A boomer writes of A Motherless Child’s Mothers Day

On Mothers Day, BoomerCafé contributor Erin O’Brien of Redondo Beach, California, reflects upon her mom. She is now gone, but Erin says, while loss is universal, so is love. She calls these reflections, A Motherless Child’s Mothers Day.

As I looked around on Mothers Day, it seemed I was the only woman in church without a carnation from the usher.

It’s because I am not a mother. But I am a daughter.

Memories ... Erin with her mother.

Memories … Erin with her mother.

My mom has been gone for 13 years, but her love still surrounds me, like a cloaking device, a suit of armor, a hug. It was a long time, though, before I got to this place.

In the dark hours after she was gone, I became a member of the club in which I never wanted to belong.  A motherless child. Like a kid lost in a big department store who would never be found. Or stuck in the middle of a nightmare and unable to wake up.

Stopped at a red signal in the intersection, as cars whizzed by in their choreography, I wanted to shout. No one realized what had just happened to me.

Erin_infantThe next morning, for a split second, it was a regular day. Then I remembered. She was gone.

At her house I discovered her white sweater on the back of a chair. I slipped it on.

The night after the funeral I had a dream that a black car pulled in to my driveway and the rear door opened and she got out and waved.

There were many mornings like that. And then, as my aunt promised, one morning it wouldn’t be the first thing I thought of.

But I didn’t want to forget anything. Not her voice or anything she taught me. Or her Magic.

My classmates said I had the prettiest mom. So did my teacher.

She could cut a McDonald’s hamburger in half with her car keys, after first sterilizing them in her hot coffee, of course. She could sew the First Communion and graduation dresses of my imagination. She could bake a Snoopy birthday cake that was prettier than the picture in the Betty Crocker Cookbook.

Erin_reddressOne Christmas my younger sister and I opened our Christmas stockings to find gifts from Mrs. Santa. I unwrapped a light pink velvet choker with a black and white cameo. My sister’s was light blue. They reminded me of my mom’s clip-on cameo earrings. Oddly, I never remember her wearing them again.

When she opened the big red heart box of Valentine’s Day chocolates from our dad, she offered the four of us kids the first pieces. She always took the burnt piece of toast. Or the broken whatever. She said it tasted just as good.

That was the Magic. But only part of it.

One day I noticed my hands and feet. They were hers.

Every time I see a Scottie dog, or a bag of nacho cheese Doritos, or hear someone order a “half caff” cappuccino (although she always ordered a second one, which made for a whole), I think of her.

Her white sweater hangs in my closet. But I don’t even need to put it on to feel her Magic. That cloaking device, that suit of armor, that hug that makes me feel worthy and strong, is her love. And a mother’s love lasts.


  1. Thank you for your candor in describing your mother’s actions , her unique beauty , her “common sense ” way of creating security and care for her children .

    Supposedly mine once placed me on the kitchen table as a live model for my siblings’ drawing lessons .She was absolutely the prettiest member of her regional Home Demonstration Club, always a tiny size , always in a lovely dress and feminine shoes …she not only grew the tomatoes and raised the beef as future ingredients for her incredible marinara sauce , she kneaded the bread for the abundant hot Italian bread that would stretch to feed all the unexpected hungry guests who happened to stop by later that evening .
    On warm seasonal nights she reluctantly agreed to my father’s offed to grill out over an open grated fire pit , as she was the accomplished chef in the family . As the fire worked its way to perfect embers she insisted we learn the lyrics to and join her in singing her favorite old time songs , being wise of the positive effects singing does to the hearts of children. I never heard her complain that she was tired or bored or afraid , even when tragic and terrible things happened to herself as well as our family unit . She merely grabbed a tool or weapon or her great resolve and decided what she was planning to do about her next challenge . She was the strongest woman I ever knew .

    1. What a perfect tribute to your beautiful, brilliant mother.
      Let’s celebrate the gifts our moms were to us today!

  2. Erin, you hit it right on the head with this one. I had a lot of those same feelings when my mom died. I could just never put it into words!

  3. This brought tears to my eyes, what a wonderful tribute to your beautiful (inside and out) mom. You have obviously inherited her traits — I hope that’s a comfort to you. I know that it’s a blessing to everyone close to you.

  4. Erin, I just read this today, Mother’s Day. You write beautifully; I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  5. My favorite by far, Erin. A beautiful and touching tribute.

    Happy Mother of Cats Day!
    Neighbor Janet

  6. Hi Erin, I loved reading your beautiful story about your mom. I just lost my mom on April 14th and I just never knew how it would effect me. Having Mother’s day come so soon after her death, made me realize how much I truly missed her. I am so blessed I find her memories every where. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Tess, My heart goes out to you.
      You will be reminded of her in the most unexpected places. May these moments bring you comfort and peace.

  7. The cameo necklace got me. Such a perfect memory, what a joy you gave me. There’s something about remembering Mom and childhood, thank you for your sweet story.

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