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Revisiting What’s Past

That’s the thing about reading, be it fiction or non-fiction, it flings open a portal into other worlds.

On a literary site, Catapult, I read a piece by Michael Venutolo-Mantovani, entitled “In Search of Grandmas.” His essay revolves around his situation – raising his son without a grandma; both he and his wife lost their own mothers years before they themselves became parents. As I read the piece, tears welled up. That’s how powerful, touching, and relatable I found it. Michael keeps his mom alive by talking about her to his young son. He and his wife share countless stories about their mothers, making these important ladies real to his child.

I felt pangs of guilt, realizing how little I had spoken of my mother to my young kids. The memory of those last tortured years of her illness, hospitalization, and demise loomed over happier memories, blighting them. I banished many recollections and lived life with my small stair-step children one day-at-a -time.

Now, my children have become parents of children themselves, and concurrently, reminiscences of my mom float back to me, sometimes unexpectedly. Certain of her characteristics manifest themselves in my kids. When I see my second son grinning optimistically for a photo, I see her wide smile and confidence. When my oldest boy buys something for his baby nephew, I recall her generosity and love of small children. When my third son strives so hard to succeed, I recall Mom, the teacher, proudly wearing her Phi Beta Kappa Key on her lapel at PTA meetings to impress parents, who sadly wouldn’t have a clue of its significance. And when I see my daughter’s pretty face and her can-do attitude, I know where she got those traits from. Like her, my mother was physically attractive. And on it goes. Though long gone, I discover reminders of Mom in addition to the knick-knacks, furniture, and Phi Beta Kappa key bequeathed me. Genes are stronger than I’d ever imagined when I was young and especially during my rebellious teenage years, when at times I hoped I’d been adopted.

So, this resonating piece – read on my desktop computer in my study during this time of social isolation as the coronavirus rages outside my microcosm of a world – has opened a flood of memories: memories of my mother, some suppressed for decades. That’s the thing about reading, be it fiction or non-fiction, it flings open a portal into other worlds. Some of them are worlds inhabited by people you once knew and loved and still miss. The realization that the past is never totally past hits you as you behold familiar habits in your offspring. This awakening gives you hope and comfort at any time but especially during crazy times and maybe these recollections provide a necessary medicinal boost during times of uncertainty and turmoil. Some things are meant to last.


  1. This beautiful piece by Erika Hoffman brought tears to my eyes and caused me to share it with family and friends. Thank you for publishing it

  2. This brought tears to my eyes. I’m a mom and blessed to be a grandma as well. I have few memories of my pretty, dark-haired mother who died when I was 6. I wish I had stories to tell but am thankful for old photos that give me a glimpse into her life.

  3. These little reflections from past generations present themselves in unexpected places – in the slant of one son’s smile, the oddly familiar giggle from a new grandchild or in the gait of another one’s stride as we step back into the future.
    “Some things were meant to last!”

  4. I loved reading this because, although my 98 year old mom is still with us, I am reminded how much of her I see in me self and my children. Thank you.

  5. Once again, Erika hit the nail on the head with her timely essay. It’s both fascinating and comforting to see family traits revealed from generation to generation.

  6. Reflecting over your essay, it became apparent that I, too never spoke of my mother to my sons either! My mother lived 88 years and died in 2018! She moved to Georgia in 2008 and I was her sole caretaker! She was physically impaired but her mind was sharp as a tack! I spent a lot of time reminiscing with her! I wrote a lot of it down and when the time is right I will pass it along to my sons to be passed down to the next generation!
    “Some things are meant to last!”

  7. Erika, I so much enjoyed your writing on family. How appropriate that your daughter and grandchild are staying with you at this time. My grandchildren are grown now but when I took care of them I often thought about what my own childhood and family life were like. My mother, who was a holocaust survivor, shared many details of what life was like for her. She died two years ago and I miss her voice.

  8. It’s wonderful when a smile or a picture triggers a memory of a loved one. I also read In Search of Grandmas. What a great reminder in both pieces to keep our loved ones alive by talking about them and if possible showing pictures. Thank you Erika.

  9. Really special story. Especially at this time when
    You reminisce a lot and memories flood your mind

  10. Bravo, Erika! Beautifully done. A little remembrance of things past..

    You, for one, are making good use of your ‘downtime.’ Uh, I guess not with a toddler, though…

    Thank you.

  11. This story brings memories of my mom as I think of her as part of The Greatest Generation and how they persevered through many struggles. Thanks for the reminder! Her strength and resilience is something we all need now.

  12. What better time to turn back to the past to see what we’re made of. I see pieces of my mom in all of my family. Whether it’s a smile, a wry sense of humor, her strength and of course, her stubborness. There are remembrances of mom wherever I look.

  13. grandchildren do make you think back to your own childhood which makes you remember things you did with your parents. You if lucky realize they gave you many good memories parenting is the most important job you will ever do!

  14. I love reading Erica’s reminisces. Tears didn’t come to my eyes however a smile came to my lips. Happy Birthday Erica and kudos to you for a fine piece of writing.

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