If you have not yet visited Tudor Place in Washington, DC, and the mothers in your life (perhaps including yourself) are fans of garden walks/historic houses/afternoon tea, you may want to add it to your Expeditions list. Built in 1816 by Martha Washington’s granddaughter, Tudor Place sits on, unbelievably, five (5!) acres in the middle of Georgetown, and is a green, flowery and bird-filled retreat from the busy surrounding streets.
I post this sketch today because Tudor Place was one of our three-generation (grandmother-mother-daughter) destinations when my mother was still with us, and every visit is a lovely, though poignant, reminder. Happy Mothers Day, Mom, and all you mothers out there. May your day hold flowers and bird-song.
Of the pies my mother made, our favorite was apple, but she could also make a terrific and unequalled lemon meringue pie: tart, deeply lemony, with high white peaks. On her own birthday, of course, she could sit down to pies made by others. This sketch is from a birthday lunch at which she decided to go for the Key Lime. Alas, her illusions were dispelled: it was too sweet. Someone else finished it and she was obliged to make do with the profiterolles. Happy birthday, Mom. In a perfect Heaven, the clouds are fluffy edible meringue.
Today is the anniversary of the unexpected passing of my mother in 2006. I try to deflect the grey curtain that descends on my spirits each spring by recalling the many blessings she bestowed.
One of them was a love of reading. I grew up accustomed to the sight of walls and walls of books in living room, family room, bedrooms; books stacked on every table; books strewn about the car and gracing the bathroom. They were of nearly every genre: reference books and classics, of course, but also art, poetry, history, geography, science, humor, cartoon collections, and up-to-the-moment modern fiction. My parents also subscribed to about twenty different publications, from Life and Look (I’m dating myself here) to the New Yorker and Punch. Oh, the trees that were sacrificed at the altar of literacy. (When did my mother manage to cook and clean?) And, for good or ill, none of it was off-limits to us children, whether it dealt with the Gulag, the Holocaust, or bed-hopping suburban New Yorkers.
Here is my mother reading P.G. Wodehouse. Especially as she grew older, she really preferred humor to anything else. And that’s another of her blessings.
One of my mother’s appealing qualities was her willingness to risk making a fool of herself. Of course this annoyed me no end when I was thirteen, but I grew to appreciate it. Here she is ten years ago, on the Christmas morning my son found a scooter under the tree. After his first ride, he offered it to Grandma, and off she went, wobbling and laughing. She would have been 90 today. Happy birthday, Mom.
My mother passed away unexpectedly on this day in April, 2006, after complications following gall bladder surgery. We were very close. I have gradually, painfully, come to believe that she is truly departed from here, but each year as spring approaches, instead of simply gazing admiringly at the daffodils I regress to a state of wandering semi-shock for a while. It’s become a more complicated season. Beside her Yahrzeit candle today are items of significance: family photographs, a book of poetry, a small felted sheep, a pot of Sweet Williams, an avocado, a potato…
There are lots drawings of her in my sketchbooks. I made this one on our last Mothers Day together, except I didn’t know it would be the last. We rarely do, do we. She loved to be taken out to restaurants. This evening in a turning of the tables, so to speak, my son took us all out to a restaurant. We took the Yahrzeit candle along.