Blueberries for Donna

Smoky blue

Mom would have been 68 today. To celebrate, I took her blueberry picking.

We had a little birthday party at the berry patch, me and mom.

I wonder what the other pickers thought of my talking to the ghost of my mother. There were families there, mothers with small children, a few teenagers, a few people alone, just like me. I bet some of them were talking to ghosts as well.

But I bet they weren’t having a birthday party.


I caught her up on what’s happening in our lives. I told her how tall Hyla is (not yet the seven feet that Mom predicted, but closing in). I told her we finally painted the downstairs bathroom. That the yellow rose bush I planted for her died. How greedy the goats are for ‘Nilla wafers. I told her about the summer of drama camps, the trip to Maine, the plans for visiting family in Michigan and Toronto.

She was happy about the Toronto trip and, when I told her we might go to the CNE, she said she wished she could come. I said she’d be there, too.


When I told her how much fudge and how many lobsters we ate in Maine, she smiled that crinkly-blue-eyed smile of hers. The blue she inherited from her father, Harry. The blue she passed on to her daughters.

Donna on Palmerson Porch

She loves lobsters. And, it turns out, chocolate fudge.

Not always, though. She used to shun chocolate. When we’d go for ice cream as a family, the only flavor she thought worth getting was vanilla. We, with chocolate smudges circling our mouths, were utterly confused by her choice. How could she not like chocolate?

Later, she came to appreciate chocolate more. When I grew up, I learned to understand why she loved vanilla best.

I told her about the bar mitzvah we went to last weekend, how the prayers and the songs and the rituals conjured up my ghosts: mom, grandma, grandpa. We laughed about those old bar/bat mitzvahs and weddings, with the horrible gowns and hair-dos, the huge rented halls, the mediocre bands, the rubber-chicken dinners, the dancing late into the night.

I kidded her about her own funny dance, hands in loose fists at chest-level, thumbs out, arms jerking to each side, one after the other, doing some sort of hitch-hiker-inspired move. She obliged me by doing the dance right there in the blueberry patch.

I laughed, blushed. Mom, stop! It’s so embarrassing!

Don’t stop.

I got a bit wistful. I told her there were so many things I wanted Hyla to know about her.

Well, then, tell her.

So I will.

I’ll tell her about your smile.
Your silliness.
Your forgetfulness (I didn’t understand then; I do now).
Your made-up words.
Your white lies to make others feel happy and included (I didn’t understand then; I do now).
The kindnesses you do for everyone around you.
The way you’re really interested in the answer when you ask someone a question.
Your less-than-successful cooking attempts (including “surprise-hamburgers”, “baked spaghetti”, and the time you washed that really bad mango-peach sauce off the chicken).
That you can’t whistle, or snap your fingers.

Stunning in NH

I’ll tell her about the things you love.
Being Canadian.
Your Florida home.
Your collection of kaleidoscopes.
All animals, but, in particular, horses, dogs, giraffes, and, later in life, the tropical birds and lizards that visited your back porch.
Birch trees.


The Bahamas.
Everything about Mexico.
Central American art.
Collecting beads.
Making jewelry.
Carousel horses.
Traveling the world with Dad.
Reading (especially novels by Canadian authors).

Drinking coffee (gallons of it, especially when you worked from home).

Reunions with family in Toronto. Huge orders of Chinese food eaten buffet-style in the house at 29 Regina. Kids hiding under the dining room table. Grownups wandering the rooms with paper plates in hand, telling the same old stories, some that made us laugh, some that made us cringe.

Mom and brothers

I’ll tell her how about the music you love.
Harry Belafonte.
Arlo Guthrie.
Neil Diamond.
Roy Clark.
Johnny Cash.
The Everly Brothers.
Andres Segovia.

New country music (Mom, I don’t understand that one, but I totally forgive you).

Mom and Hyla

I’ll tell her about how much you love your granddaughter, your son-in-law, your brothers, your cousins, your grand-dogs, your grand-cats (and, had you known them in person, your grand-goats).

Your daughters.

I’ll tell her (again) how you never wanted a birthday cake on your birthday. Only blueberry pie. Without the ice cream.

Mini blueberry pies

Holly holy love
Take the lonely child
And the seed
Let it be filled with tomorrow
Holly holy

Sing a song
Sing a song of songs
Sing it out
Sing it strong

Call the sun in the dead of the night
And the sun’s gonna rise in the sky
Touch a man who can’t walk upright
And that lame man, he’s gonna fly
And I fly, yeah
And I fly


  1. Andi says:

    Your mom sounds really, really terrific.

  2. Elaine says:

  3. nancyo says:

    You’ve done a wonderful job of sharing the essence of your mother. I cried and laughed! Love the pictures, and oh, that Neil Diamond song is a blast from way back.

    1. Rebecca says:

      Thank you, Nancy! I played that song in the car yesterday several times, VERY LOUDLY. And sang my heart out. It was good.

  4. Harvey Cohen says:

    July 11th…..the day I always phoned my “kid sister”, my niece to say Happy Birthday “QUACK QUACK”. I miss her so much, she was such an important part of my life. She would be so proud of her daughters….thank you for sending me your thoughts. See you soon.

    1. Rebecca says:

      And she loved you, too, Harvey. So much. See you soon!

  5. Jo says:

    I love your mom. And you. Thanks for sharing this special person. ❤

  6. lolo says:

    so well said. you really captured her. brought tears to my eyes.

  7. lolo says:

    and listening to holly holy and eating a pie of blueberry pie in her honor right now

  8. Okay, you totally made me cry with this one. (not in a bad way) I miss my mom.

  9. Kayte says:

    Just lovely, Rebecca…so touching reading all of that, you are a wonderful testimony to her goodness, and passing it on to Hyla is a wonderful tribute.

    1. Rebecca says:

      Thanks so much, Kayte. ❤

  10. Abby says:

    Such a lovely post…I felt like I was meeting your mom’s spirit as I read. *hugs*

  11. heidi says:


  12. Melissa Muzzone says:

    Beaufully written Rebecca!

    This blog is brilliant. You captured everything perfectly…Donna’s essence is always alive and your birthday party was the perfect way of channeling her memory.

    I’m so happy that you see her and feel her around you.

    In my world, she lives on forever… In every birch tree and even the Blueberries….

    Xoxo love Always,

  13. cindy says:

    Okay, so I am way late to the “birthday” party but I want you to know that all your thoughts continue to resonate just as strongly to me as though it were the day you wrote them. I am in awe of your mother and wish I had had the chance to know her. I see you in her. Just when I was wishing for pictures of her, you provided them. Her love of life is palpable in those beautiful eyes. I know she feels your love still. Like your Mom, I share both her love of blueberries and her choice of a birthday dessert. I propose that we all share a slice someday at a picnic in a place to be revealed at a later date.

    1. Rebecca says:

      Oh, thank you Cindy! You are so sweet. Here’s hoping we can share that pie next April 🙂 xo

  14. Kelly Ramsdell Fineman says:

    What a beautiful tribute, and a beautiful celebration of your mother. Hugs.

    1. Rebecca says:

      Oh, thank you!!

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