Everyone has a story to tell, especially when it comes to their mothers. What we often forget, however, is how vital it is to hear these stories. Mom: A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps, now out in paperback, editor and StoryCorps founder Dave Isay gathers an array of voices from around the country that showcase the diversity of experiences that make up motherhood. Derived from everyday memories, the conversations reveal universal truths about parenting and the bond of child and mother.
As Isay’s own mother, Jane Isay, wrote in an online review of her son’s book—not surprisingly, unabashedly positive—“If you are thinking about a gift for your mom on Mother’s Day, this is an easy home run, and if you are a mom who doesn’t get this book in May, go out and buy one for yourself.”
Here, get a taste for the types of stories included, and perhaps pick up some pointers for encouraging your kids to maintain friendships and help you be a stabilizing force in their lives.
Leah Haseley, 43, talks to her brother, Jonathan Schachter of Brooklyn, 46, about their mother, Frances Fuchs Schachter. Leah is a physician and a mother of three children of her own.
I have so many memories of Mom that make me smile.
I really miss her when I pick up the children from school, because she used to love picking me up from school. I remember it very clearly, coming down the ramp out of school and her having this big grin on her face because she got to pick me up. I would go running to her. My younger one still does that for me.
I remember her teaching me to drive around the neighborhood, and all of a sudden I drove up onto a curb. Mom got out of the car, giggled, and looked at the teenagers nearby and said, “She’s learning to drive.” I had driven completely onto the curb, and rather than yell at me, she had this positive, funny approach to it. The next time I got in the car, I drove very slowly, and I said, “I’m nervous.” Rather than tell me to relax, she sat up and said, “Good. You should be nervous! This is a very dangerous thing to be doing.” And to this day I still use that. I used it in the hospital a few weeks ago. I was working with a very good resident who I was training to do a procedure, and he looked up at me, and he said, “I’m nervous.” I said, “Good. You should be nervous! It’s a dangerous thing to do.” And actually, I think that helped him relax. I think it helps to have your nervousness understood. I’m sure when I teach my children to drive, I’ll miss her like crazy.
Whenever I’m having difficulty with one of the children, I often think, What would Mom say to do in this situation? Some of the things that Mom told me I use a lot with my kids. One is, Mom always used to say, “You be the one.” You be the one to make up with a friend or to reach out and break the silence between you. So whenever one of the kids announces that he had a fight with another child at school and he’s not talking to them, I always say, “That’s not going to help you at all. You be the one to reach out and try to connect with your friend again.” The other thing Mom used to say was, “If you’re ever on the fence about whether to stay home or to go somewhere,” she used to say, “just go!” So I say that to the kids whenever they’re torturing themselves about any kind of decision that they have.
Mom took me to Boston when I was starting my residency. She was quite sick at that time, but she was bent on taking me to Boston to shepherd me through finding a place to live. It was our last trip together as mom and daughter, and we slept in the same room in this bed-and-breakfast. After we got in bed she said to me, “I want you to know a few things.” And it was very clear that she wanted to give me advice before she died.
So when we were in bed, she said to me, “When you have children, always remember that a parent should be like a gas station. The children can come to you and then go out into the world and do their things and then come back for more. But be careful that the gas station stays in one place. Don’t run after your children. Just stay there in the gas station to give them support.” That’s something that I’ve always governed myself by. Whenever I see myself running after one of the kids or trying to control what they’re doing, I always try to stop myself and say, “I’m just the gas station.”
My mother was a career woman, and she was proud of that, but I think, above all, she would want to be remembered as a really remarkable mother. On countless occasions she would say to me, “You and Jon are the greatest thing I ever did in my life.” And I always say that to the children: “You are the greatest thing I ever did in my life!”
Recorded in New York City on Aug. 23, 2008, and printed in “Mom: A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps” (Penguin), just released in paperback. Reprinted with permission.
Preserve Your Story
The independent nonprofit StoryCorps launched on Oct. 23, 2003, in Grand Central Terminal. According to the founders, it was “admittedly something of a crazy idea”: put a recording booth in the middle of one of the busiest train stations in the world, then invite pairs of people to come in and interview each other about the most important moments in their lives.
Since then, StoryCorps—one of the largest oral history projects of its kind—has collected and archived more than 40,000 interviews from nearly 80,000 participants. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
StoryCorps’ Peabody Award-winning 9/11 Initiative, which strives to record at least one story to honor each life lost on the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and Feb. 26, 1993, is especially compelling; to date, the project has recorded and archived 1,193 Sept. 11 stories, representing 583 individual victims.
Visit storycorp.org to see how to sign up to record your own interviews, to listen to others’ recordings (featured weekly on NPR’s “Morning Edition”), purchase any of the three books derived from the project, and learn more.