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The Village: The Community of Mothers

This is an interview I did with Johnny Segalla, of WSBS here in Great Barrington. Take a listen- it will a little visit.  Then enjoy Michelle Gillett’s writing about her community of mothers. Michelle has been part of Out of the Mouths of Babes since it’s inception. She won’t be on stage with us this year, but I certainly hope to hug her in the audience.


Excerpt from: A Celebration of Motherhood, Storey Publishing

4. The Community of Mothers
by Michelle Gillett

Mothers hold their children’s hands for only a little while… their hearts forever.

My daughters’ visits home are less frequent now that they are settled into their adult lives. But we’ve agreed, they’ll always come home for Christmas. It wasn’t all that long ago when the holidays weren’t a time of eager preparation and anticipation for me but a series of crises set off by adolescent mood swings and miscommunication. The little girls who tip-toed downstairs to open their stockings before the sun rose on Christmas morning became teenagers who would have slept until noon if they didn’t have to go to their grandparents’ house for Christmas dinner. Back then, I would have cheerfully bought my off-spring tickets to somewhere else for the holidays.
The best solution to avoiding lethal confrontation during their high school years was to spend less rather than more time in each other’s company. My daughters therefore spent a lot of time at the homes of their best friends, Jenny and Julie.
According to my daughters, Jenny’s mother and Julie’s mother always served dinner on time and the nourishment included large portions of praise and affection. Those mothers didn’t worry and scold the way I did. Where I was rigid, they were not. Where I was uncertain, they were seasoned. When I reached the end of my rope, they held out a new, unfrayed piece. My daughters and I survived those tumultuous years because of the haven their friends’ mothers provided. When my children went to their best friends’ houses, I knew they were safe. Another mother was listening and looking out for them.
Julie’s mom was perfect in my younger daughter’s eyes. She had raised eight children and seen just about everything. She knew the right responses before the questions were asked. What she did best was treat my younger daughter like one of the tribe. And she could make my daughter realize in a way that I couldn’t– the extravagantly expensive dress she wanted for the prom wouldn’t guarantee a good time no matter what the price tag read.
Jenny’s mother kept house casually. A single mom, she and Jenny and my daughter would spend an evening painting their toenails and talking about dating. At our house, I painted walls and talked about curfews.
My daughter and Jenny decided they were mature enough to travel through Europe during the summer after their sophomore year in high school. Maturity aside, I knew two sixteen-year-olds lacked experience about the world. A mother’s worst fears and a daughter’s burgeoning self-assurance can ignite the most volatile conflicts. My daughter didn’t go to Europe that summer. She also didn’t talk to me for days. I knew Jenny’s mother supported the idea of the trip to Europe. She was a freer spirit, a greater advocate of letting teenagers be independent than I would ever be. But we respected each other’s different modes of mothering and she respected my decision.
Several years ago, a few days before she was due to arrive for the holidays, my younger daughter called to tell me Julie’s mother had died of the cancer that had been in remission for years. A few days later, my other daughter called with equally sad news. Jenny had phoned to say that her mother had died suddenly from a cerebral hemorrhage. The coincidence of these two women dying within days of each other the week before Christmas was almost too much to comprehend.
My sympathy extended not just to my daughters’ friends and their families but to the community of motherhood. Both Jenny’s and Julie’s mothers played vital roles in my children’s lives. I am not solely responsible for the independent, intelligent, thoughtful young women who arrive home each Christmas or for the closeness we share. I have other mothers to thank.






Michelle Gillett
Michelle Gillett

Michelle Gillett is the author of three books of poetry: Rock &Spindle (Mad River Press, 1998), Blinding the Goldfinches, selected by Hayden Carruth as winner of the Backwaters Poetry Prize and published in 2005, and The Green Cottage, winner of The Ledge 2010 Poetry Chapbook Competition. She has won poetry awards from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and published work in literary magazines and poetry journals. She received an MFA in poetry from Warren Wilson College. A collection of her essays, Celebrating Motherhood, was published by Storey Press in 2002, and her cookbook, a collection of recipes and essays, The Kitchen Gardener’s Cookbook was published by Country Roads Press.

