MOTHER’S DAY STORIES COLLECTION
CAROL GOULET LANDRY’S GRAND MOTHER AND MOTHER:
MARY LACROIX and SIMONE GOULET
I would like to honor both my grandmother, Mary Lacroix, and my mother, Simone Goulet. They were two extraordinary women who worked hard and nurtured their children with good nourishing food, high moral teachings, an exhausting work ethic, a great sense of responsibility, and a strong family bond.
Born in 1890, in a small village in Quebec, my “Memere”, Mary Grenier, married Joseph Lacroix in 1908. She was 17. Memere never liked Canada. It was a hard life, following her husband, who worked in the woods. A few years later, she had four children to care for and often helped cook for the woodsmen.
The family immigrated to the Biddeford/Saco, Maine area in 1916, speaking no English and having no money. “Pepere” found work immediately. Memere had more children. Tragedy struck in 1930, when Pepere was killed in a logging accident, leaving his pregnant wife and, by then, twelve children.
Never faltering, Memere managed to keep her family together, working hard to keep them clothed (with clothes she sewed) and fed. Her daughter Simone (my mother) remembers “Ma being around the stove forever: morning, noon, and night to feed her family!”
Everyone pitched in to help. The older ones had jobs; the younger ones went to school. Simone, along with her many chores and schooling, took care of her four younger brothers. She graduated 8th grade at 16, then joined the older ones in the workforce, giving her entire pay to her mother. They managed to survive the “Great Depression”, not even realizing there WAS a Depression!
Five of Simone’s brothers bravely served in WWII, one earning a Purple Heart. Simone and one sister helped the war effort by working in a factory making parts for airplanes. Two younger brothers served in the Korean Conflict.
Although Memere was a strict, no nonsense kind of mother, her children always felt loved and supported by her and each other. Simone, my mother, inherited that sense of responsibility and devotion to her family. Unlike her mother, however, she greatly valued education and supported my brother and me to get our college degrees.
A rich heritage and strong family are the greatest gifts Memere and Mom have given me. I am deeply grateful. I only hope I can pass on those gifts to my children and grandchildren.
–In gratitude, Carol (Goulet) Landry
CAROL LAURO’S MOTHER:
SARA VINCENT FLOR
My mother, Sara Vincent Flor, was born in Lisbon, Portugal. Her father, my grandfather, and his family were jewelers. Her mother, Maria, was raised in a farming family from Pico Island in the Azores. The whole family moved to the United States when my mother, Sara, was five years old. Sara, her brothers, and her sisters learned English on their own. After graduating from New Bedford High School, Mother became a real estate agent. She was a talented artist who loved to sew and she made my wedding dress.
My grandmother and her brothers were farmers. My grandmother, Maria, who had the wisdom of farmers, always said to us, “ Corn Is not going to be corn anymore, mark my words.” Her reasoning was that people were putting too many pesticides on the vegetables, especially the corn, and they did not realize the harm they would bring. Her prediction has proven to be true. Most US corn is now genetically modified. My grandmother and her brothers also taught us what herbs to plant to keep the insects away and to keep us safe.
My mother was ahead of her time. When my father, Lionel, a professional musician, became ill in his fifties with a tubercular kidney, Mother became a diligent student, learning how to cook macrobiotically. Michio Kushi became their counselor and also their teacher, as they studied with him in Boston. My mother, along with my father, also studied acupuncture and received their acupuncture license. They didn’t practice acupuncture publicly but gave treatments to each other the rest of their lives. My father fully recovered from his kidney illness and lived until 91!
I am very grateful that my journey to macrobiotics began because of my parents’ influence and I, to this day, love gardening because of my grandmother and her family. I have continued our family tradition of eating a lot of vegetables. The healthy food saved my life as well. So thank you to everyone reading this and thank you from my heart to my mother and my grandmother for my strong and loving heritage, as well as for introducing me to Michio and Aveline Kushi, who all brought me on the path to macrobiotics, recovery, and lifelong wellness.
