Saturday, October 31, 2015

Memorial Service

The Hands that Rocked my Cradle

Mom, a few weeks ago my memory took me to our 1950’s back yard in Cranford, NJ, where you stood on the little cement back stoop with a basket of washed clothing, your hands feeding rope through pulleys, your hands lifting one wet item at a time, your hands clipping each item to the line. 

So much life and love in the simple actions of those hands … so many ways they touched my life.

Your hands held me and rocked me through six weeks of colic … and occasionally put me in a carriage to wheel my incessant crying as far away as possible in your tiny apartment in Roselle!

Your hands braided my hair, tied plaid ribbon bows at the end of each braid.

They pinned pattern pieces to fabric, ran fabric through a sewing machine, made me clothes.

They pinned the hem—while I squirmed!—of the flower girl’s dress I wore in Eleanor Lamb’s wedding.

They made me cream cheese and jelly sandwiches on Wonder bread to eat at the backyard picnic table.

They leaned over my shoulders to tie bows at the waist of my Sunday School dresses.

They spanked and yanked me—more than once!

They showed me how to prepare dinner for Daddy from my Better Homes and Gardens junior cookbook.

They wrote my name on blankets and clothing for going to Camp Takodah.

They taught me how to use tailor’s chalk to mark darts, how to iron fabric.

They reached for menstrual supplies waiting at the ready when I got my first period.

They showed me how to roll out a pie crust, how to flute the edges.

They wrote weekly letters on thin blue aerograms sent from London, where you were, to New London, CT, where I was attending college.

They zipped me into your ivory satin wedding gown when I tried it on to wear for my own wedding.

They crocheted me a lace tablecloth.

They held my babies, cleaned my house, and got dinner on the table when I was postpartum.

They made Raggedy Anns and Andys for my children, knit a bear and stuffed a little pillow for my grandchildren.

This summer your left hand found the knotted sleeves of the sweater tied round my waist and took great pleasure in blindly undoing the knot, even after I doubled it!

Last month your left hand brushed my forearm giving it an accidental and totally welcome caress. I braided my fingers through yours and held your hand while I fed you.

A week ago I held and stroked your hands—one day, another day, another, another.

Your hands are still now.

But, still, they hold me and rock me.

I Love You, Mom
5x7', mixed media
[not for sale]
I painted this picture for my mom for her birthday this year in February. I wanted to give her something straight from my heart that might be accessible to her in her advanced dementia. I'd been trying my hand at "painting walls" and doing lettering the way David Shannon does in the illustrations for his children's books, which led to the idea for my gift. The pigtailed figure is a painted update of the crayoned self-portrait I drew for my kindergarten report card in 1955. I gave the painting to my mom in person in March, twelve days—as it so happened—before she had a stroke. The painting traveled with her to what became her new home at Norway Center in Norway, Maine, and spoke its message from its perch there until my mom died on October 25.


  1. I have been reading all your recent entries and love them all. But this Sunday morning as I take more time to savor things, this one blew me away. You wrote a beautiful tribute to your own Mother, but in a sense to ALL of our Mothers. For those of us who have been blessed with an angel of a Mother, thank you, Dotty.....

    1. Thank you for the hug of reading my recent posts and writing comments, and thank you for your affirmation of my writing a tribute to my mom. As I sat drafting during the time of sitting vigil during my mom's last days, I set the intention to make my remembrance personal and specific, knowing/hoping that in so doing it might have the strongest chance of also having a universal quality. Thank you for letting me know that it touched you.

  2. Dotty...I add my thank you for writing your beautiful tribute to your Muth. I have just read it and find your words very moving and loving. It makes me thankful for Mothers, good times and difficult all over the world. But most of all...thank YOU Dotty for popping up in my life. I think your picture 'I love you Mom' is perfect. Love across the miles, Anne. xxxx

    1. Anne, thank you for your sweet note and for the smile of "yup!" that washed across my face at your saying "good times and difficult all over the world." My use of the words "hold and rock" was my way of giving a nod to both the embrace and challenge of the mother-child relationship. I, too, am grateful that we have popped up in each other's lives through our art.

  3. Your tribute is like a poem to me.
    Makes me grateful to have and to be a mother.


    1. Simone, thanks for your words. They are a gratefully received hug from across the ocean.