Mother’s Day is around the corner and it always prompts memories. I figured I’d share two of them: one of my mother who protected me, and the other of how she helped me to discover art.
As a child, I was an altar boy at the Church of the Virgin Mary in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The service was spoken in Arabic and English, with a little bit of Greek added in. Needless to say I understood only the English! The pageantry of the service kept me riveted though, no matter how late the hour, with the smell of the incense as a kind of extra stimulant.
One Good Friday service, when I was around 10 years old, I was doing my job as an altar boy and I was paired up with a rowdy, much older, Brooklyn kid for the ceremonial procession – priests, deacons and a raft of altar boys. We were walking round and round the altar, bowing when we reached the front of it, for what seemed like an eternity. My fellow altar boy decided to tell me jokes to keep me amused and he made me laugh hysterically, to the point that I literally peed in my pants. I was wearing polyester pants (it was 1978 after all) and of course they did not absorb and became sticky and stinky. The priests were super cool about it and decided to do an impromptu extra walk or two around the altar with paper towels slipped under their shoes so that they could quietly mop it up.
The entire congregation watched it transpire… I was HORRIFIED! Here comes Mom after Mass, cool as a cat, acting like nothing had happened. She kept me under her wing when the service was done and acted like, “What’s your problem?” when people came up to me to say how sorry they were for me. I felt protected.
Next story. When I was growing up in Bay Ridge on 101st and 4th Ave my parents were getting their doctorates at NYU and to supplement their income they were designing dresses. They had rented the apt next to us for $50. Yes $50! Again, it was the 70′s. They used it as a studio to cut, hand dye, sew, and hand paint silk dresses.
My Mom incorporated vintage embroidery from the 1920′s for the bodices and necklines. Then they would both hand paint all kinds of blossoms on the ombred silk. I would watch her hand move, in a very delicate way across the silk. It inspired me to see and create something from nothing.
Happy Mother’s Day Mom. I love you.