Thursday, May 06, 2010


[I am re-running this piece, but I still expect you to read every word of it because it's about My Mother, damn it. Anyway, I think this is the first time I've trotted it out here in three years - a fairly amazing thing when you consider that I'll use any excuse, no matter how flimsy, to avoid writing new stuff - and maybe some of you have never seen it before. I expect the rest of you to be polite and pretend it thrills you anew. It's about MY MOTHER!!!

Anyway, this Sunday is Mothers Day here in the U. S. of A., and the following Sunday is My Mother's birthday. As a crummy son, I will be playing softball on Mom's birthday. Yeah, I know. But, here's one of the reasons why I adore My Mother: She's OK with that. And, if she is, I don't expect any guff from the likes of you.

Oh, boy. I'm not exactly endearing myself to you here, am I? Well, My Mother loves me. And that's the point of this.

No, wait. The point is that I love My Mother. Even if I am playing softball on her birthday. So, Mom, here's the same tribute to you that I've published a few times before, except I threw in a few different photos this time and also wrote this hideous introduction. Happy Mothers Day! Happy Birthday! I dedicate my first base-on-balls on May 16th to YOU!]

[My Mom always goes out of her way to have eclairs for me on my birthday. Meanwhile, I'm playing softball on hers, and... Oh, yes, I've already gone over that ground, eh? Mmmmmmmmmm. Eclairs!]

[My Mom and My Stepfather, Bill, both getting soused, as usual. No, no, no. This was at the rehearsal dinner for the wedding of MY WIFE and myself. Knowing the two of us, they had every good reason to get soused, but they didn't.]

[My Mom, showing off the acting skills that have won her numerous Tonys, Emmys, and Bills. Hah! She's been married to two guys named Bill, see? It's like I almost made a joke there, if any of you knew! I won't embarrass My Mom by talking about the Tonys, and the less said about the Emmys, the better off we'll all be.

Oh, OK, I'll shut up now. Here's the stuff I wrote a few years ago.]

[My Mother, left, and her sister, Jeanne, Easter 1950]

First, an explanation.

You know how some people have a birthday on or around Christmas and it kind of gets lost? It just sort of gets melded into the larger holiday and that person gets somewhat cheated out of two special days? My Mom's birthday is like that. She was born on May 16th, so her birthday always falls within a couple of days of Mothers Day. As a result, some people believe she gets the short end of things from me.

However, I'll tell you that my mother isn't all that worried about it. A shallow person she is not. She is very intelligent and she understands the situation. This is not to say that she wouldn't want two parties or two bunches of gifts or two of whatever; everybody likes twice as much good stuff if they can get it. But she understands. And I love her all the more for understanding that I love her just as much, even though I sometimes may not show her how much twice in the same week.

This is my birthday card to my mother. You may or may not "get" everything I write here, but she will and that's what matters. These are mainly just short fond memories of times I treasure; times I had with my mother and things we did together. The greater parts of them are from my childhood. So are the pictures, which look the way they do because I only barely know how to use a scanner and photoshop. If I waited until I knew what I was doing before publishing, this space would be blank for about a decade.

I suppose it makes sense to start with the usual Mom-type stuff.

She wiped my tears and bandaged my scraped knees and kissed my boo-boos and made them better. She vacuumed and made the beds. She did the laundry - early on with an actual washtub and scrub board and wringer - and she hung the clothes to dry on the clothesline in the backyard (or, in the winter, on a clothesline we had strung in the cellar) and a bit later we got a dryer. She did the ironing while watching Loretta Young and Mike Douglas. She was almost always ironing when I got home from school, it seemed.

She nursed me through all the usual illnesses and gifted me with my first copy of MAD magazine during one of them, and thank you for trusting me at such a young age with such revolutionary material, Mom. She put patches on my pants, as I needed them.

(Does anybody put patches on pants anymore?)

She gave me eggnog to drink for breakfast - an actual egg stirred into a big glass of milk, perhaps with chocolate syrup. Those were the days when it was considered healthy to feed your child eggs and milk every day, even raw eggs - maybe especially raw eggs. She gave me vitamins.