My other Grandmother Mary Correa Soares, was born on St. Michael’s Island in the Azores. This wonderful women taught me how to keep a very orderly house which was actually Feng Shui, which I practice now. I also learned from her cooking as she was a good cook. I remember her Portuguese Rice Pudding and Portuguese bread, as well as her Kale Soup. She lived close by and I received her love and care throughout my life, for which I am deeply grateful.
CHRISTINA PIRELLO’S MOTHER:
“HOW IT ALL BEGAN FOR ME”
I was raised in a big Italian and Irish family, with extended clan members roaming wildly in and out of our house and lives on a daily basis. With the exception of my Irish father, we all cooked…my brothers, sister, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and most important, my mother, Tonya Stabile-Hayes.
My mother was one in a million. She was a lot of things: volatile and moody with a violent temper, but ahead of her time is what I remember most about her…and her passion for good food. MAMMA MIA!
As a child, some of my most vivid memories are of the Friday night and Saturday morning treks to the farmers’ markets in our area of New Jersey. My mother would pile us in the car and head off to find the best vegetables and fruit she could manage. Our eggs were delivered weekly by a local organic egg farmer. My father brought home the finest cuts of meat (or so I’ve been told). Mama baked all our bread and sweets, working outside the home as well as in it. She loved to cook and to nourish.
My Italian family, with my mother in the lead, taught me to love cooking and to treat food with respect; to eat seasonally and cook simply, coaxing flavor from the freshest ingredients we could find. Of all that I learned from her, it was the respect for food; the respect for nature and how the seasons provided for us that had the most impact on me as I discovered the joys of cooking.
My mother’s commitment to fresh ingredients was matched by an insatiable thirst for knowledge about natural health. While she and I cooked, continuing right on through dinner, she would talk to me about the latest article she had read about health and food. She would build on the discussions we had when I was a child about respect for food. Now it was respect for our health and for the planet and suddenly cooking became very…big picture for me.
…AND THEN THERE WAS ME
I was sick to death of it all…the recycling, the turning off of the water while we brushed our teeth to conserve, the walking instead of driving for added fitness and conservation, the healthy meals, the ‘weird’ brown whole wheat bread she baked that I would trade at school for something ‘normal,’ like Wonder Bread, the activist marches she regularly attended with me in tow. She was politically liberal, diametrically opposed to my conservative father, which made for some lively dinner conversations. Shyness had no place at our table. We talked. Let’s just say I was raised to be politically, environmentally and socially aware. It was a rich and volatile tapestry.
Mama also spent countless hours in ‘health food stores,’ communing with the owners (all with names like ‘Free’ and ‘Sunflower’). She read voraciously: Ann Wigmore, Frances Moore Lappe…anyone who had anything to say about food, health and the environment. She made the connection between food and health way before anyone was talking about it on the evening news.
I listened to my mother lecture me for my entire young life. I cooked for most of my young life. By the time I left home, I had decided to become a vegetarian.
My mother passed away at 49 years old, from colon and bone cancer. For all her book knowledge about wellness, she lived her life addicted to sugar
and cigarettes and they stole her life. But her lifelong preaching would come back to haunt me when I had my own health crisis with cancer. And ultimately to heal me, because as it turns out, I was raised well. I understood food.
My mother and I had a volatile, often, at odds with each other - relationship, but I adored her. I always say that she taught me everything I wanted to be and everything I didn’t. She gave me life and did the best she could. That’s all I could ask of her.
AUDREY GOLDSEKER POLT’S MOTHER:
SAYDE ABRMOWITZ GOLDSEKER
I am delighted that Jane invited me to contribute reflections about my mother, Sadye Abramowitz Goldseker. As an album maker by profession, I indeed value the significance of preserving photos and sharing stories for present and future generations. I met Jane and Lino through macrobiotics, and we share a common interest in a healthy lifestyle. It is only fitting, therefore, that my memories include the kitchen, the focal point of our home.
