Category Archives: Mother’s Day

Ballroom Competition and Mother’s Day

It’s May 12, 2019, and I’m writing this blog post for my mom.

I’m reasonably sure she doesn’t read or even know about my blog.

But it’s Mother’s Day, and I’m missing her. Badly.

So please stick with me on this blog post?

A close friend of mine invited me to Philadelphia to watch her compete in an Amateur Ballroom Dance Competition called the Philadelphia Dancesport Championships.

Now let me be clear. I know ZERO about Ballroom dancing, so whatever I blog here is from a know-nothing perspective.

And if you bear with me, you will see how I managed to intermingle her dance competition with Mother’s Day.

My friend is an amateur, but extremely talented ballroom dancer, who partners with a masterful professional.

As a fan of “Dancing with the Stars,” I was super excited to finally see Bo dance.

First, it was off to New Jersey for a two-hour lesson and practice, followed by picking up the mother of all sequined dresses.

I’m pretty sure the dress weighed more than Bo!

Then we spent a quiet evening at the Westin Hotel in Philly.

And the next day, while Bo prepared for her competition, I went to the ballroom to familiarize myself with the dancing lowdown.

There were numbers on every table, so of course, I quickly grabbed a seat at my lucky numero 18.

The table was set up with battery operated fans, bottled water, lots of tissue boxes and neatly folded perspiration cloths.

There were at least seven judges, heads bent low to their table, busily writing stuff down.

Professional photographers were snapping photos and videographers were busy filming the competing couples.

Watching the contestants compete, I couldn’t help but wonder if they had day jobs.

I imagined, for example, that the hot tamale in the senior novice division doing the Cha-Cha in an ever-so skin-tight green dress, was an accountant by day.

“Number 476—the Cha-Cha, let’s hear it for the contestants.”

There was the Rumba, the Swing,  and the Mambo.

I was mesmerized by the abundance of illusion, glitter, sequins, feathers, and spray tan. And those splits! Oh my.

And every time a dance duo would glide by me, they would smile and gaze adoringly at me.

I was patting myself on the back that my slit wide-leg pants, glitter top, globs of face makeup, eye shadow and mascara had paid off…until I realized that there was a ginormous mirror behind me.

While the contestants were throwing back all brands and sizes of bottled water, I was happily throwing back a Chardonnay.

Two of the male dancers at my table were in deep discussion about hair gel, while I was mesmerized by one particular male dancer on the floor.

Not only did he have impressive dance moves (not that I would know), he had swag.

Mr. Swag competed with more than twenty different female partners, and he danced them to winning status every time.

Which got me to thinking: Does he live near me?

A thought balloon hovered over my head: The Terster in a tight green dress…okay maybe not so tight, because of, you know, the belly roll…

But there is the Terster—floating around the dance floor with Mr. Russian Swag Guy. And the winner is!!!!!!!

Okay, I was having a blast, but you know Teri.

She can always pull something out of the past to put a damper on any old day.

And this is where Mother’s Day comes in.

Because back in the day, my mom was an Arthur Murray dance instructor, so a lot of the songs and dances reminded me of how she would sing and dance around the kitchen on Huron Street with a phantom partner.

Once in a while, she would grab my hand, and we would float around as best we could in the cramped spaces between the table and chairs and the fridge.

Well, my mom floated, I clomped.

The flashback of the two us—with my mom so carefree and happy.

Back then, if she was happy, then so was I.

And of course, my grandmother would be sitting at the table, smiling, but covering her mouth, lest we would see her loose-fitting dentures moving around.

Maybe I looked forlorn, perhaps a little distracted. I can’t say why, but the young woman sitting next to me placed her hand on my arm. “Are you okay? Are you watching someone out there?”

I was a little choked up, so I merely shook my head no.

I pulled out a tissue from one of the several boxes on the table to catch the tears in the corners of my eyes.

Leave it to me to take a perfectly enjoyable dance competition and make a weepfest out of it.

A couple of minutes later when I had my emotions in check, I told the young woman about my mom and Arthur Murray. Well not Arthur per se, but you know what I mean.

She had bleached blonde spiky hair, a ring nose, and a mohawk motorcycle helmet. Not exactly ballroom material.

