“Why you have babies.” That’s what my dad says about this picture of my mother and older sister. As close as I am to my family now, I know little about my parents’ childhoods aside from anecdotes and the funny stories we share over and over. Thankfully, my mom agreed to share a bit more with all of us.
1. Basic Life Story
I grew up in a family with three sisters and two brothers, and basically I was raised with the boys because I was much closer to their ages. I’m the fourth child, so I guess that makes me a middle child. I always followed the rules and helped to keep peace in a very crazy household. My parents eventually divorced when I was 21.
I went to 12 years of Catholic school and an all girls’ high school. Personally, I think that made me a stronger person in the long run. I went back to school when I was 22 to become a respiratory therapist. I met my husband at age 21 and was married at age 26 and eventually had two beautiful girls. I loved being a mom.
2. Thoughts on feminism?
Am I feminist? Maybe. I believe in equal pay and rights for women, and also the right to choose. I would say that I am quiet about my feelings, especially in mixed company.
3. When you were young, what did you believe was a woman’s place in the world?
I was groomed to believe that a woman should stay at home and raise her children and make dinner, etc. As a young girl, I hoped I would be able to do just that. But a couple years after my children were born, I was more than happy to get back to work not only for the social aspect, but also to feel good about what I accomplished in my work.
4. What do you know now that you wish you knew at age 18?
Life is way too short and you should think about taking advantage of any opportunities that come your way. Figure out who you are first and be happy with yourself.
An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away, Except When the Doctor is Your Mom, in Which Case She Comes Home Every Day and Drinks Coffee Before Bed
Nobody ever asked me if I was a feminist. I think most people that knew me growing up would assume that I am, seeing as though most people knew me as my mother’s son. People would come up to me all the time at school—as early as first grade—to tell me that my mom was their doctor. They usually said they really liked her. And I usually said that I did too.
But when I reflected on that recently, I found that really odd. I don’t know many kids that like going to the doctor. In fact, it’s something a lot of kids dread; the mere smell of over sanitized staplers and doorknobs triggering the icy chill of a dreaded tetanus shot up their back, causing an innumerable amount of crying children in the waiting room alone. Believe me, my mom has been practicing pediatrics for twenty-four years. I’ve seen hundreds of kids waiting in designated sick-and-well waiting rooms to be seen by my mom, and she has treated thousands in those years.
And for some reason, a lot of kids leave that office calm. The bad part is over, and the nice doctor lady didn’t even give them a shot (usually). A lot of them have written her letters and drawn pictures of her. My mom’s hung them at her desk. And a lot, lot, lot, lot of them went out of their way to approach my brothers, sister, and myself to tell us how much they liked her.
Except for one time. My brother, while walking down the hallway of his junior high school, had a kid yell right in his face about my mother. The kid yelled, “Your mom killed my brother.”
Of course this wasn’t true.
I don’t know the full details of this story, but I remember the following: my mom was paged late at night. A family was calling, saying that their son was sick. My mom heard the symptoms, and after considering what she heard, she advised that the family stay home and just make sure the son is ok, and take him to the emergency room in the morning. She said that it was unlikely that anything bad would happen in the next few hours, and that he might feel better in that time.
It turned out that the boy ended up dying. I didn’t hear about it at the time, and it wasn’t a huge scandal or anything, but I know it must have hurt my mom, even if she didn’t let me see it. Lots of people have called my mom late at night, at the movies, at weddings, at dinner, and she’s always given the best advice she can. She’s told many people to drop what they’re doing and bring their children to the emergency room. This time, for whatever reason, she deemed that unnecessary at that exact hour. And I’m sure it killed her when she found out.
I know some people were upset with her. Some people said some bad things about her apparently, even a couple to her face, if I remember correctly. She told me this story a few years after it happened. Honestly, I don’t think about that story very often. But when I thought about it recently, a new detail stuck out to me. Not any detail of the story, but the way she told it.
I remember asking her if she thought she had done the right thing.
