most property owners had the policy of “no pets or children allowed.” Plus women were, and continue to be, underpaid.
The demands on my mom were tremendous. She had to somehow magically work fulltime while being a fulltime mom as well. In other words, my mom, and other moms like her, were expected to be some kind of mythological figures capable of pulling off the impossible yet, nevertheless, were treated as second-class citizens.
My mom was a survivor and there’s nothing polite about survival. She preferred anger to fear because anger puts you in motion whereas fear is an immobilizer. That’s why, unlike my mom, I never experienced hunger. Plus my mom always made sure I had my own bed and nice clothes to wear.
My mom was young, beautiful, animated. As I little girl I remember walking down Houston St with her (she liked taking me to The Manhattan for roast beef and mashed potatoes) and watching all the people who’d turn to look at her because of her beauty and because she walked like a queen—shoulders erect and head held high. Slouching for this Queen was a display of weakness.
For the condition of possibility that life had given her, my mom was amazing and accomplished so much. Instinctively she knew from an early age the importance of learning. Because knowledge is power.
My mom subscribed to every record and book club possible so I grew up a music lover and avid book reader. But my mom also insisted on my knowing how to clean, cook, and sew before leaving home. Because my mom wanted me to be an independent woman, too.
During her last hospital stay, she told me in a sad voice “Honey, I’m sorry but I’m not as strong as I used to be.” No longer able to be that independent woman she’d always been, she crumbled and began to fade away.
Many things can be said about my mom but, hopefully, she will be remembered for her courage and determination. And echoing laughter.
Single moms are so underrated and unappreciated. That’s why, on this anniversary of my mom’s death, I’d like to thank not only my mom but all the other mothers who’ve had to raise a child on their own. Women who’ve had to affront so many obstacles alone—an aloneness than can easily transform itself into loneliness, anxiety, and despair.
Ciao Toni O.