(One time, I decided that if a single vitamin tablet was good for you, then taking a whole bottle might turn me into Superman. Mom was the one who called the doctor.)

She packed my lunchbox with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, slices of apples or oranges, usually a cookie or two, and always a thermos of milk.

(How many thermoses did I break? Many. You'd drop one of the things and hear that shattering of the insides and you knew without checking that your milk now had big shards of glass in it. Mom always bought me a new one.)

She made dinners of swordfish or fish sticks or tuna casserole. My Dad did much of the cooking, and he hated fish, but when he wasn't around Mom made sure I got enough of the seafood that I loved. She would buy salmon and tuna just for me to eat straight from the can - something I still do often, although now I might spoon it out onto a plate first. She made me macaroni and plain tomatoes, still one of my favorite simple dinners - and one that, as it turns out, is quite healthy.

We would do some cooking together. We made peanut butter cookies. We made bread pudding. She would bake a cake and I would graciously help out by licking the bowl clean. I was always glad to do my part.

Sometimes, we would go out to eat, just Mom and me. We might go to the Liberty Deli in Lower Mills, or perhaps we would end up at a restaurant called Colstone's in downtown Boston. Both of these would be places we visited after we had been to church to say a prayer and light a candle. The Deli after Saint Gregory's; Colstone's after Arch Street. She would put a coin in the poor box at church and let me light the votive candle. She taught me to pray and she taught me reverence for holy places. She gave me a great sense of God as benevolent and likely to listen to me. It was, and is, a good thing.

She sang, always. She loved to sing; still does. She sang standards around the house. She had a lovely voice; still does. She and her sister, Jeannette, actually had their own radio show when they were teenagers, on WJDA in Quincy. The story, as I remember it, was that they had spoken to the station manager and complained that there wasn't enough programming for teenagers. He told them that if they thought so, maybe they could come up with some themselves. They said, "OK" and went on the air. Pretty gutsy stuff, that.

I owe my livelihood to my Mom. Even before I went into kindergarten, she was teaching me to read. I was always the best reader in my class in school. I am still one of the best readers I know and I work with professional readers every day. Without that early acquisition of knowledge, provided by Mom, I wouldn't have the job I have today. I am very grateful for that.

She taught me an absolute love for the written word and she taught me that acquiring knowledge doesn't have to be a drag. She would buy me books at every possible opportunity. I still have a half-shelf of Golden Library Of Knowledge books, which she bought for me - one at a time - from a store downtown every two or three weeks. I learned about dinosaurs and the planets and insects and the elements and animals from far off lands, and learned about them before I had to learn about them in school. I glided through much of elementary school because my Mom gave me such an enormous head start.

While I was in school, she kept a scrapbook. It is in my possession now. Entitled "Jimmy's School Years", it is an amazingly embarrassing collection of inept crayon drawings, declining-in-quality-as-I-moved-into-high-school report cards, class photos (who are half these people?), and other assorted ephemera from my times at the Gilbert Stuart, Boston Latin, the Woodrow Wilson, Boston Latin (again), and finally, Boston Tech. Grades K through 12 wrapped up in one overstuffed segmented package. While it is embarrassing, even for me to look at in private, I am so very thankful she did it.

I remember something I wasn't thankful for and which non-thankfulness I have been ashamed of ever since. One day, when I was perhaps four or five, Mom came home from a trip downtown and she had a small present for me. It was these two small replicas of phonograph records, one reading "YES" on the tiny label in the middle, and the other "NO". I don't know what their actual purpose was, but I suspect they were part of some advertising gimmick. I seem to remember that they came from Filene's Basement, but I may be mistaken.

Anyway, she had had a small little nice thought when handed them by whomever - "I'll bring these home and maybe Jimmy would like to play with them". My Mom came in and handed them to me, saying something to the effect of she wasn't sure if I wanted these but, if I did, I could have them. I behaved like a bratty little shit and said I didn't want them; why would I want them?; something entirely ungrateful. Maybe I was expecting something else from her for some reason? I don't know.