She told me that her mom was a senior novice. “The vision in lavender,” she said, as she proudly pointed her out. I answered that my favorite color was lavender.

And then she told me everything I needed to know (or not) about ballroom dance competitions, her passion for motorcycles, and how her mom got her mojo back through competitive dancing.

In between dances, contestants would come to the table and fan themselves, yank out a handful of tissues, and gently blot the sweat off their faces.

Then there came a series of songs that just stabbed at my heart:

♪ Sunrise, sunset, Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears♪

I grabbed for a tissue and ordered another glass of wine.

♪A time for us, someday there’ll be
A new world, a world of shining hope for you and me♪

I mean seriously? These songs were hardly conducive for a happy Teri outcome.

I grabbed a few more tissue, said a quick goodbye to my punky friend who was busy videoing her mom and bolted out of the ballroom before dark Teri reared her ugly head.

Plus, it was almost showtime for Bo!

A flurry of stretching, hair, makeup and then the donning of her elegant sun-yellow gown.

Bo’s dancing was superb. She was a vision in yellow—a beautiful ray of sunshine. Bo and her partner danced with elegance and spot-on precision. I was so proud of her.

She breezed through the Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Fox Trot, Quickstep, and the Tango, and took first place in all of her heats.

Her last dance was the Fox Trot. The song was Fly Me to the Moon.

Thank God for those tissues.

How many times had I adoringly watched my mom float around our dumpy kitchen on Huron Street while singing that tune?

A lifetime ago.

What I wouldn’t give to have one more chance at one more dance.

Happy Mother’s Day, mom.

The Three Strong Women in My Life


Mommy, Mammy, and Grammy Nadeau

My first fourteen years were spent living with my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.  Many on the outside thought our living arrangements were unusual. To them, I was living in a broken home.

To be clear, there was nothing broken about our home, our relationships, or our bond.

And sure, we struggled, but there was a lot of big love.

My desk area is covered with photos of me with the three women who shaped and steered my life.

I often gaze at us and wonder: Who was I to them? And who were they?

I was known as mon petit chou to my grandmother and my grandmother’s favorite to my mother. And since my mother was my great-grandmother’s favorite, I like to imagine I was in the same treasured category as my mom.

My grandmother barely knew her father, and my mother and I never knew our fathers at all.

I was an only child, and so was my mom, so the three women in my life were all the family I had—or needed.

My great-grandmother lost her mother when she was four, so I can only assume that she knew her father well. Unfortunately, I never asked her much about her life.

I do remember her telling me that her husband, my great-grandfather, had been involved in a terrible accident which rendered him a vegetable. I never forgot the story because even at a young age, I felt her pain. She told me that he spent most of his adult life in an asylum. And I could see from the telling, she was ashamed.

Through ancestry.com I was recently able to find a 1930 census document with my great-grandfather’s name on it. He was indeed a patient at the Augusta Maine State Hospital for the Insane and spent at least 25 years there before he died in 1951.

We were four women, with no male heroes. A dysfunctional familial band of female strength on the one hand, full of unspoken male loss on the other.

There were no men in my early life—and that suited me just fine. Not that I knew any better.

How strange it is, then, that having been surrounded by women for most of my life, that I’ve never had a lot of female friends. In high school, I had maybe three close girlfriends. In college, I had one.

Even today, the females in my life are few and far between.

I suppose it’s because of those early days of being surrounded by loyal, compassionate, and unconditionally loving women.

But that was then, and this is now.

Perhaps I expect the women in my life to live up to a higher standard. Maybe a standard that is virtually unattainable.

I just don’t know.

We were four strong until at nine years old, my great-grandmother passed away.

And then after many weeks of tears and broken hearts, we were three strong.

My grandmother died when I was thirty.  I lost a heart wrenching chunk of me and an enormous safety net.

She was my safest place.

Down to two strong.

She left me at a crucial time in my life. I threw up for weeks after her death thinking I was heart sick.

It wasn’t my heart. I was pregnant.

Boy did I need her guidance.

And then things went wrong. Really wrong. My life took some spins and turns and crashes and burns.

You could say I joined a circus for a few years.

I made some naïve and terrible choices. Didn’t we all?

Down to one strong.

