Memorial, New York City, October 29, 2006
Housing Works Used Book Café
When I was thinking about standing here today it was hard to figure out exactly what to say. There are so many things I thought I could say about my mother.
My mom was smart, funny, kind and always trying to figure out how to connect people to the thing, person, place or dog that they needed. My mother loved with her whole heart. She was fun and she was a fighter. My mother made me strong, made me funny, passed on her ferocious work ethic to me and I’m honored every time someone tells me how much I look like her. But we all know these things about my mother.
The story I wanted to tell today was about my mom teaching me how to dance. One day when I was younger I came home from school upset. When my mom came home from work I burst into tears because I didn’t know how to dance.
She took me to the bedroom and we stood in front of the full length mirror that I had framed with Tiger Beat photos of Michael J. Fox. She put on some music and said “You can either move to the beat or double time to the beat. Feel the music. And practice.” It was very matter of fact.
Now, I don’t know how much she was known for dancing outside of the house but inside the house if a song came on that she really loved she would almost burst into dancing or at least wildly tapping her foot. She loved soulful ballads and a song with a good beat that you could dance to. I have many memories of her singing along to songs and dancing to the beat (or double time as the mood might strike her.)
When Marshall and I were planning our wedding in Seattle my mom came to visit. She stayed with us and we threw a dinner party in her honor. As usually, she was quickly crowned the coolest mom by all of my friends. When dinner was over, against all of our better judgment we decided to try out the Karaoke for the Xbox. My mom sang off key with the rest of us and used her ever present camera to document not only in still but also video technology. It’s some seriously bad singing. Conveniently…she’s was behind the camera so her vocal stylings are absent from the tapes…but I have a strong mental recollection. Soon after the Karaoke was started, our couches were pushed to the walls and our friend Brandon was break dancing in the living room. My mom practiced her moon walk.
Preparing for this memorial, I ran across pictures from that night. What strikes me is how much fun we were having and how common that was when I was with her. She was so much fun.
Last December my mom was undergoing treatment and she was in a lot of physical pain but she was determined to go Christmas shopping. We went to Pottery Barn over here on Broadway. It was during the transit strike and there was literally one other person in the store and seemed to only be one person working. The music playing seemed extra loud, as if turned up to accommodate the many customers that should have been in there. As we were leaving the store, Reach Out, I’ll be there by the Four Tops came on. This was a song I remembered from my childhood. I may have shrieked with joy. We began to dance around the pseudo living rooms and sing to each other.
Even though I’ve just been talking about Karaoke, I’m not going to attempt to sing this, don’t worry. But the lyrics “If you feel out and about to give up, because your best just ain’t good enough, and you feel the world has grown cold and your looking out all on your own and you need a hand to hold, darling Reach Out… I’ll be there…to love and comfort you, I’ll be there….to cherish and care for you. I’ll be there…to always see you through.”
That moment was so fun. And such a perfect song to dance to…because that’s who she was. If I was feeling out and about to give up because my best just wasn’t good enough…my mother was there to love and comfort me. And if I was just out shopping? She was there to dance around and be silly with me