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The Kindness of Women Who Made You Feel at Home

Jamie Stiehm on

Mother's Day may also be Mothers Day.

My mother calls me every morning from Santa Monica, sounding like a lark, ever since the pandemic. A professor into her 80s, she has a subversive streak and went places all over the world, once to a civil war with a United Nations peacekeeping team. She sees her three daughters as a bit "unadventurous."

No, Mom, I don't want to sleep in a yurt in a Kazakhstan forest.

She's descended from a Puritan woman famed for bravery, no lie. Her flame burns bright, and I love her dearly.

When I was very young, my mother was studying for her Ph.D. at Columbia. My father was a medical resident. Our little family lived in Harlem. I shared a crib and babysitter with Kelly.

Her mother Patricia, born an Irish Catholic girl in Brooklyn, was a match for my mother's spirit. Ahead of her time, her husband Luther was Black. That was rare in the early '60s.

 

Red-haired Pat treated me like family. I could ask her anything about leaving my marriage or seeking a job. She gave me a gift of a Waterford crystal Christmas flute, signed with love and kisses.

An education leader, Pat rose to become superintendent of the Manhattan high schools. I went to her memorial service up in New York in mid-March. Guests wore green for St. Patrick's Day. "You could feel her energy shake the floor," a teacher said.

Kelly, a lawyer, greeted me as her "crib mate." Can't get closer, right? We last met at former President Barack Obama's 2008 inauguration. She slept over.

When I worked at the Baltimore Sun, I interviewed a civic leader at her warm home, full of pictures of her late husband and three daughters. Her Southern Virginia girlhood was storybook.

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