My mother died in 1972, almost fifty years ago. I was 25 and pregnant with my son Richard who would have been her first grandchild. Like most women in the era of the 40s and 50s, my mother was a stay–at–home mom. Managing our household was her career, and she approached it like a full–time job. She personified the characteristics of the traditional perfect homemaker.
Many of my most vivid memories of childhood center on the times spent in the kitchen with Mom as she prepared delicious meals for our family. I loved baking with her and licking the leftover batter from the bowls. I looked forward to coming home from school, wondering which of Mom's favorite dishes would greet me. I can vividly remember the delightful aromas originating in the kitchen and soon permeating the entire house as Mom cooked so many traditional dishes from recipes she inherited from her mother.
Unlike today, there was little awareness about the unhealthy effects of sugar, hydrogenated fats, pesticides, etc. No one knew about the benefits of a plant–based diet, certainly not in our kosher home. Yet, my mother did take an interest in nutrition and healthy foods. For example, she used wheat germ and honey instead of sugar and always prepared meals at home rather than going to restaurants. My older cousin remembers my mother reading Rachel Carson's book, "Silent Spring." She recalls Mom's concern and worry about the introduction of chemicals and pesticides into our environment. My mother was actually ahead of her time.
Even more important than my mother's culinary skills were the values she represented and which defined her. Home and family were her priority. She was always there for her immediate and extended family, demonstrating her caring and generous nature. She was thorough and meticulous in every task she took on and modeled what it meant to do one's best. She taught my brother and me responsibility, stability, frugality, respect for others, common sense, and to always do the right thing. She gave us her unequivocal love, support and endless concern for our well–being.
In 2010, the curator of the Jewish Museum of Maryland, contacted me as she was searching for photos for an upcoming exhibit called "Chosen Food," about cuisine, culture, and Jewish identity. She selected a photo of my mother, taken during Passover 1954, serving a bowl of chicken soup and matzah balls with steam rising from the bowl. I was thrilled to learn that Mom's photo became the iconic symbol of the show, appearing on all promotional advertising and articles, and the invitation and official brochure to the grand opening of the exhibit. In addition, a life–size cardboard poster of the photo was prominently displayed at the museum entrance! In fact, that exhibit traveled to several other museums around the country.
Years after Mom was gone, there could not have been a more beautiful tribute to her memory than honoring the things she valued in life—tradition, home and family. Thank you, Jane, for allowing me to again honor my mom. May her memory always be for a blessing.
My son Richard, age 49, grew up to become a video biographer. According to Richard, "too often we overlook that which our family will 'hunger' for most when we're gone: our stories, our insights, our humor, the essence of who we are."
–Audrey Goldseker Polt
WILLIAM “BILL” TARA’S GRANDMOTHER:
“THE KITCHEN WAS HERS”
My mother, my sister, and I lived with my grandparents until I was ten. Grandma Roxanne Murtland was the guardian of the kitchen. No one else was allowed to cook, not even the daughters or aunts. They might be summoned to assist, but Grandma was in always in charge.
Going to the store with my grandmother was a challenge. She needed to know where everything came from; she smelled and poked, squeezed, and inspected every item. Carrots and apples, chickens, and greens—she knew what she was looking for and never settled for less. The shopkeepers were on high-alert when she showed up. The only packaged foods in our kitchen were baking supplies, sugar, and a few condiments. Everything was made from “scratch.” Breads, cakes, stews, soups, mayonnaise, even ice cream—everything that came out of that kitchen was made there.
The kitchen changed with the seasons. The tail end of summer was the time of most intensive action. There were trips to the countryside to get boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables from farm stands. A canning operation was set up in the kitchen and on the back porch. We boiled large tubs of water to sterilize ball jars for dill pickles, succotash, sauerkraut, and endless jars of fruit and fruit preserves. The shelves in the garage were stocked with a colourful range of food to use during the winter. My grandmother loved cooking. It was a full-time commitment.
