Friday, November 13, 2009


When I was small and we were living in Pleasant Hills, PA in the Tudor house on Old Clairton Road, I came home from school on a Wednesday afternoon in early May. It only matters that it was Wednesday because Wednesday was Library Day at Pleasant Hills Elementary School, and I had a new book in my canvas book bag. I loved Library Day, maybe because it felt freeing to my brain to not have to stuff information in there for a half hour, and no one was going to test me on anything. More likely because a library, especially one full of children’s books, is that beautiful balance of aesthetic and information: order mixed with stories mixed with color and design.

These were the blessed days of my childhood, when our mother answered our Hello’s when as walked in the front door. When there was often something stewing on the stove top or the aroma of fresh laundry wafting up from the basement. I recognize that this was a sweet spot in my life, that I am fortunate to have had a mother who was at home for some space of my childhood. By my teenage years we had to wait up till very late at night to see her; weary from long days working for a paycheck.

The book in my bag was called My Mother is the Most Beautiful Woman in the World. It caught my eye because of the title. I had not had enough time in the Library to read it completely, so (here’s the sweetest thing of all) my memory of that book has the sound of my mother’s voice reading it to me. I love my mother’s voice. I recall falling asleep to it when I would go in to ask her something and she was on the phone. Like a lullaby, it lulled me to rest, all comforting and steady. When I was in fifth grade and my teacher, Mrs. Jackson, declared that I was a poet, it was hearing those silly little poems I wrote falling from my mother’s lips that made me believe it.

With my sisters gathered around me, and perhaps my brother, (though he may have been off inventing something,) Mom began:

Varya was a peasant girl….

The story unfolded sweetly; about a small Ukrainian girl who fell asleep in a pile of wheat during harvest and when she awoke her mother was gone. Varya searched the fields but could not find her. Crying by the side of the road she asked the workers making their way home from the fields if they had seen her mother. “What does she look like?” they asked, and she answered, “My mother is the most beautiful woman in the world!” So searchers scanned the villages all around and gathered the most beautiful women into the town center. Varya looked at the gathering of ladies and began to sob. Finally a voice called from outside the circle as a short lump of a woman with a toothless smile and a scarf wrapped tightly around her sweaty forehead made her way into the center. “Varyachka!” she called! “Mammachka!” cried Varya, and they fell into each other’s arms. In the end the mayor of the town turns to the people and reminds them that we do not love people because they are beautiful; they are beautiful to us because we love them. Most people see with their eyes. Varya has taught us the truest things are seen with the heart.

I had the book for a whole week. We read it over and over. Like scripture. Like scripture because somewhere down inside the center of me, deep behind the belly button, I knew it was true. We all did. Not that our mother was not physically beautiful, but that it did not matter whether or not she was.

These days Mom sits in the seat next to me when I drive on our “outings”. I look over at her striking profile, 86 years in the making. Her long slender nose, her snowy white hair, her well defined lip line and sparkling eyes. She is as beautiful as any woman I have ever seen, or will ever see.

At night, during the remaining years I lived at home with Mom, my sisters and I called from our beds before we turned out our lights; a response to her telling us to sleep well: “Good night Mammachka, I love you.”

How blessed we are to be able to say that still; to hear her voice comforting us; feel her hand touching us; find peace in the rhythm of her breathing as she rests.

Today is my mother’s 86th Birthday. I thank the Lord for her, today and every day. She is, and always will be, the most beautiful woman in the world.


  1. What a beautiful post for a beautiful lady! We love Gram soooooo much! Happy Birthday to a wonderful person, gram and great gram.

  2. thank you for all of your "discoveries" but especially for this book! and how lucky we are to have you keep our memories alive in your lyrics and music. happy b day mom and by the way....can't wait til the concert cor!

  3. I have that book and I love it too! I think your mother is truly a lady and a lovely one at that! What a great way to honor her birthday on your blog. Please give her a b'day kiss for me!

  4. In December my mother will have been gone for 20 years. There isn't a day that I haven't missed her. You are indeed lucky to still have the comfort and association of your--indeed beautiful mother. This reminds me of a story I read once in a book by Anne Morrow Lindberg. She said as a young woman she was going to England to visit an aunt that she hadn't seen since she was a child. Her memory of the aunt was that she was beautiful. When she arrived at her aunts home she was suprised at her evident homliness but she said before the visit was over she understood why she remembered her as lovely.

  5. Lovely, Cori. And just as true for me.

    Wish I'd written it.

  6. Beautiful post - I loved reading it. Happy Birthday to your dear mother who was always so kind to me.

  7. This was a beautiful post!! I remember seeing a similar title on Libbies blog from last year but this explains it much better. Maybe I'll see if our library out here in Virginia has that book. Thanks for sharing... and Happy Birthday !!!

  8. As usual, you are an inspiration. It makes me want to sneak into your head and find out all the other wonderful things you have to put down on the page. Thank goodness you have become a blogger. I find great enjoyment from your words. Truer words were never spoken about Afton. I love her too. I hope the birthday was a great one. Your family has wonderful memories and a small part of me feels and remembers some of them.

  9. What a wonderful tribute to your mother. Mine is 85 and will turn 86on Christmas Day. What a bless-ed day to have a birthday! Wishing you and your family a most joyous holiday season. Thank you for all your beautiful music. Our contemporary group at church will be singing "Heavenly Choirs" and "Who Is This Babe" again on Christmas Eve. Thank you for songs that touch our hearts.