My mother loved getting greeting cards. Preferred them to gifts, (almost). They filled her drawers and lined her etagere for decades. And she craved the schmaltz: the syrupy language pre-printed on each— even knowing full well the words weren’t ours. (We’d add text, of course, but that was for better shelf placement…that’s all). So she loved Mother’s Day, ‘cause it was the one day each year she’d (no pun intended), hear what she wanted to.

Six decades we had her. Two sons… sharing a lady that had married young, would die old, and along the way sandwich three husbands between years of insecurity, health issues and …

“Who’s the one who tied your shoe when you were young
And knew just when to come to see what you had done?
Mama, oh mama…”

“What’d ya do now, Bruce?” she would say, never quite getting mad. Those were halcyon days, and whether it was spilled milk or torn clothes, there was no crying.

My first ten years may have been her best—as a mother at least. In the 50’s her husband ran but she walked: to Lakeview for my first haircut, to Chesterfield for my first school day, and on one scary night, down Hopkins Avenue to the Rubins, where my brother’d been in a garage fire.

“…And who’s the one you didn’t need to plead
To give you rides to the little league?…”

She did all the driving back then. In the days pre-GPS she found McFarland Field, the Riviera Swim Club, and Euclid Beach. That’s what moms did back then, and she was there. She feared when I caught, worried when I swam, and when he hit the amusement parks it was always the same: “You hold your brother’s hand,” she’d remind.

“…And who’s the one who gave her shoulder
When you told her your first love was over – she had met another?
Mama, mama…”

It was ’72, and away in the army, the Jersey Girl went on hiatus. Engagement broken, I hogged the post phone booth, calling both parents. My Dad was hurt, like it happened to him. But not my mother? She was pissed. Angry! It was years before she let go: 30.

“…And who’s the one who held a tear inside
When you introduced Michael’s future bride?
And who’s the one who didn’t mean to cry
As he walked the aisle — the tears you saw her smile…”

She was ill by the time the kids were coupling. Tired. Her last hurrah, perhaps…the mental snapshot that I carry is from Michael’s wedding.

It was Great Neck, New York, an elegant shul, and dressed to the nines, after being wheeled down by a son, she sat front and center staring at the other son, AND HIS SON, under the chuppah.

I faced out that night, and saw it all.

Standing there: listening to the rabbi, thinking about Michael…and Meredith…and Yes, all the shoulddas, woulddas and coulddas of the past thirty years, I looked out and saw one proud Elaine Delores Bogart Lerner (Turner)…

Front and center.
Eyes glued on the process.

She was as happy as I’d seen her in decades. Like it was 1959 again.

And Mother’s Day.

Lyrics adapted from B.J. Thomas

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