So many mothers played a part in the history of Tottenville: some famous, some known only to their families. Their contributions, however, are very significant.
Today on Mother’s Day, two mothers who lived in Tottenville not only come to mind, but also touch my heart: one famous, Dorothy Day; one known only to her family, my own mother. Then I began reflecting on the unique relationship mothers have with their children and I knew the topic I was going to explore today in my writing.
November 8, 1997 was the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Dorothy Day. February 11, 2011 was the 100 Anniversary of the birth of Mary Vassallo, my mother.
It was in becoming a mother to Tamar that led to Dorothy Day converting to Catholicism, setting her on a path that led ultimately to consideration for sainthood.
In order to love one must first have love inside. This love, which she discovered in giving birth to her daughter, and which grew to her love of God and all people, was the measure of her life. The fullness of her belief was that the only law is love. When our hearts dictate what is the right thing to do is when, little by little, we grow in this love by opening ourselves to it. Dorothy discovered fully that God is love perfected. People may have criticized and judged Dorothy, but love gave her an inner strength to do what her heart told her.
To learn more of Dorothy Day’s legacy see http://www.angiemangino.com/Dorothy-Day.html
My relationship with my mother stemmed from one of a love so deep that it taught me how to love. Born in Italy, and brought to the United States to the Bronx at the age of two, my mother lived there until she and my father followed my moves, first to Middle Village, Queens and then ultimately to Swinnerton Street in Tottenville where she lived until the end of her life on January 27, 1986.
Many of her choices in mothering were different from my own choices, but there is a thread that ties that love which I passed on to her grandchildren and now, to her great grandchild.
We view mothering through many lenses, but to me the most important issue is that all mothers love the best they can. There is a multitude of levels of this love, ranging from so deeply buried that it’s not apparent to the human eye, to supportive, and to unconditional.
Now Sigmund Freud would argue with me, pointing out how most of our problems have something to do with our relationship with our mothers. My theory is that once we come to an honest look at our mother for the person she was, rather than only seeing her as our Mom, we can move on to be our own person. We need to take the best of what she had to offer and develop that in ourselves; learning from any of her failings to try not to pass that part on. Our children can then do the same with us.
This honest look requires separating out from the greeting card version of motherhood to remember something most children have a hard time doing. This person who gave birth to them is a woman in her own right; with her own strengths, with her own weaknesses, and here’s the really difficult one, her own needs. And when a woman comes to terms with who she is, she, like Dorothy and my Mom, can impact history.