When I changed my way of eating, I was pulled off to the side during a family gathering by Grandmother Roxanne. She said, “You are looking good but I want you to know that I never fed you anything that made you sick.” I said, “I am sure of that”. She smiled, gave me a pat on the back and said, “All right then”. The issue was never again raised.
MARLENE WATSON-TARA’S MOTHER:
“My Awesome 95-Year-Old Vegan Mama”
We all believe we have the best mum in the world, right? But I have to say, my wee Mum is the most uncomplaining, cheery, positive, kind, gracious, loving soul I have had the pleasure to know, and Bill will testify to that. No matter what challenges and heartache have presented themselves, and there have been many, she always has a ‘can-do’ solution.
Mum and dad had seven children, all born at home, and boy oh boy, was she simply the most organised person. Six girls, one boy, my poor brother, ha ha! Although Mum dressed all her girls the same, my brother was spared that at least. Everything home cooked, never a school meal was had by any of us. We all came home for lunch every day.
Mum washed everything by hand, wringing out blankets and sheets, along with all our clothes and school uniforms. Our pristine clothes would be hung up on the pulley in the kitchen each morning ready to be dressed for school. On top of all that, she had a part-time job and left the house at 5.00a.m. to be back at 8.00a.m.to serve our morning porridge, before we headed off. The house was always immaculate. Seriously, a human dynamo by name and by nature is Mary Watson.
We were a very happy and blessed family; Dad was an incredible pianist and he and Mum were master ballroom dancers. They taught us everything and we were the source of our own entertainment. Singing and dancing were the evening activities. We were known as the “Von-Trapps,” from the “Sound of Music.”
However, with the lack of ‘boys’ in the family, some of my sisters had to be the male partner when we were learning to waltz or tango. The first time Bill ever danced with me, he said, “Stop leading!” Ha ha, I couldn’t help it, I was one of the ‘boys’ so of course if he hesitated when we were doing the tango, I would lead, too funny. Old habits die hard, as they say.
Up until Mum was 90, she would still eat a little fish every so often. At her 90th birthday party she said, “I’m really a vegan like you.” So, she tells everyone it’s never too late to Go Vegan, hence the title of my latest book. We are so proud to have Mum as our Ambassador for our Human Ecology Project. She is right up there at the top of the page where she belongs.
All Mum’s friends are long dead, she is the last one standing, so to speak. They were all in nursing homes with dementia or other non-communicable diseases. So much suffering, all so unnecessary. Mum walks five miles every day, she never takes any medicine, she never sees a doctor and if she has a sore knee or aches or pains, she does what we all do and has a healing Macrobiotic home remedy.
My sisters make her sweet vegetable tea, which she loves. I am so blessed to have Mum with me and give thanks for her every day. As soon as lockdown was lifted, she had booked her flight to fly from Scotland be long until I dance with him again. So, on that happy note, as my beloved Bill Tara says, “At least Mum doesn’t lead!”
Love and gratitude to my amazing Mum.
JUDY THORNBER’S MOTHER:
My Mother, Irene, is the greatest gift I ever had. If only everyone could have someone so totally loving, concerned and supportive, the world would be a far better place. From the day I was born, until she died at age 97, my mother was always only a call away. She never demanded, never told me what to do. She encouraged me to learn to care for myself and always to do my best. This single mother, working on her feet as a beautician 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, working from our home, was more available than the mothers of any of my friends. It is such a support to know that you can always go home. Her smile tells it all. That smile lit up her face every time I entered a room where she was present. That safe haven allowed me to explore far and wide, because home was always there to return to.
REBECCA GURLAND’S MOTHER:
Many little memories, snippets from the past, were sparked by your email asking for stories of our mothers and grandmothers, yet at first no stories came to mind. Some recollections were not the best, but I quickly by-passed those and went to visions of Mom’s smile and feelings of gratitude for my loving parents.
I was a “change-of-life” baby – my mother was 45 years old when I was born. I often felt overprotected, overcontrolled, and completely misunderstood. Some time ago though I was given an additional perspective of the woman that I thought I knew so well.
