Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day

This article reminds me of a bit of family history. Why? Because my Dad didn't like any of the "Hallmark Holidays," those events that were driven mostly by American corporate greed and sold to us as obligations to people we love (Mother's Day, Father's Day, etc.). My Dad wished his mother a happy mother's day on his birthday every year. He felt that that had some meaning, while the "official" day was artificial.

But he always observed the official Mother's Day when it came to my Mom. I never questioned why. I guess I figured he was going along with me and my brothers. Little did I know that there was a family secret lurking there. I don't know if I ever shared this story on here, and now seems a fitting time.

My parents' anniversary was August 28th. I knew it by heart.

When my Dad died, in the middle of the night, the way such things often happen, I rushed over to be at my Mom's side. I was with my brothers and some other family members, and we were trying to comfort my Mom, as she had just lost the love of her life and was truly devastated.

We were talking about all of the wonderful years. Among other things, we talked about their nearly 43 years of marriage. "Next month," my Mom said. Now, this was April, and you will recall that I said they were married in August. So I, figuring Mom was overwrought and a bit lost, said, "well, not next month, Mom, but soon." And she repeated that the following month would mark 43 years.

Now, someone with a bit more diplomatic sense would have shut up, but I guess I lacked that. Besides, this was getting weird and baffling. Mom couldn't have been that confused. As it happens, she wasn't confused at all.

I said, "Mom, it's April. Your anniversary is August 28th." She shook her head, no. "May 26th."

May 26th? What?

A little background: my Dad was from a relatively well-off family. Not wealthy, but really living the American dream. My grandfather had come over on a boat from Europe, worked his butt off, and they were living a very nice life. My Mom, on the other hand, was from a poor family. They were living in tenement housing on the lower east side of Manhattan. Her father also worked his butt off, but they didn't have much.

My Mom and Dad met and fell in love. My Dad's parents did not approve. They had another girl in mind. Someone from the right kind of family. But my Dad had no intention of going along. He loved my Mom, and nothing was going to stop them. Little did I know the lengths they'd gone to in order to make sure they wouldn't be stopped.

What I learned on that terrible day 10 years ago is that my parents had eloped. I also learned that it had remained a secret for 43 years. "Don't tell Nan," my Mom said. Nan was my paternal grandmother. She had the misfortune of outliving my Dad, and my Mom said there was no point in her knowing. It would just upset her more. That probably was right, so I kept it to myself.

After my Mom died, when I went through her papers, I found both Ketubahs (the Ketubah is the Jewish marriage license). Apparently, if my Dad had been pushed into a corner by my grandparents, he was going to tell them it was too late. They already were married.

This also explained a couple of things. As my Mom asked me that morning, "Didn't you ever wonder why Dad always gave me such nice Mother's Day gifts?" Hmmm.

It also clicked with something else. When I was graduated from college, the day was May 26th. I remember my Mom saying something about May 26th being a great day or words to that effect. When I asked what she meant by that, she changed the subject. I finally had the explanation!

This was one of the most romantic stories I had heard. They had eloped but kept it secret for all those years, making sure that nothing would stand in the way of their love!

Happy Mother's Day, Mom! I miss you!


Matt said...

That is very romantic. Your parents must have been wonderful people...lots of love there! Having kept a secret for so many years.

It must be a good feeling knowing that your mother and father are together again even in death.

Sooo-this-is-me said...

Jess this is a very beautiful story, thank you for sharing it. It is so interesting when we find out that our parents had whole other lives before we came along, plus that they at one time were love struck youths, just like every other young person, so romantic.

Greg said...

What a wonderful Mother's Day story.

ATG said...

That is such a sweet story. I got misty-eyed reading it. Thank you for sharing it. :*)

MzOuiser said...

This is a fantastic story! How amazing to keep that secret all those years! Thanks for sharing that.

Jess said...

Thanks, everyone. I'm glad you liked the story, too. Ever since I learned their "secret," I thought it was a very romantic story. I already knew they loved each other completely, but this was really something to learn about when my Mom told me.

Matt: I wish they were around still. They were gone too soon. They lived fit, healthy lives and were taken by cancer anyhow. So if they can't be here, then I sure hope they're somewhere wonderful together.

Patrick said...

I thought this was one of the most romantic stories I'd ever heard when you told it to me over our first dinner together. I'm so glad you've posted it for all to see. It's the sort of story that should be widely known.