Saralee Perel

Award-winning columnist, Saralee Perel, can be reached at 

Her novel, Raw Nerves, is now available as a paperback and an e-book on

 A Love Letter to My Mom for Mother's Day

Two things are not allowed to be said in our house. One is for me to ask Bob, “Have I gained weight?” The other is for him to say to me, “You sound like your mother.”

It wasn’t until recent years, though, I learned that we tend to unfairly find fault with our mothers. I think that’s because dads of my generation were rarely around, so who else was there to blame?

Now as I look back, I am reminded of my mother’s kindness. When I turned 15, she surprised me with a Princess Phone with my very own phone number. She had pre-arranged that our neighbor would call while we were having dinner. When I heard ringing coming from my bedroom, she laughed as I ran to find the pink phone under my bed. Her happiness matched mine.

Four times a year I’d fly home to Baltimore from Syracuse University, usually with my dungaree jacket in my lap. I always threw up, but I was too embarrassed to use the airsick bags because everyone would then know what I was doing. Instead, I’d bend over and loudly vomit into my jacket. As I’d walk off the plane, Mom would quietly take my balled up jacket. She’d launder it for me later.

“I hate you!” I screamed at her, after my first year of college. She held up the Dean’s letter that stated I had flunked out. It was the sixties. “Nobody goes to classes,” I yelled. “Classes are part of the establishment!” I stomped my foot. “Like you and your middle class friends!”

“We paid thousands of dollars for you to go to Syracuse.”

“So it’s all about money, you imperialistic, materialistic  . . .  um  . . .  person.” I stomped my other foot. She sent me to a psychiatrist. I sat in his office crying. “I never thought I’d flunk out.”

“Can you make it better?” he asked. And between the two of us, we figured out a plan that included summer school so I could get re-instated. Thank God my mother made me see that shrink.

Years later, I had to tell her I was going to marry a non-Jew. I shoved the phone at Bob after my 2nd sip of wine. “You tell her,” I said. He handed it back. I picked up the bottle and swigged. Bob took it away. “Mom?” I said. “I, um  . . .  ” I reached for the bottle. “

“You and Bob are getting married.”

“How did you know?” I said and she laughed knowingly. We were welcomed that weekend in Baltimore with a family party complete with presents and potato latkes the way Bob and I like them – with sour cream and apple sauce.

And so, this Mother’s Day, I wish that she was still around. I would say, “I’m sorry, Mom, that I worried you so much. I’m sorry that I didn’t appreciate how hard you both worked to put me through college. I’m sorry for all the times I disappointed you.”

And you know what she’d say? She’d probably say, “I love you. I always have. Whenever something bad happened to you, I would rather it had happened to me. No matter what you did wrong, I always had faith in you. When you made decisions that I hated, I knew you were just being a kid and you weren’t trying to make me unhappy. I’ve never doubted that you loved me. You are  . . .  the light of my life.”

 And I, of course, wish I could tell her that I have always felt exactly the same way. And to this very day  . . .  6 years after her death, with sweet yet heartbreaking sadness, I still do.