How I wish I would have asked my three strong women more questions about their pasts, their loves, their dreams, their aspirations, their regrets.

There are so many things I don’t know about them. I have way too many unanswered questions.

And way too many whys and hows and sorrys.

I so wish I could turn back the hands of time to live and love them all again and begin anew.


Me with my grandmother circa 1953

Mother’s Day and Raleigh: My Brother Disguised as a Dog

Raleigh A

My relationship with Raleigh began on Mother’s Day in 1960 when I was seven years old and would blessfully continue for over eighteen years.

It all started on Huron Street where I lived in what was called a railroad tenement with my grandmother and mother, who both worked full-time jobs. Our top-floor apartment was run down but immaculate and was laid out in a single long line of rooms: from the kitchen to the living room, to the bedroom that I shared with my mother, to my grandmother’s bedroom at the end.
Huron Street Layout A

The tiny bathroom was directly off the kitchen to the left and lined up with a long narrow hallway that ran from the bathroom all along the length of the entire apartment and ended up at a dark, steep and narrow stairwell that led down twenty steps or so to the front door. We never used that door, because it was padlocked—sealed shut and unusable. So the only way in and out of the apartment was to climb the several rows of steep stairs in the back of the house and enter through the kitchen. Only one way in, and one way out. A real fire trap.

My grandmother Mammy (pronounced MayMe) worked the 3-11 pm shift, so she was already gone by the time I got home from school. My mother worked until 6 pm or so.  I didn’t like coming home to an empty apartment at all. What seven-year-old would?

I would spend enormous amounts of time by myself in that apartment. I would slowly trudge toward home after school every weekday. Then I would reluctantly and cautiously climb the stairs upon stairs in the back of the tenement and hole myself up in the kitchen and try to keep busy until my mother came home for supper (as we called dinner back then).

Huron Street 1958 A

And in the winter when the sun set super early, I was a bundle of nerves—tense and agitated. Because scary things inevitably came out when it got dark in that crummy apartment on Huron Street.

I would continuously and frantically check the clock in the kitchen, occasionally sprinting from one end of the apartment to the other, to press my face and hands against my grandmother’s bedroom window in the hopes of catching a glimpse of my mother arriving home.

Huron Street

I would furtively check out the street below for a mother sighting and then sprint as fast as I could back to the kitchen, my mind full of monstrous thoughts about the dark hallway. During that time in my life, I had a recurring nightmare that troll type demons were lurking at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for me. That damn dream didn’t help the situation at all.

I would rock myself on a kitchen chair, willing my bladder to cooperate so I wouldn’t need to go to the bathroom and face the dreaded scary hallway.

There came a time at some point that spring when my grandmother asked me if I was afraid to come into our empty apartment.  I was most certainly afraid, but I didn’t want her to worry about me, plus what I told her was sort of true: I was more lonely than afraid.

“The poor dear is lonely,” she repeated to my mother soon after that, as I listened intently while pretending to color at the kitchen table. As they discussed the situation, they glanced over at me, and when I curiously looked up at them, in hopes of hearing their solution to my predicament, they finished off their conversation in French.

A few weeks later, my mother treated Mammy and me to an elegant and very expensive Mother’s Day brunch at the Lighthouse Inn in New London, Connecticut.

Lighthouse Inn New London, Conn

Now this brunch was way beyond my mother’s means, but it was Mother’s Day after all, and it was a rare day we ever went out to eat.

I recall the Lighthouse Inn being the grandest place I had ever seen, and incredibly fancy, with magnificent views of the Thames River, as well as the Long Island and Fishers Island sounds.

At only seven, I, of course, didn’t know what the bodies of water were called, but they most definitely left a lasting impression on me. So much so that 56 years later I can still recall that Mother’s Day like it was yesterday while most other memories from way back then are a bundle of murk and haze.

There was an elegant pathway leading up to the Lighthouse Inn, which was set way back from the main road. Both sides of the path up to the mansion-turned-Inn were spilling with the brightest and most beautiful wildflowers, roses, asters, and goldenrod.

Before we reached the front door of the Inn, there was a magnificent fountain sitting inside a circle of lush meticulously manicured green grass.