I may have been under ten years old (more than 60 years ago!) when I was in the car with my father on the way to pick up my mother who was to be waiting outside somewhere. As my father drove down a neighborhood street, I did notice a woman in a scarf, registering that it wasn’t my mother – just some pretty lady. I can still recall the warm surprised realization when that woman turned to get into our car.
We don’t always appreciate the beauty in what is so familiar and too close. So step away - look again.
FRANCES SMITH QUINCANNON
My Mother Was A Southern Steel Magnolia
Frances Smith Quincannon was beautiful, feminine, stylish, talented, creative, as well as strong, intelligent, and athletic, with a sharp memory. During her 92 years I was privileged to be her daughter and to spend much time with my mother in her last decade of life. I would not trade anything for that decade.
In one of my smartest acts, I recorded Mother’s life stories about her childhood, school, holidays, and fun on the family farm with her amazing fourteen siblings who comprised the exuberant, friendly Smith Family of Sedge Garden, NC near the tobacco town of Winston-Salem.
Mother’s stories centered around her revered mother, Ida, my grandmother, who raised her fifteen children on a one hundred acre farm. As the children grew, they all shared in the countless household and farm duties, whether it was harvesting crops, plowing fields, gathering honey from the bee hives, making homemade biscuits and pies, sewing quilts, doing laundry, or tending to the horses, chickens, and cows. One of the chores that Mother described was to milk the cows before she set off for school in the morning. She carried a lantern to the barn and milked the cows, always aiming squirts of milk to the hungry barn cats that stood in line for their breakfast.
Mother developed a deep sense of responsibility for others and for her community, which she learned from her family. Her family taught her to care for others. My grandmother, Ida, was a midwife and herbalist who helped the women of the village give birth and gave out home remedies for a myriad of ailments from toothache to colic.
During the Depression, when many people had no food, hungry travelers knew they could go to the Smith’s back door to get a meal and cool well water. On the mailbox by the road, they would see a symbol carved by other travelers in the wood that meant: “Stop here. They will feed you.” After a meal, the travelers would rest under the sycamore trees, or do some work around the farm to return the favor, before they moved on. The Smith family’s caring for others helped people restore their spirit. It was love in action.
Times were brutally hard for America in the 1930’s, but on an active farm, after the sweaty work, there was plenty of food, music, dancing, and family fun. The Smiths created a clay tennis court and rode in a Model T Ford. As we kids grew up, Mother’s expert decorating, hand-sewn designer clothes, and oil painting brought beauty into our lives. She was always on the forefront of fashion and current events. This abundance of creative fun in our family led to deep strengths, a quest for knowledge, and a unique joy of life that lives to this day.
Mother also shared fascinating stories of her life as a young girl raised in the South. My smart, young mother turned from playing basketball, baseball, and winning the county high jump championship to dancing and singing in stage shows, to administrative studies. She matured on the fateful day of December 7, 1941 with the Pearl Harbor attack. Her life dramatically changed when the whole world was thrown into World War II. After December 7, her then carefree life pivoted from the small southern town to the direction of Washington, DC and a job for the war effort with the FBI.
Southern women were the original American “Foodies,” talking a lot about food, sharing recipes, saying as they entered a home, “What cha got cookin’?” Mother took great pride in presenting a delicious meal. Her food was legendary, reported in the local newspaper, treasured by her family. She served regional favorites, as well as international gourmet dishes. At the holidays she and two of her sisters, Rubye and Pearl, baked special Moravian cinnamon cookies and other luscious treats for days. Mother’s food was one of her great gifts that endures in my memory and in my heart.
A mother’s love, in all its expressions, lives on in each of us, if we were privileged to have had a loving, caring mother.
Thank you, Mother. Ours is a true and strong heritage… interwoven in the greater story of an American family.