(Silly thing to remember, but I do. And I am ashamed about it. I was ungrateful for a gift given with love. Now, I'm almost willing to guarantee that my Mom doesn't have the slightest idea what I'm talking about. She remembers good stuff about me and forgets bad stuff. Well, I apologize anyway, Mom, and now I feel better.)

Well, you see, I'm getting into small weird things here and, if I keep on like this, it will be a book before long and even then it won't feel like enough. In the interests of getting this thing published by her actual birthday, I'm going to just list a few things now, things that - if you aren't my Mom - may well sound bizarre or psychotic or both. She'll read each and every one, slowly and lovingly, and have memories - perhaps many memories, and strong - conjured by each.

You were the savior of Davy and the unfortunate bearer of bad news concerning Tippy.

You were Sugar's midwife, twice, and every cat's best friend, always.

You were the teacher and player of Fish, Casino, Rummy 500, Chinese Checkers.

You were my pass to the cafeteria at Prudential and then to shuffleboard in the employee lounge afterwards.

You are the gatekeeper of the "For Now" room.

You were the grower of the rose bush, the tiger lilies and my willow tree.

You gave me a box of kitchen matches and a bowl of water.
You were the magician who made stars appear on my bedroom ceiling.

You allowed my jumps down the stairs and piled the pillows to land on.

You put up with marbles in the bathtub.

You made me believe that the second half of The Wizard Of Oz was in glorious color even though I was watching it on a black-and-white television.

You came to see me play at McCarthy's and you actually stayed through the second set.

You were the buyer of South Station bowling.

Your room had the jewelry box filled with shiny things and a Kennedy/Johnson campaign button, the atomizer, the radio that played Jess Cain every morning, and sunbeams that never were as warm after you left.

You were the person with me as I watched The Flintstones, The Addams Family, Camp Runamuck, Hank, Bewitched, That Girl, Fractured Flickers, The Hathaways, It's About Time and I'm Dickens, He's Fenster. At the very least, three of those were shows you really were not terribly fond of, but you watched them with me anyway.

You brought me to a brave radical church and I gained a new circle of friends.

You introduced me to MY WIFE.

You were the saver of newspapers - "Kennedy Assassinated", "Man Walks On Moon", "Red Sox Win Pennant" - and I wish to hell I had been the saver of them, too.

You were the person I reported the Dow Jones to every night. Why? I haven't the foggiest notion.

You were the person who brought me the news of a death of a person I knew; the first death I actually felt and understood the finality of. "Ma died", you said. And you held me close and I knew that in this world where people I had imagined as permanent were not, your love was.

You are possibly the fairest person in the world. At the very least, you always listen to everybody and give serious consideration to their thoughts and feelings. I've inherited some of that, but not nearly enough.

You were my traveling companion on the railway in the sky that took us to Ma and Pa's for Easter.
You are the child at heart who played miniature golf and skeeball, took swings in the batting cage, ate ice cream sundaes and candy bars, and did assorted other young things with great relish and panache, on your 65th birthday.

All things considered, you're probably the best mother I've ever had.

(Hey, I got some of this sense of humor from you, you know, so stop rolling your eyes.)

Something like this could go on forever, but I'll close with this:

I've described a large number of idiotic episodes of my life on this blog and will no doubt relate many more. I've done things that were illegal, immoral, stupid, and that otherwise seemingly reflect badly on my upbringing. Every single one of those things came about through my own volition.

Meanwhile, every good quality I possess - and every good thing I've ever done - came about as a direct result of how I was raised. That may sound like hyperbole, but it is the absolute stone cold truth.

Thanks, Mom. Happy Birthday! And Happy Mothers Day, too!


Uncle Jim said...

Happy Birthday Connie.

Craig said...

Happy Mother's Day to Suldog's Mom! And Happy Birthday!

Geez, Sully - with the shoulder-length red hair, I thought I wuz lookin' at another of yer old band photos. . .

Expat From Hell said...