A regular op ed columnist for The Berkshire Eagle, she also teaches writing workshops and is co-partner of g & r, an editing, writing and book development company. She and her husband have two grown daughters and live in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Days of Gratitude for Michelle Gillett

Michelle at OUT

There is a mighty woman who lives in Stockbridge and her name is Michelle Gillett.
It is my great good fortune to know Michelle.
She inspires me as a mother, a writer, a community leader, as a feminist and as an athlete.
If you want to know more of that story, then perhaps it is the correct moment in time
for you to order your anthology.

Michelle has the power to make me laugh and cry within seconds.
And, she challenges me to write better, think more clearly, and wear short sleeves.

Michelle floats my boat.

How about you? Do you have friends who urge you to pick up the 12 pound medicine ball instead of the measly old ten pounder you’ve been hauling around this year?

Or perhaps, you have a friend who asks you to look more closely at the way our culture sees women today, who celebrates the shifts and works for further change?

Michelle is all that and more.
I am so happy she has come OUT with us!

Gilded Rigatoni Moments: Gratitude for our Mothers

“The Mother’s Day that means something, the Mother’s Day that is not a duty but a real holiday, is about the perfect mother. It is about the mother before she becomes the human being, when she is still the center of our universe, when we are very young.
They are not long, the days of construction paper and gilded rigatoni. That’s why we save those things so relentlessly, why the sisterhood of motherhood, those of us who can instantly make friends with a stranger by discussing colic and orthodonture, have as our coat of arms a sheet of small handprints executed in finger paint.”

Anna Quindlen

There have been posts on Face book of the gifts women have received on Mother’s Day. My friend Nichole’s daughter drew her mother in anime. Another friend’s kids ordered in Chinese food. My daughter promised me an hour of her day in the garden, which she promptly delivered, then went inside to bake a cake. My son, well, his box of Whitman Chocolates came with a card he has yet to sign. But he enjoyed regaling us with the story of the CVS clerk who was berating every single guy in line with a card or box of candy on the morning of Mother’s Day. The few…the happy few…the “band of brothers” there in line with Hallmark in their hands.

I don’t have any actual gilded rigatoni, but I do have this.

Catherine has always liked to leave notes.
Catherine has always liked to leave notes.

And until I get that card from Ben, I do have this.

This started as a flip book, but to do it right I would have had to start last year. And I am not so good at that kind of planning. Especially in July.
This started as a flip book, but to do it right I would have had to start last year. And I am not so good at that kind of planning. Especially in July.

I have been dipping in to my friend, ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’ author, Michelle Gillett’s book A Celebration of Motherhood and there, found this quote by Anna Quindlen, who herself has a new book out. You can read a lively interview of Anna written by her son, who is a writer for Barnes and Noble. This quote, about the coat of arms for mothers made of small handprints, highlights what I have been up to all spring.

My daughter is about to graduate the 8th grade from her Waldorf grade school. There, this step in a child’s educational journey is celebrated with more pomp and a bit more circumstance. Her class has been together since first grade, with the same class teacher, a unique quality of Waldorf education. The pomp comes with a recognition of the closing of this groups’ time together, and the circumstance celebrates their next steps.

I am on the yearbook committee. Pouring over the equivalent of ‘gilded rigatoni’, over discs of photos delivered by parents too busy to sort them, which means I get to see their versions of events, the back of their kids heads as they squirm away from their parent’s camera views. It is as Anna says, this ubiquitous and ordinary, universal and tender experience, which you memorialize by saving the random and intentional tributes made for you by your offspring. ( The more I write here, the more I am hoping Ben writes something in that Mother’s Day card.)

In the bigger world there have been some poignant tributes to mothers. Proctor and Gamble offer this one. President Obama, this one.