–Jane Q. Stanchich
GINAT CORMAN RICE’S MOTHER:
DORIS WOLKOFF CORMAN
Doris was born in Waco Texas on December 12, 1922. For some reason she always enjoyed saying that her birthday was 12/12/22. Look how young and pretty she is by the car in her fur coat. (See newsletter cover.) How was it that a good Jewish maid’leh was born in Texas?
The original family members came from Jekabpils a.k.a Jekabstadt in Latvia before the World Wars. How short they were! They couldn’t get into Ellis Island. German Jews didn’t want to mingle with the Eastern Europe crowd. In Cincinnati, for example, each group had its own country club! So the boat got diverted all the way to Galveston, where they made their way through the enormous state of Texas and somehow landed in Waco. That’s where my whole family was based and where my father had a grocery store. Mah fam’ly all had drawls, y’all, an’ Isadore called hisself "Tex."
So what’s special about my mother? Why, everything, of course! She was raised in poverty in the racist South when her father died, leaving his two daughters and my grandmother to subsist with a grocery store. After marriage, my father, Calvin’s career in law had taken us all to southern New Jersey (somehow still southerners on the East coast.) Mother went on to complete a Masters Degree in Library Science, edit all my father’s law books, raise us three kids and love me tremendously.
That’s a righteous lifetime for which I’m so grateful! If there’s anything good about me, it’s thanks to Doris and her beloved Calvin. May their memory be a blessing.
–Ginat Corman Rice
LINO STANCHICH’S GRANDMOTHER AND MOTHER:
GIOVANNA STANCHICH AND GIOVANNA TERKOVICH
What can a man say about the two incredible women who brought him into the world, raised him, fed him, taught him so well, and brought the family through their war torn country? My family story is so powerfully rich, with a large variety of characters who worked, loved, and deeply trusted one another. None are so dear, none so beloved as Grandmother and Mother, both named Giovanna.
My country, as a unwilling pawn in history, changed borders and names many times. Basically I was born in Italy, north into the Istrian region, once part of Austria, then Yugoslavia, now Croatia. My Grandmother Giovanna, though raised in Istria, moved to Vienna as a young woman, to study medicine and midwifery. Extremely intelligent, she spoke five languages. Her goal was to return to Istria and help the village women with healthy pregnancy and birth, a goal she achieved and at which she excelled.
Yet, while still in Vienna in the early 1900’s Grandmother trained as a cook to put herself through medical school. So skilled, she developed into quite a gourmet chef, employed by the Italian Ambassador in Vienna, then the Austrian Ambassador in Rome. After her midwifery studies, she returned home by boat, via The Adriac Sea, where, on board, she met a charming young man named Antonio. The two quickly fell in love, married, and became my grandparents! Grandmother received for her wedding gift, an eighteen-foot custom made Aga wood stove for the farm house. Soon after, my mother, Giovanna was born.
The farm was my family’s life work, with large crops of wheat, oats, corn, barley and rye, as well as every vegetable and herb, possible to plant and harvest. The women cared for the home, meals, gardening, and sewing. Many animals populated the farm. My Great Grandfather Martin kept many bee hives as well, yielding much honey. In time, I came along. How blessed I was to have arrived into a such a strong, loving farm family. We were fortunate to have abundant fresh air, revitalizing activities, a myriad of animals, and delicious seasonal meals cooked over that wood stove.
When WWII broke out in late 1939, the Nazis occupied our country, as they allied with Italy. It was a tremendous tragedy to the country and to our family who supported the resistance group, the Partisans. My family reluctantly endured the Nazi occupation, even as they hid Partisans in the barn, for which we all could have been shot. My Grandmother and Mother were prepared to defend and nourish the family in any way necessary. Many times my mother walked over the mountains for more than twelve hours, at risk of death, to get supplies for the family. Our community and family motto was, “Never surrender.”
My early idyllic life, though torn by the war, left me with a constant, innate strength rooted in a sense of deep family support and love. I shall always be eternally grateful to my whole family, especially these two loving women: Giovanna and Giovanna.