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Happy Mother’s Day 2011

Ruth Orbach

Twelve years ago, the week after Mother’s Day, I lost my mother. I miss her terribly, and this year, especially, there’s so much I wish I could share with her. Ma, your firstborn granddaughter is getting married this summer, to a fine young man from a wonderful family. And your youngest, barely two months old when you left us, was just bat-mitzvah’ed – oh, you would have adored her! Two granddaughters are graduating from college this month, and your grandson just finished his freshman year…

If only the two of us could have just one more Mother’s Day together, to talk and laugh and cry…

But no shopping, Ma.

Anything but shopping.

My mother and I argued heatedly inside the dressing rooms of every Loehmann’s, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, and Bloomingdale’s in the New York metropolitan area. When she didn’t like how something looked on me (translation: any outfit I picked out), she didn’t merely shake her head in disapproval. “FEHHH!” she’d intone, followed by loud, liquid regurgitating noises for emphasis. Meanwhile, I’d go ballistic whenever she used the dreaded “s” word –  slenderizing the highest praise for any outfit. (And particularly puzzling, because I wasn’t actually overweight… yet.) Even the names of our favorite stores bespoke how at odds we were, about fashion and most everything else. Mine was “Emotional Outlet,” an edgy downtown Manhattan boutique; hers, a cramped store on a rundown commercial street in Elizabeth, New Jersey –  “Mr. Bargain.” She swore by polyester; I channeled Stevie Nicks.

My mother’s fashion advice didn’t suit my freewheeling personality, nor the times that were a’changin’. But even while I railed against her, I recognized that she was a strikingly beautiful woman who had been quite the glamourpuss  in her day. In her new book,  “My Mom the Style Icon,”  32-year-old Shine!Yahoo features editor Piper Weiss chronicles the journey that many daughters take from those dressing- room battles to the realization that their moms were (or are) The Bomb.  Weiss’s book grew out of a popular blog in which she posted pictures of her groovy mama, Marilyn, after discovering an old photo album that shed surprising new light upon her lifelong fashion nemesis.  Soon, as she told The Huffington Post,  the lighthearted postings evolved into something much more:

With thousands of submissions -from as far away as Australia, Russia and Croatia–other people’s mothers have taken over the site. Many of the moms are deceased.

The site, at times, morphs into a tribute page, dedicated to the memory of mothers–before they were mothers… They offer an intimate look at the lifespan of a stranger. Not the harrowing loss, but the life lived–it’s the kind of public treatment of death most often reserved for celebrities.

These are women who engaged in rebellion, craved a hat they couldn’t afford at a local boutique, fell out of love and back in love, worried what their parents would think of their boyfriend–all this before they had their children. And for a moment, they become superstars. The kind of person you hope to be like.

Ruth Orbach

Accordingly, I present – with love and a slice of humble pie – some photos of my very own movie-star mom, Ruth.

Finally, another adult offspring is singing Mother’s praises online today, in a most unique fashion. Check out this hilarious ditty by Stanford University biology student Adam Cole.

So here’s to the moms – biological and adoptive, present and departed, adorable and insufferable; to the fashionistas, the mamacitas, the yiddishe mamehs, one and all.

Have a gorgeous Mother’s Day.

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