We All Become our Mothers (Mother’s Day 2022)

American Studies professor and champion cake baker. Making the world a better place.

My mother was a Force of Nature, whose personality was so strong that I still feel myself peeking out from her shadow. Even though she’s been gone for 25 years, I’m still not happy about it. Then I feel guilty.

Because that’s how mothers are. No matter how nurturing, no matter how much they represent your Past and your Home, mothers always make you feel guilty. And there is always something that your mother did well that you still can’t do.

Mom with my 1-year-old brother. About to get her doctorate, she was 8 months pregnant with me.

My mother was a larger-than-life character. When she was in her sixties, she had her picture taken posing as Eleanor Roosevelt in a famous photo. Of course, she then gave us large framed copies as a Christmas present. I thought it was really pretentious, but then she actually did meet Eleanor Roosevelt, as a college student on the committee to support the United Nations in 1950.

Eleanor Roosevelt and students for the UN, @1950. Mom with her back to photo.

She wrote her Master’s thesis on the propaganda in the speeches of Joseph McCarthy. This was in 1955, when McCarthy was still in power. I wonder what the university thought of that. She could have been black-balled from future jobs. Did they tell her to tone it down? Just don’t publish it anywhere? She was a rabble-rouser, in an every day way.

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The Wild Ride of Writing Every Day

They even decorated their plates! (Bargello museum) Photo by kajmeister.

Twenty-six days, 24,483 words, 26 posts: art, music, mathematics (?!?), drama, popes, plagues, giant horse statues that don’t get built.

Looking back over the last 26 days, I see posts that I don’t even remember writing. There are at least two posts that nobody read, not because they’re bad, but sometimes these slip between the cracks. But the benefit–and curse–of the A to Z process is that you have to write every day (only four breaks) and you have to cover all the letters.

Attach Seat to Chair, remember?

The discipline to write every day is intense. Actually, let me rephrase that to distinguish this from twitzing and ingramming and all that other stuff, which I don’t do. The discipline to write at least 500, semi-lucid words, in paragraph form with complete sentences and thoughts about a topic is intense. It requires planning and forethought, determination and a sense of urgency.

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Z is for Zweihänder

Zweihänder swords, photo from blackfencer.com.

What shall we choose for the Renaissance “Z”? Zacco, the King of Cyprus (James II) who controlled the sugar industry until the Venetians took it? Bartelomeo Zorzi, a Venetian alum merchant, who negotiated with the pope over the mines discovered at Tolfa? (Alum was a key ingredient in textile dying.) Both of those are economic stories, about controlling resources, which was an underlying motivation for many of the skirmishes of the age.

But there were wars for control of territory, belief systems, and ruling classes. So how about ending a month of Renaissance history by looking forward to the next wave. The Reformation and the rise of the Hapsburg dynasty. We go to Germany.

The Landsknechte warriors, etched by Daniel Hofer 1530. Photo from wikipedia
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