Mother’s day has always been a very bittersweet day for me ever since I could remember remembering. My mother died November 23, 1990 (Thanksgiving Day) due to complications with her asthma. She was a 26-year-old 5th grade school teacher. My brother Anton was five and I was so young that I wasn’t even on my parents’ insurance policy yet.
From a young age I was very well aware of death and that I did not have a mother like the rest of the other kids. I recall a day at Head Start when my teacher looked at me wide eyed with shock when I nonchalantly told her my mother couldn’t sign the permission slip because she was dead. This was the norm for me and I accepted that.
I quickly learned that no matter how much love you get from your other parent or even other family members, nothing compares to the love of a mother. There were (and still are) so many moments in my life where I wonder what my life would be like if my mother were still here. There are many moments in my life where I wish she were right beside me. There were many Christmases where I only wanted one thing: To have a moment with my mother.
I wanted to hear her laugh.
I wanted to smell her scent.
I wanted to touch her skin and be engulfed in her love— even if it only lasted a few seconds.
Although I knew deep down that I would never have that gift I would still imagine it in my head and still expect to see her waiting at the tree with a huge smile on her face like in the photos. To this day I still do.
People often say, “So-and-so is always watching over you,” or “They’re with you in spirit.” Although I know my mother will never be able to be here physically, I do believe she is always with me spiritually. I am certain she watched over me throughout my whole pregnancy. I was the happiest I have ever been during that time. I was told by my nurse that I was “every pregnant woman’s dream.” (Hey, her words, not mine.)
But, there were always some days where I wished my mother could watch my belly grow or tell me about her pregnancy experiences or even get one of those “I love Grandma” bibs for her unborn grandchild. I would sometimes catch my dad staring at me with sadness in his eyes because I reminded him so much of my mother. My longing for my mother really came to a head fifteen minutes before delivering my precious baby boy. Tears flooded down my cheeks as my body showed me what real contractions felt like. I wasn’t crying from the physical pain, I just wanted my mommy. I begged to speak to my father and at that moment I felt as though I could feel my mother’s presence as we both sobbed on the phone together. I gave birth to my son without the assistance of drugs, just the spirit of my mother and the love of my Step-Mom and two sisters in that room.
basic life story
I grew up in Miami till the age of 7 after which time my parents divorced and my mom moved to Paris with me and my siblings. I started acting at the age of 5, professional theater and commercials. I loved acting. In France I continued to act throughout my teens. I moved back to the US and New York and attended Parson’s School of Design where I graduated with a BFA in Fashion. For many years I was a designer. At the age of 28 I started a company and grew it to $40M in sales. Low and behold I was an entrepreneur. I have since had three companies all in fashion or technology. I married young and had a daughter and a son by the time I was 30. I always did it all, raise my family and work very hard. Early in my life I invested in learning about myself and being a student of life. The programs I participated in all taught me to create my life and be extraordinary. In 1999 I divorced and moved from NJ to NYC. These were great years for me and my kids, who immediately took to city life. I remarried and moved back to NJ in 2006.
are you a feminist?
I believe women can do anything men can do. Being in business as long as I have been I have often been the only woman in the room. I can say that not all men think women are equal and should have a voice. I have never let that get in my way-I am not an activist, I don’t need to convince anyone of anything. I lead by example. I enroll.
I was a child actress and starred in a French movie: La Petite Sirene. I also played the daughter of Catherine Deneuve and Jean Louis Trintignant in L’argent des Autres. I started my movie career in Limbo with Kate Jackson.
best advice- what do you like most about being a woman?
I love being a woman- I love being creative. I love my range of emotion. I love my capacity to love and communicate.
what do you like/ dislike about motherhood?
I love being a mom. My mother is amazing, my grandmothers were too. I was made to raise children. I can’t wait to be a grandma.
how has your role as a mother shaped you as an individual?
Creating a life then helping guide a child through each major life step is the coolest. I never could say it’s too much, I need more time, I need more quiet, I need to come first. This has made me an exceptional listener, a giver and a good friend. I learned lessons earlier then many of my peers and I think this has given me an edge.
three words to describe yourself
Powerful, giving and loving.
who is your role model?
