Like Mother, Like Daughters

My Mom

My mother was born and raised in a small town in Sicily. The oldest of six children, she developed her mothering skills early on as she helped raise her younger brothers and sisters. When my parents met in Italy, my dad had already been living in the states for many years. So when they married a year later, my mother had to say good-bye to her family and homeland to begin a new life in this country. I cannot imagine the strength and courage it took to start over and raise a family in a foreign country without knowing the language or having your family by your side. But somehow she managed to create her own loving family and network of support among her other Italian immigrant friends and relatives. Another amazing and brave thing about my mom is that she was 44 years old when I was born! Not an uncommon occurrence today, but in the late ’70’s it was virtually unheard of and considered extremely high risk. But my mother, without question or hesitation, risked her life to give me mine. For that I am forever grateful.

My mommy and daddy.  Photo Credit: M.G. Peak
My mommy and daddy. Photo Credit: M.G. Peak

My mother has been battling Alzheimer’s for many years now. It has progressed to the point that she does not remember my daughter. But when she sees me, even though it takes a minute or two for her to recognize me, I see the love she has for me in her eyes immediately. If I had to list the valuable lessons my mother has taught me, it would be mastering these qualities in life: Compassion, love, faith, nurturing, tradition, and loyalty.

Even though I do not have the fortune of raising my daughter with my mother by my side, the greatest way I can honor her is to try to be the mother she was to me. Whenever I do something as a parent that my mom would do, I get a surge of joy and I laugh to myself for doing the very same things that used to annoy me. And I realize that she was right.

Here are some ways we are similar:

*I run around the house yelling at my husband and daughter to “STOP walking BAREFOOT!!!” and beg them to wear socks or slippers. I laugh at myself when I do this because I am just like my mother.

*I let my daughter help me cook despite the fact it’s a messy disaster and someone ends up throwing a fit (usually the 3 year old). I still believe this is an important mother-daughter activity though, just like my mother.

*Wiry grey hairs are growing randomly out of my head (eeek!), just like my mom’s.

*I frequently wipe my daughter’s face with wet paper towels to wash schmutz off her face, just like my mother.

*On Sundays I like to make meatballs and sauce using my mom’s beloved “passa tutto” or food mill. It comes out just like my mother’s!

*I am now a firm believer that “Nothing in this world compares to a mother’s love.” Just like my mom used to say.

My Sister

I feel really lucky to also have a fabulous sister. Many times, my older (and very wise) sister Joanne has been like a second mom to me. She’s awesome, super organized, and an amazing wife and mother. She has always been there for me when I needed her, especially when I was a stressed out new mom. My daughter calls her Zia, which is Italian for Aunt. My child adores her and her fabulous cousins. My sister is definitely the grounding force in our family. After our father passed away and my mother’s dementia began to progress, my mom went to live with my sister and her family. She took care of my mother for THREE years before we made the painful decision to place her in assisted living. She did this while also raising her two young children. I cannot imagine the stress and strength it took to take care of my mom like that, but she did it, without any complaints and with pure love.


My sister, nephew Joey, and teeny Mia
My sister, nephew Joey, and teeny Mia Photo Credit: MG Peak

Here are some ways she is similar to my mom:

* Takes care of EVERYONE and puts their needs before hers.

* Meticulously cleans her house and perfectly folds and irons bed linens!

* Is an excellent cook.

*Wakes up at like the crack of dawn and by the time everyone else gets up, breakfast is prepared, the house is clean, and laundry is going. I don’t know how she does it!

Sisters!  Photo Courtesy: MG Peak
Sisters! Photo Credit: MG Peak

Growing up, my mom used to say: “Guarda la madre e sposa la figlia.” Which translates to “By imitating or watching the mother you marry off the daughter.” The young feminist in me never took it seriously since I thought there was way more to life than just getting married. But years later I realize this means so much more. Not only did she teach us the “old school Italian” way to run a household, she exemplifies what it means to be a fundamentally good, hard working, and loving mother. And for that, I am forever grateful.

15 thoughts on “Like Mother, Like Daughters

  1. Mary Grace, I loved this whole beautiful post. How lucky you are to have grown up so loved. How much older is your sister? I am 8 years older than my sister and she was definitely MY BABY. We are still very close and have a very special relationship, so I can just imagine how your sister feels about you!

    1. Thanks Randi! Yes I do consider myself lucky to have had loving parents. I hope I can do the same for my daughter. My sister is 5 1/2 years older and I don’t know what I would do without her. You sound like a pretty amazing older sister too. Happy Mother’s Day!

    1. It was such a great way to grow up! But you can totally be my honorary “paesan” since you have that gorgeous dark hair that can pass as Italian and you possess the same wonderful qualities as my family 🙂

  2. Love this MG! Compassion, love, faith, nurturing, tradition, and loyalty- definitely all the qualities you possess!

  3. Love it. My grandma ironed sheets and t-shirts and the Zias, respectfully 80 and 68, still do the task. My father immigrated here from Italy in 1956 and still has a very thick accent. That side of the family and I make “gravy” each Sunday. My mother’s grandparents came through Ellis Island so they are more Americanized.

    1. Oh I loved hearing about your family Louise, thanks for sharing! Btw I had a Zia Louisa, she was great 🙂

  4. MG this is a beautiful piece! i adore all of these beautiful pictures. Having met your sister, i loved her right away! It must be because i’m drawn to my fellow italian mommas 🙂 I can’t wait to show Jake the joy that is italian cooking- and i will make him create his own pizza just like my mom taught us. Happy Happy Mother’s Day to all of you girls- and hug for Zia!! 🙂

    1. Awww…she loved you the minute she met you too! It totally is the italian magnet. What a great idea about make your own pizza! Have to start that tradition asap! xo

  5. Love this…and your sister irons bed linens?! I’m impressed!! In my whole lifetime this never occurred to me hahahahahaha..

    1. Haha – yes she does! And towels too. My mom made us help her fold the sheets perfectly and then she would iron them. They’d be all warm and cozy!

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