The entire scenario reminded me of the royal estates I had seen many a time on the  “Million Dollar Movie.” For anyone that remembers the series, they would show the same movie twice every night from Monday to Friday, and then three times a day on Saturday and Sunday. The exact same movie would play sixteen times over a one week period. And the “Million Dollar Movie” music was “Tara’s Theme” from “Gone With The Wind.” So as I strolled up to the grandiose entrance of The Lighthouse Inn, I hummed the iconic tune quietly to myself.

While I stuffed my face with eggs benedict, and hordes of crispy bacon, I was pretending that I was one of the rich and the famous. I play acted in my mind and pretended to be Shirley Temple.

After brunch, the three of us decided to throw pennies into the fountain and make a wish. The fountain area was packed with families who all had the same idea, and as we squeezed in and out of the crowds toward the fountain, Mammy suddenly and violently began to throw up.

Well, that dispersed the crowd rather quickly. And to their horror, Mammy’s top false teeth flew out of her mouth and onto the green leafy grass. My mother and I looked at my grandmother in shock as she bent over and picked up her teeth, shook off the vomit, and popped them back into her mouth.  When she turned toward us, she casually and matter of factly said, “The food was too rich.”

My mother was humiliated and wanted to get the hell out of there. I was in no rush—and intent on throwing a penny into the fountain. She dragged me to the car, all the while talking under her breath about how embarrassed she was and how she couldn’t take us anywhere without us causing some kind of an incident.  Poor Mammy was nauseous as all get out.

We got into our rickety old car, and it took a few tries before the engine turned over. My mother was frustrated, and I figured our Mother’s Day outing was over—ruined by Mammy’s teeth flying out of her mouth.

We drove for a while and came to a white house with a large red barn-like building. Mammy, who was still feeling queasy, stayed in the car. My mother took my hand and together we walked up to the house, and she rang the doorbell. An elderly woman answered the door and chattily walked us to the barn.

The woman opened the latch to the barn and lo and behold, there was a pile of black fluffy puppies! I was having a hard time trying to figure out why we were there with these adorable fluffballs and ran back to the car to get Mammy.

When I got back to the barn with Mammy, the woman handed me the tiniest and most precious black powderpuff puppy I had ever seen.  “He’s a pedigree Pomeranian,” my mother told me proudly as he fervently licked my face with his teensy red tongue. I was still confused as to why I was there.

“He’s yours,” Mammy said lovingly. “Someone to keep you company,” my mother added. The woman pulled out a folded paper from an envelope as I crushed the little black snowball against my chest.

“His mother’s name is Marlene, and his name is Marlene’s Onyx Jet,” she explained as she presented my mother with his papers. “His name is Jet,” my mother reiterated to me.

Jet? I didn’t like that name. It didn’t suit my puppy at all.

Raleigh B

“What’s his father’s name?” I inquired. “His father? Who cares?” Mammy responded. The woman pointed out a name on the piece of paper and replied, “His father’s name is Sir Walter Raleigh.”

“I’m calling him Raleigh,” I informed them both, even though they thought it was an overly pretentious name. On the way back to Huron Street, they tried to convince me to call him something else, but my mind was made up. His name was going to be Raleigh, and that was that.

It was a Mother’s Day I will never forget. Poor Mammy asked my mother to pull off the side of the road so she could throw up again, and right before we got to Huron Street Raleigh puked all over my new dress. (For the next eighteen years every time Raleigh got into a car he would dry heave and then spit up.)

I often look back at that time in my life and refer to it as before Raleigh and after Raleigh. Before that Mother’s Day and after that Mother’s Day.

Now with Raleigh in the picture, when the school bell rang, I would ecstatically race back to our apartment, fly up the stairs upon stairs and burst into the kitchen where my too- fancy-for-Huron Street pedigree puppy would be patiently waiting for me.

The bathroom? No problem. The hallway? Easy breezy. Raleigh would growl and bark at anything he thought was moving about. Heck, Raleigh would bark at the air.  He thought he was a Great Dane, and I guess whatever was lurking around thought he was too because nothing scary ever showed itself when Raleigh was around.

I had no need to sprint from one end of the railroad apartment to the other furtively looking for my mother.  And I wasn’t afraid of the dark any longer.