I espouse further gratitude for our mothers in an effort to stir appreciation for what the women around you are up to. Whether or not yourself are a parent, we are all sons and daughters and have the capacity to enrich our lives by appreciating what was or was not done for us by our mothers.

Don’t stop with your gratitudes. I promise, they will open a door for you.
Here are mine for today:

Gratitudes for my Mom:

1. I am grateful she sent me to a Lutheran grade school in Chicago where I could meet friends I still love to this day, with common affection for Fritos and for violets at Easter.
2. I am grateful that Mom read so much as an individual and to us.
3. I am grateful for the house she bought after being divorced from my Dad and all the effort she put in to creating a haven for my sisters and me.
4. I am grateful for all the things she saved of mine, like all my alphabet pages from Bethesda Lutheran School.
5. I am grateful for the miles she drove to bring us back to Chicago, after we’d moved north to the U.P., to visit our relatives.
6. I am grateful for the love she cultivated with my Dad’s family, especially my Aunts and Uncles.
7. I am grateful my Mom was so stylish as a young woman, that she had this sort of mysterious past of which we know little.
8. I am grateful for her preparations for us, when we arrived home from somewhere, she’d be in the kitchen preparing a meal.
9. I am grateful for the sound of her singing ‘Turaluralura”.
10. I am grateful for the way she set the table, with a centerpiece and candle, no matter where we were eating.

Last week, when Ben was feeling overwhelmed and tired, I knew it was time to stir up some pudding. My Mom was a stove-top pudding person and I have carried that forward. Alana Chernila’s recipe in The Homemade Pantry is where I started last week. In the middle of making dinner, this recipe keeps you at the stove stirring, which means everyone else has to set the table and wait while you serve it in ramekins.Please don’t be put off by those dark bits of unmelted cocoa. In the face of not having all the right ingredients, I always add my own flourishes to recipes, which sometimes yield less than photogenic results, but believe me this pudding is perfect.

It is worth the effort, every stir is a prayer for ease, confidence, integrity and joy.
May you be happy(Stir) May you be well(Stir) May you be safe. (Stir) May you be peaceful and at ease. (Stir) and there it is, ready for dessert.

If I can offer my teen agers anything these days, it is comfort.

How about you?
What is in your ‘gilded rigatoni’ stash about your mother?

Organizing Light

#nofilter #greatbarrington #goodmorning #riverwalk #413 #laundrylinedivine. Have a sweet morning!

“What is to give light must endure burning.”
~Viktor Frankl

I am slowly putting this page back together again after a bumpy few days.
Life is good and full to the brim. This website it under a bit of reconstruction.
If you would like to subscribe, to keep up with Laundry Line news, please fill out the tiny box up there on the right.

I will doing dancing to this song while you do. If all you see is a blank space here, hit your ‘refresh’ button up there on your navigation bar and a YouTube video will appear.

Here are the much awaited winners of the ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’ blog drawing:

Corey Sprague and Lynn Amaral won a copy of my Rice Pudding recipe.
Lisa Millen and Angela Vuagniaux won a copy of Janet Elsbach’s brownie recipe.
Lorrin Krouss won an original letterpress print, first edition on archival paper, by me at PRESS as part of
the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers events.
And Peggy Barrett won Alana Chernila‘s The Homemade Pantry.

Congratulations people!
I am so honored to get to mail you these gifts.

Here is Peggy with hers. She is a long time reader of LLD. Thank you Peggy!

Peggy Barrett is the winner of Alana Chernila's The Homemade Pantry.

Look forward to more here on the Laundry Line. I have some new friends here, Jennifer Boire– who’s poem was posted here the other day and Miranda Hersey Helin, who’s Studio Mothers site feels like my home away from home here on the internet. And I still have some wonderful photos of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers. I do have a new persona of ‘girl journalist’. Without the training, but armed with my camera and tiny notebook, I love to document events I am part of, which give me results like these.

Thank you for being here.

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