When I needed live worms for my sixth grade science project, my mother snuck down to our landlord’s garden late at night in the pouring rain to collect a jar full of fat worms, even though they made her skin crawl. She was tough; she once went toe to toe with a group of bullies, ready to rip their arms off and beat them over the head for tormenting me. My brother, sister and I went to Catholic school. We had braces and new sneakers, Atari games and ten speed bikes. Mom, on the other hand, wore skippies until her toes poked through and never bought anything for herself. A night out for her was a school function she helped to organize. She walked us to school each morning, had dinner on the table every night and helped us with homework. She enrolled us in sports and cheered in the stands at every game. My mother has worked as a teacher’s aide in Calabro School for 19 years. Her biggest problem this past September was that she wasn’t able to decorate the classroom for the new students. That was her biggest problem, not that her third cancer in seven years was keeping her from the job she loves. Instead of teaching the kindergartners to say “I love you” in sign language, she flashed the sign to other patients doing laps in the hospital corridors. She told them to keep the faith and made them laugh and smile and forget where they were and why, if only for just a moment. She’s back at work now, amazing everyone with her spirit, her strength and her kindness. My mother taught me to hold the door open for others, to say “please” and “thank you”. She taught me to fight for what is right, to recognize that there are always others less fortunate, and to be generous with my time, my patience and my smile. But my mother was not alone in teaching me these lessons. Hoboken has always been buoyed by the mothers of this town, mothers like Grace Weyouche and Rosie Grogan, Marge Hayes and Doris Dolan, Pat Farina and Dee Pasculli, Anna Roberts and Lynn Fusco, Pat Sikendeck and my aunt Theresa Brown. These are the mothers who held bake sales to raise funds for school and sports, the ones who looked out for children whose own parents were not available, the ones who ran the kids to afterschool activities, chaperoned school trips, led Girl Scout troops, fought bullies, and made us strong and good and independent. Wherever I go in this town, I have a mother, mine or someone else’s, looking out for me. Thank you to all of the mothers who have helped me to become the woman I am.
Noreen Heslin Lavarro