David Bruce: Mothers Anecdotes

• Jean Little, a young people’s author, was born with nystagmus, strabismus, eccentric pupils, and corneal opacities — in other words, she had very bad eyesight. Because of this, her parents thought that she was blind. One day, her mother, a pediatrician, was examining a small child who reached for her stethoscope. She felt sad because little Jean had never reached for anything. However, Jean’s parents noticed that she always moved to face the window when she was in bed, no matter how they placed her in the bed, so they realized that she could distinguish light from darkness. Finally, one day when her mother was feeding her, little Jean reached for a spoon, and her mother was so happy that she cried.

• When the ballet Rodeo opened, it was a smash hit with the audience applauding for 22 curtain calls. Even the musicians in the orchestra pit were giving a standing ovation — a sure sign of success. Agnes de Mille, who choreographed the ballet and danced the part of the Cowgirl, was responsible for much of the ballet’s success. An unsung hero was her mother, Anna, who supported Agnes through years of struggle. Asked if she was proud of her daughter after Rodeohad opened, Anna replied that she had always been proud of her daughter, including during the times when Agnes could find no one to give her work in dance.

• As a child, violinist Josef Gingold had a mother who was very supportive of his musical interests and of him. One Friday, a truant officer showed up at her house to tell her that Josef had missed school four Fridays in a row and was probably doing such things as playing pool with bums. Mrs. Gingold told the truant officer, “As a matter of fact, he’s in the other room practicing.” She then picked up a rolling pin and added, “He goes to the New York Philharmonic on Friday afternoons. Do me a favor, and leave this house. Next time I see your face, you’re going to get it over the head.”

• Children’s book writer Phyllis Reynolds Naylor grew up during the Depression, when money was hard to come by. Entering kindergarten, she had only two dresses: one with red checks and one with blue checks. Her mother told her that if she alternated the dresses, wearing one the first day and another the second day and so on, then everyone would think that she had more dresses than she really had. This made young Phyllis think how clever her mother was.

• Some young children are surprised that older adults have parents, too. Librarian Jeanette C. Smith once made friends with a 10-year-old girl who often came into the Minnesota public library where she worked. One day, Ms. Smith’s mother visited her, leaving as the 10-year-old girl arrived. The 10-year-old girl asked who the visitor had been, and when Ms. Smith explained that the visitor had been her mother, the 10-year-old girl exclaimed, “YOU HAVE A MOTHER!”

• The family of golfer Nancy Lopez was very supportive of her. Young Nancy was not allowed to wash dishes because she needed to protect her hands, and so her mother washed the dishes instead. In fact, her mother once decided not to buy a dishwasher so that she could use the money to pay for Nancy to play in tournaments instead. The sacrifice paid off. As an adult Nancy became a superstar golf player, and at age 10 she won a tournament by 110 strokes!

• Alexander the Great claimed to be the son of Zeus, the Greek god who was married to the goddess Hera. Alexander once wrote his mother, Olympias, and began his letter, “King Alexander, son of Zeus Ammon, greets his mother Olympias.” His mother wrote back, “My son, please don’t say such things. Don’t slander me, or bring charges against me before Hera. She really will have it in for me if you admit in your letter that I’m her husband’s lover!”

• When Julie Krone was young, she told her mother that she wanted to be a jockey. When her mother told the family veterinarian what young Julie wanted to do when she grew up, he advised her to knock Julie in the head. Her mother didn’t follow that advice; instead, she took Julie to the racetrack. Julie grew up to become a famous jockey.

• Once a mother, always a mother. Sculptor Louise Nevelson was justly proud of her son, Myron “Mike” Nevelson, who was also a sculptor. A friend of Mike’s once heard him on the telephone talking to his mother. The middle-aged sculptor said, “Yes, Mother. Yes, I’ve eaten. I had lunch. I haveeaten, Mother.”

• “I always encourage people to get into therapy, because it’s good for you and it’s not hard. It’s like a really easy game show, where the answer to every question is ‘My mom.’” — Robin Greenspan, quoted in Ed Karvoski Jr.’s book, A Funny Time to be Gay.

• When novelist Jackie Collins was raising the two daughters she had with Oscar Lerman, the first word she taught them was not “Mummy” (she was born in London), but “Anything.” Why? She wanted them to learn that they could do anything.

• Paul Gauguin’s mother knew that her son could be abrasive. After she died on July 7, 1867, she advised in her will that he start a career “since he has made himself so disliked by all my friends that he will one day find himself alone.”

• When Marc Cherry, the openly gay creator of TV’s Desperate Housewives, came out to his mother, she told him, “Well, I’d love you even if you were a murderer.” This line was so funny that he wrote it into the series.

• Actress Noreen Nash, one of the stars of Giant, found it easy to decide to give up shooting on location. After shooting a movie, she returned home and discovered that her two-year-old son barely knew who she was.

• When Twyla Tharp was young, her mother drove her hundreds of miles to music and dance lessons. Once, her mother estimated that during Twyla’s youth, she had driven young Twyla 30,000 miles to her lessons.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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