published Friday, May 11th, 2012

Leber: Memories for Mother's Day

I will not have the opportunity to spend this Sunday with my mother, as Chattanooga is a little farther than a hop, skip and a jump from New York. So as a small contribution, because she's not an easy woman for whom to shop, I've been musing on a few fond memories.

1) Holiday letters. Once upon a time, we knew a family who used to send us one of those drippy Christmas letters every year (unless you are a professional writer, please avoid these). Mom used to give dramatic readings of the letters, which included updates on their children's' health. I'm sure it was something the parents found interesting. I just remember being on the floor of my parents' room, laughing so hard I choked. Similarly, we had a High Holy Days tradition of staging a private family mocking of the rabbi's rather pedantic sermoning style, which resulted in the same sorts of hysterics.

2) Nature walks. When I graduated from college in 2002, my mother took me for a long weekend at a lovely health spa in Massachusetts. One morning, we woke up extra early to join a nature hike. As neither of us is particularly "zen," we glanced a bit uncomfortably at each other when the group leader paused to engage in some yoga/martial arts movements. "Cradle your ball of chi," the leader instructed. (I think chi is a form of energy). Mom leaned over to me. "Did he say ball of cheese?" she asked. Suffice to say, we were not the hike leader's favorite people that morning.

3) Family history. After my maternal grandmother died in 2007, I spent some time helping my mother clean out her parents' house. With nearly 50 years of family history there, we had a lot to wade through. I enjoyed accompanying my mother on her trips down memory lane, but even more, I liked finding things she hadn't seen or didn't remember well -- a letter, with fraternity pin, to my grandmother from her young beau before she met my grandfather; my great-grandparents' marriage license; a letter from my mother to her parents just after she married my father. On both the Leber and Jolson sides of my family, an interest in genealogy has arisen in the past couple of years, and we're enjoying learning what we can.

4) Autocorrect. My mother has an advanced degree in education and has spent about 35 years of her life in educational publishing. She taught me to read when I was 2, instilled both my sister and me with a love of the written word and made no bones about telling us when the words we wrote included mistakes. I used to get clippings from my college newspaper mailed back to me with red pen marks. Some girls learn about carats, as in diamonds. I learned about carets (^) as in proofreading symbols. For this reason, I am thoroughly amused when Mom, who has embraced text speak far more easily than I ("how r u?" sets my teeth on edge), is a victim of the evils of autocorrect. She would have my head if I printed the funniest incident in the paper.

5) Surprise party. My parents took a 30th anniversary trip to the South of France in 2006. As a preholiday celebration, my sister, Abby, and I threw them a surprise, Provencal-style dinner party. It is nearly impossible to keep anything from our parents, so pulling off the surprise, which included an elaborate home-cooked meal, was a proud feat for us. Getting them mildly tipsy on French wine was also a proud feat. There are photos.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom, and thanks for putting up with me for the past 32 years.

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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