My mom is amazing. My daughter stuns me with her greatness. My friends amaze me with their courage and wit. And I think all entrepreneurs, truth seekers and thinking humans are worthy of my appreciation.
whats on ya bucket list?
As a middle aged, empty-nester I am ready for my next act. Open to it finding me.
favorite recipe and favorite karaoke song
BBQ ribs- parboil in white vinegar. I’ll sing to anything- off key of course.
Me: When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Mummy: When I was way younger, like 8 or 9, the two things I remember were either being a secretary, or maybe a teacher. These are the games I played with my friends - like secretary, teacher, librarian and maybe stewardess. Not particularly trendsetting ideas.
Starting in junior high, my short-term goal was to join the Peace Corps. And probably to be a writer. I don’t think I had any idea what that really meant.
Me: Would you consider yourself to be a feminist?
Mummy: Yeah, not militant and not very up-to-date, but yes. I certainly believe in equality and I suppose the fact that I kept my own name [after marriage] is part of that. A bit of resisting the traditional cultural way that takes away women’s identity in marriage. Obviously in some way we’ve come along way but there are other very persistent and troublesome things. I just read something about Facebook and how they censor certain things like photos of women breastfeeding their children, or an anatomical diagram of female anatomy. But they allow all these suggestive ads and other photos that fit what men might want to see of women’s bodies. That kind of thing really irritates me. I might not always notice it. I sometimes think I’m still a little naive or a little less sharp in my criticism, because that has to start with noticing these things. But when you point it out, it’s troublesome. Being the mother of two daughters, it really irritates me because it’s perpetuating things into the future that I hoped would have been different for you and [your sister].
Me: When did you first identify as a feminist?
Mummy: I do remember when I was in college, 1972-76, I was maybe vaguely aware of women’s consciousness raising groups and stuff like that. But it certainly wasn’t very much on my radar. I remember the book “Our Bodies Our selves” - this seminal book for feminists, in a way. It was helping with information about women’s bodies. I had the book in college. I wasn’t particularly advanced in feminism, and even in seminary. Maybe that was not the place for it. So probably later, after I had graduated seminary, and slowly in talking with other people… the early 80s or something. So I was maybe almost 30. Then I was in Mississippi, so then I probably had a little bit of a jolt from being in that different culture. That might have helped propel me a little more towards being a feminist. You can be overly simplistic looking at the South, thinking women are on pedestals and should look pretty. The young girls were supposed to look sexy, but be sexless. The people i knew would talk about that a little bit. That was another level of awareness. Like, “hmm… what are the weird things that culture does to gender?”
Me: How was your experience working in a historically male-dominated field (the church)?
Mummy: When I was in seminary, my class was half women so I didn’t feel very aware of that. When I started seminary, women had been able to be ordained for maybe 2 years. I was aware of a bit of the historical struggle, for the church to approve women’s ordination. But my class being half women, it was easy not to feel like I was any sort of pioneer. But in Mississippi, there was only one other ordained woman there. I was ordained a deacon in Massachusetts, but a priest in Mississippi. I was the first woman ordained as a priest in Mississippi. It was done by the bishop of Massachusetts but in the parish in Mississippi. The bishop had been one of those liberal white clergy who had gone to the South for the civil rights movement. So I think that’s why he made a point to go there, I guess because it was historical.
What I really remember was the first clergy conference I attended in Mississippi. It’s not that big a diocese. But for some reason, the other female priest couldn’t be there. For a stretch of time, I was the only woman there. When we sang hymns, I remember distinctly feeling like my voice just got completely obliterated and lost. If you sing soprano with tenors and basses, you’re swallowed up. That was a very tangible way of experiencing being a minority. There was one really obnoxious young male priest who kept hitting on me. He was notoriously touchy feely. I felt like I had to fend him off and other people rallied around me to defend me. That was one of my memories.