Touching post (my first time around here this Mother's Day). It took reading this all the way through to sober up after seeing the picture of you in the Johnny Travolta white suit. EFH

Jinksy said...

Any Mum would be proud of a son who could write a blog post like that! :)

Suldog said...

Craig - Yes, I got my Mom's hair. Unfortunately, I didn't get to keep it.

Expat - Hey! That was my First Communion photo. It pre-dates Travolta by a good ten years. If anything, he owed his look to ME.

Jinksy - Thank you, my friend. I'll assume your comment contains a minimum of sarcasm and enjoy it as such :-)

Brian Miller said...

a stunning tribute suldog...cani have a peanut butter cookie now?

happy mothers day and happy birthday!

Anonymous said...

That was soooo sweet. Happy Mom's Day and Birthday to Mama Suldog!

Hilary said...

What a sweet and wonderful tribute to YOUR MOTHER. She raised a good one, for sure. No doubt she is equally proud of you.

Happy birthday to you, Suldog's MOM!

Jackie said...

Ms. Connie: I hope you read these comments. Happy Mother's Day to you. Your son makes me smile...and this post about you makes me proud to be a Mom...because it says what every Mom would want her son to say about her....Your love for him shines through this blog...all the things that he remembers...those are the important things that you have instilled in him...making him the gentleman ( and I should type 'gentle man'...because even if he probably wouldn't admit it here in Blogland, I've read enough of his work...and his comments to others to know that he is indeed a 'gentle' 'man.'
Goodness, love, and caring in a person begins at home. From Jim's description and reminiscenses about you on this blog, I say 'thank you' to you - his Mom - for a job ( not only a 'job' but a blessing, I'm sure) well done.
You are a lovely lady.
Happy Mother's Day to you Ms. Connie...

CiCi said...

Happy Birthday to your mom. You wrote so many nice stories and shared pics in your post. I know she is okay with your playing ball on her birthday and she is happy for you that you are doing something you like doing. Moms are like that.

Unknown said...

Happy Birthday to your Mom; I think it's sweet and not a bit perverted that your dedicating your balls to her!

Thumbelina said...

I didn't skip a single word. My respect to your mum and to you for expressing your love.

I have read it before, and it gets better every time I read it again.

Karen said...

Very nice. Every child should write his/her mother a tribute like this. It's better than a gift of diamonds.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

My daughter's birthday is Monday. I hope her son (one-year-old) knows just how cool his mom is. And I hope that he is at least half as talented as you when it comes time to write about her.

Linda said...

That was very nice, indeed.

And as a mom whose birthday is on Christmas, I can attest to the fact that it doesn't make a bit of difference to me if my offspring forget to say Happy Birthday as well as Merry Christmas!

Michelle H. said...

Happy Birthday, and Happy Mother's Day, Suldog's Mom! I hope the month of May brings you much joy!

A wonderful, sweet post, MLGF.

Everyday Goddess said...

Happy Birthday!

Great tribute to your mom, too.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Happy Birthday, Mom! I say that because Jim looks a little like my brother...both read heads...and reminds me of my brother as I'm adopting you! Happy Birthday!

Jim, this is made me both laugh and cry...all in the same post...Think I may as well close my blog this week as I've already done all my sniffling and smiling here ;-) And Jackie is right! You are a "gentleman" and "gentle" demonstrate love, compassion, and concern for everyone you meet... you are thoughtful and encouraging...and as I read this post I couldn't help but think that the old cliche is right: The apple doesn't fall far from the tree! Wonderful post! Wonderful blogger! And a wonderful Mom! Big hugs, Janine

Jeni said...

See Jim, this is the side of you I really, really love to see/read -when you go all soft and sentimental and write your feelings. Not that I don't also really, really enjoy your raucous, rowdy pieces and your goofy ones too -cause I do, very much. But it this stuff, to read how someone feels about someone of such importance in their life that they are willing to put it out there for anyone else to see and read it. More people should try doing this -showing their real and true feelings about people they are close to and who knows, it might just start a revolution of not being afraid to express a great love! And I don't care how many times you repost things either. Just an aside there, ya know.

i beati said...

outstanding- those little things Mom does reign so big in your heart. My boy 36 is away this Mother's Day .I miss him terribly.Maybe I should have done more of what your mom did ..I did the best I could believe me.