I was too busy dressing Raleigh up in pink tutu’s and teaching him to dance on his hind legs. Or I would whip him around the kitchen with his tiny teeny little front legs.

I look back on it now, and I hope I didn’t hurt him, but he loved every minute of it, the two of us swirling and spinning full tilt in circles until I would fall down. Then the two of us would dizzily try to walk it off. I would laugh uncontrollably. He would bark playfully.

From that Mother’s Day forward it was always Raleigh and me—my best friend, my fierce protector, my favorite sidekick, my beloved brother.

Raleigh D

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

happy-mothers-day-109190

While its roots can be found in ancient Greek and Roman times, Mother’s Day started in the United States as a way for mourning women to honor fallen soldiers and work for peace.

In 1868, the special day was organized to allow mothers of Union and Confederate soldiers to come together in the hopes of eliminating the divide between them, as a result of the Civil War.

And the dates may differ, but no matter where you are in the world, there is a special day to celebrate moms.

The bond that we as mothers share with our children is like no other. We carried them, sustained them, and shared our sustenance with them for nine months. During my pregnancies I was in awe of every moment of the miracle growing inside of me.

And I’m sure most mothers would agree that the love we feel for our children is immeasurable and will last beyond forever.

What makes me truly happy on Mother’s Day has zero to do with the cards, gifts, calls and visits.

If my children are happy—then I’m happy. And the best gift my children could ever give me—was already given to me the day each of them was born.

Below are a few of my fave “Mother” quotes:

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. Rajneesh

 Mother is a verb, not a noun. Proverb

A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary.  Dorothy Canfield Fisher

A worried mother does better research than the FBI. Unknown

A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie. Tenneva Jordan

Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother. Oprah Winfrey

Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had, and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed. Linda Wooten

It’s not easy being a mother. If it were easy, fathers would do it.  From the television show The Golden Girls

Women’s Liberation is just a lot of foolishness. It’s the men who are discriminated against. They can’t bear children. Golda Meir

Children are the anchors that hold a mother to life. Sophocles

A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dates all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path. Agatha Christie

A mother’s prayer is that her children will love each other long after she is gone. Unknown

The Perfect Mother’s Day Gift

Pregnant mom

This year I am going to honor Mother’s Day by making a donation to fight hunger and loneliness in the home bound elderly community. Too old and frail to shop or cook, or just plain old forgetful, the hidden hungry are everywhere.

Fifty-one million people in the U.S. go to bed hungry every night, six million of which are adults.

I recently stood in line at my local grocery store, and awkwardly watched an elderly man fish around in his pocket for enough money to pay for a can of tuna, a head of lettuce and a container of cat food. I wanted to do something—to say something. But what could I possibly say? Hey mister, let me treat you to some tuna and lettuce with a side of cat food?

The National Foundation to End Senior Hunger (NFESH) has recently released a study, entitled State of Senior Hunger in America 2013, and reveals that 15.5 percent, or 9.6 million seniors, age 60 or older in the United States face the threat of hunger. This represents an increase of 300,000 more seniors affected by senior hunger than in 2012.

The risk of hunger and food insecurity is increasing at an alarming rate among older adults. The number of food-insecure seniors is projected to increase by 50 percent when the youngest of the baby boom generation reaches age 60 in 2025.

The top 5 states, including the District of Columbia, with the largest percent of food insecurity among seniors, are Arizona (26.1), Louisiana (24.3), Mississippi (24.3), D.C. (20.2), and Texas (20.2).

After a lifetime of hard work, many elderly find themselves struggling with health issues on fixed incomes, and many are forced to choose between paying for groceries and buying medicine. Welcome to retirement.

Additionally, hunger among the more than 12 million U.S. veterans over 60 is reaching critical levels. Estimates are that over 300,000 elderly veterans are food insecure.  These numbers are unacceptable for any country, especially when the supposed richest country in the world can’t provide enough food for one-sixth of its citizens, much less the veterans who have so valiantly defended it.

So this Mother’s Day, honor someone special, and help to ensure that no senior is left behind. Below are but a few organizations to make a small donation to:

www.NFESH.org

www.feedingamerica.org

www.citymeals.org

www.feedourvets.org

www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org