Ten Best: Mothers
Mother’s Day falls on Sunday, you ungrateful children, and to mark the occasion I’m compiling one mother of a list honoring some of the greatest mothers in the modern era. I’m starting with Meredith Baxter, and not just because I’ve been crushing on her since she had a small role in a “Partridge Family” episode. As Elyse Keaton on “Family Ties” she epitomized the role of the cool boomer mom with an idealistic past… and a Republican for a son.
Even if you think your god is male, you have to admit there is a decidedly female bent to the natural world, from the fertility of the earth to the X chromosome. Mother Nature is all around us, nurturing and providing. And we all know that it’s not nice to fool her. (Note to readers under 35 years old: That is a line from an old margarine commercial. Note to readers under 20 years old: Margarine is like butter, but different).
I can’t really say Marge Simpson does anything for me sexually – the title of Hottest Cartoon Character will always belong to Betty Cooper from “The Archies” – but I have to admire the love she pours on her children, the house she keeps and her loyalty to her husband Homer, who is a lot more like me than makes me comfortable.
James McNeill Whistlers’ serene portrait of his mother is actually named “Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist’s Mother,” and he never considered it a portrait, as she was but one of the elements in the painting. Still the image has remained one of the lasting icons of motherhood in the modern era. It hangs today in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
While technically she was a bride of Jesus and not a biological mother, my girl Mother Teresa makes the cut for her lifetime of humanitarian work in India, her Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and because if one more miracle occurs in her name she attains sainthood in the Catholic Church. Interestingly enough, during her beatification process the Vatican called but a single witness to testify against her: dour, acerbic journalist Christopher Hitchens.
After her teenage daughter was killed by a drunk driver in 1980, Candy Lightener began a crusade that would eventually morph into Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which now has more than 400 chapters nationwide. She has written a book, Giving Sorrow Words, and a TV movie, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers: the Candy Lightner story, was made about her life. She left MADD in 1985 because she saw it as becoming a prohibitionist movement. “I didn’t start MADD to deal with alcohol,” she told The Washington Times in 2002. “I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving.”
Again, Brad Pitt’s old lady is not exactly my cup of tea – she’s just so strange…. But evidently she’s flush with the spirit of motherhood. She’s adopted three children from third-world countries – Maddox, Zahara and Pax – and birthed another, Shiloh, in 2006. And according to People magazine, she went and got herself knocked up yet again. But seriously, with genes like that these two should be reproducing as fast as they can.
No, not that one, though she certainly had her good points – I’m talking about the pop star Madonna, who burst on the scene out of Detroit in the early ’80s with her promiscuous attitude and the single “Holiday”… the one who introduced the phrase “boy toy” into the lexicon. What a tramp! But since then she cleaned up her act, became Jewish (and British!), pushed out a couple pups, Lourdes and Rocco, and adopted another from Malawi. And she still finds time to record, as evidenced by her newest video romp with Justin Timberlake.
What Mother’s Day list would be complete without the inclusion of my own mother, Barbara Clarey, who instilled in me a love of reading and writing when I was just a wee bairn, ushered me through a difficult adolescence and now is as wonderful a grandmother as there ever was to my children. She’s still teaching English up at St. Anne’s School in Garden City, NY and she still reads every thing I write, usually to correct my grammar.
And of course my dear wife, Jill Clarey, mother to our three children and the love of my life, belongs here as well. Jill, I don’t say this often enough, but you are a wonderful mother and your love and tenderness for our children is potent enough to make me weep. Thank you for all you do.