Sueann said...

Happy Birthday and Happy Mothers' Day to your mom!!
Great tribute!!

Maggie May said...

A very fine looking woman too!
She must be proud of her son too!
word ver. SINGEM Keep singing out the praises!

Nuts in May

The Good Cook said...

happy birthday AND happy mother's day Suldog's mom. You have raised quite the son - thanks for sharing him with the rest of the world.

Anonymous said...

You are a good son, and it sounds like you have a great Mom.
Happy Mother's Day and Happy Birthday to your Mom!

connie/mom (suldog's mom) said...

Thanks to all of you who wished me happy days. I am truly blessed to have such a fine, compassionate, loving, talented, irreverant, etc., etc. son.

I thank the good Lord each and every day for him.

Daryl said...

Happy Birthday Jim's MOM and Happy Mother's Day ...

eclairs! how frickin' cool a mom is she? very!

lime said...

i sure hope you at least give your mom a box of tissues because if any of my kids wrote anything half so lovely i'd by crying through the whole thing. this is so worthy of the rerun because your mom is such a great mom and you are wise to recognize how blessed you are. happy mother's day and birthday to your mom.

as an aside i get a big kick out of recognizing the paneling from the pleasant cafe in one picture. :)

Shrinky said...

I wish I'd had a mum like Connie, you are a lucky boy, Jim. And if ever any of my kids see fit to pen such a tribute as this to my name, I would simply die with pride.

You did well, Connie, just look at what you managed to turn out!

Chris said...

Happy Birthday and Mother's Day, Sulmom. You obviously deserve all the accolades for putting up with Jim all these years.

Loved the line about the Wizard of Oz.

Buck said...

Simply excellent, Jim. The addition of new photos and introduction added to the charm of this post and the obvious love you have for your Mom. Good On Ya and Happy Mothers Day to your Mom.

Reasons said...

Aw Suldog, you ol' softie. And I'll bet she'll say it was all a joy. Well maybe not all...

Chris Stone said...

very sweet. ;)

Christina RN LMT said...

Happy Mother's Day and Happy Birthday, Mrs. Suldog!

Wonderful tribute, are a very lucky man.

Pat - Arkansas said...

Thank you, Suldog. I'm so glad you re-ran the post about your mother.

Many of the things you wrote about your mother are true of my own mother, who died in 1986. I still miss her.

Anonymous said...

Blimey O'Reilly! How is anyone going to top that? What a mother [Happy Birthday lovely lady] and now it is obvious why you have turned into the kind of man you are.

Viv said...

What a wonderful tribute to your mom. I hope my mom doesn't see this- her expectations are currently very low... please don't change that! Happy Bday Suldog's mom!

Sandra said...

What a nice tribute to your mom, Jim!

One thing though -- my birthday is the day before hers and it has never occurred to me that I wasn't getting two separate celebrations. So, while you think your mom is a saint for not complaining, I'd argue that she and I aren't really "deprived" with our birthdays so close to Mother's day. But, hey, it never hurts to have your kid THINK you're deprived, so forget I said anything, okay? :)

Carolina said...

I would have loved to have your mom. She must be a terrific woman! A lovely post.
You look stunning in your white suit and your mom looks gorgeous on every photo.

(I've posted so can I please, please be removed from the naughty-corner?)

Eddie Bluelights said...

Wonderful Mother and Happy Mother's Day. And she raised a great guy for a son. Here's to you, Jim. Lovely photos as well.

Ruth and Glen said...

Beautiful tribute to your Mom Suldog. Hope she had a wonderful double celebration.

Ali P said...

Macaroni and tomatoes is one of my go to comfort foods. YUM!
I love your Mom's dresses. Ladies really knew how to dress not so long ago.