How I Forgave My Mother

It all comes down to this…If I can’t forgive, how can I ever be forgiven? My sins aren’t any cleaner than anyone else’s simply because they are mine.


God chose my mother to be the one to bear me. She met His expectations. For my whole life, I have questioned why and for my whole life, I have focused on the wrong answers. Not because the right answers were not in front of me; but because I chose to blind myself to them.

During my journey of self healing, I forgave many who did unspeakable wrongs to me. But forgiving my mother seemed impossible. Not because what she did (or did not do) was worse than what others did, but because she did not meet my expectations thereby making the pain worse. If I am being truly honest, that is an incredibly unfair standard.


When you allow yourself to love, you choose to overlook shortcomings and focus on the good. That is what is at the heart of forgiveness. That is my choice today.

So many of the things I love best about me are rooted in her. I have been too hurt and angry to acknowledge that. But not acknowledging the truth is only perpetuating a lie. While the lies might’ve been necessary for survival, they are unnecessary if you want to live.

For most of my life I was one of those people. Today I am not.


So here are some of the things I am grateful to my mother for…


My Life. She was 19 when she gave birth to me. 19. I forget how young that is when it comes to my mother. She was a child getting through the tumultuousness of adolescence compounded by dysfunction, newly married to a mentally ill and often violent man. And then motherhood. Barely knowing who you are yourself then being responsible for an entirely new human being. How frightening that must’ve been. But here I am anyway. If not for fighting through the fear, I would not be.

My mother and me before I was me.


Style. My mother was a groovy 70s chick. She looked like a mod Liza Minelli. I used to love going into her closet, finding her patchwork denim bellbottoms, fringed suede bags and platform clogs. I dreamed of looking just as groovy one day.

My fab and groovy mother with me in my poncho made with love by my great-grandma Lily.


Feminism. My mother embraced the sexual revolution. Gloria Steinem was among her heroes. As a young woman who had been victimized more than many by the subservience to men, forced into silence, it’s no wonder she so fervently joined the movement to speak out. She subscribed to Ms. Magazine and bought me my most favorite record that was put out by Ms.’s publisher: Free to Be You and Me. I played that record on my victrola until I wore the needle out. There were songs, vignettes and stories of acceptance. That album was crucial in how I saw myself and the world.

The album that help make me ME. Yes. I have a copy (not the one I had as a child). Yes. It has the 12 page booklet.


Writing. The thing that is most essentially me undeniably came from her. My mother is truly gifted with the written word. Although I never had a lot of opportunity to read her writings, I was always left in awe of the way she was able to articulate her unique point of view.

Same blanket, facing in our own direction

A mother’s love is unconditional. That’s a two way street. As we mature into adulthood, the child inside lets go of the impossible notion of our mothers being superhuman and embrace their humanity. It is a priceless gift for both mother and child. And today it is a gift i am finally ready to give and receive.

I wonder what you were saying to me..?


I love you Mommy.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mama. Miss You…

I was raised by my grandmother.  I always called her Mama.  She had a heavy hand that was calloused with housework, smelled of cigarettes (Pall Mall red, no filters) and fingernails yellowed by nicotine.  Pall Mall red, no filters robbed me of her in 2005.

Mama on stairs
This is my mama years and years before I existed. She worked on John Street in lower Manhattan.

She was never one for hugs and kisses but through her toughness, I always knew that she loved me and was devoted to me.  She sang to me, spoke some yiddish to me (everyone thought she was Italian, too) and taught me how to cook.  But the most important thing she ever gave me was her unconditional love.  Sometimes it meant discipline but even when that was the case, it was because she believed in me and wanted me to be the best person I could be.

When I think of my mama, this is who I see.  Not necessarily eating pepperoni but the woman with the silver hair (usually with a "permanent" because it was easier to care for) wearing a housedress (which HAD TO have two pockets so she could carry her tissues, a pack of Pall Mall red, no filters and her Bic -- people smoked inside their houses in the '70s) who hated to have her picture taken (so many photos were candids like this one) in our apartment on Barclay Avenue in Flushing.
When I think of my mama, this is who I see. Not necessarily eating pepperoni but the woman with the silver hair (usually with a “permanent” because it was easier to care for) wearing a housedress (which HAD TO have two pockets so she could carry her tissues, a pack of Pall Mall red, no filters and her Bic — people smoked inside their houses in the ’70s) who hated to have her picture taken (so many photos were candids like this one) in our apartment on Barclay Avenue in Flushing.

It’s Mother’s Day.  Today I got to see my gorgeous-but-growing-up-way-too-quickly little girl play soccer.  I love her unconditionally and I hope she knows it even though I’m not all that great with hugs and kisses either.  Whenever I am in the kitchen, she helps me cook.  I tell her “this is the way Mama taught me.”  Oftentimes now she’s the one cooking for me — and she’s really good at it — and she does a lot of things “Mama’s” way.  I miss you, Mama.  I think your Pall Mall red, no filters short-changed us a lot of Mother’s Days together.  But that’s OK.  Now more than ever I treasure the time we had when you were on this earth with me and I know you are here with me always.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mama.