Chapter 27:  When A Mother is Birthed At the Border, So Is Her Tribe

As you probably know or have experienced, Easter is a sacred holiday for Catholics.  Double that for Italian Catholics and quadruple for my family of 40 Italian Catholics from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. 

My Aunt Jackie (the first of five J’s in the Mazzola sibling clan and my Godmother) and Uncle Frank (her husband of over 50 years), host the entire family of aunts, uncles, and cousins at their house in Bensonhurst.   The same house I grew up in from the time I was four, until the day I left at 22 years old.  The same apartment my cousin (aunt Jackie and uncle Frank’s daughter) now occupies with her husband and two children (one of which is my Goddaughter). 

Before heading to their house for Easter Sunday dinner which is comprised of homemade manicotti, leg of lamb and boopa bread made from scratch, my Uncle Jeff and the kids head to church for Easter Sunday mass.

As a reluctant Catholic (I’m more spiritual than religious), I grudgingly admit that Easter service is my favorite.  The congregants get dressed up in their Sunday best, and families show up in droves.  Everyone is filled to the brim with faith and hope on Easter. 

The pews are a sea of screaming young boys in seersucker suits alongside little ladies clad in a mix of puffy pastel blue, green, purple and yellow dresses accessorized with lace crocheted hats and tiny white gloves.  It’s an absolutely precious scene.

Following true Brooklyn Italian Catholic Mazzola family protocol, MSP and I wear our Easter Sunday best to mass at Holy Trinity in Westfield and of course, pose for my infamous selfies outside of church (please don’t boo my faux pas, just go with me here).

After I posted this picture on Facebook Easter Sunday, my best friend texted me…

“I can’t stop staring at your picture,” said my BFF aka Uncle Greggy

I reply with a giggle, “LOL.  Why Silly?”

He says, “Cause it is the very essence of you that comes out of that photo with MSP.  I’m so proud of you and the mother you’ve been from day one.   You realize…it’s the one thing you never had to question.  You were born for it.  And your grooming is on fucking point. Fo real.”

Damn, every woman deserves a best friend like Uncle Greggy…I’ve been lucky enough to have him in my life for the past 17 years (we became close friends 8 years before MSP was born, even before I was married). And I plan to have him in our lives for the next 170 (he really doesn’t have a choice).

Uncle Greggy and Cherry at MSP’s baby shower

As I eagerly anticipate this Mother’s Day, I thought back to that text I got from Uncle Greggy at Easter.  It was mind-blowing to me the power of his words and the strength of our bond.  The relationship we built through the best of times and the worst of times (thank you, Charles Dickens).  This exchange, caused me to reflect on the importance of our relationship, especially as a single mom who gets judged more than complimented.  I don’t think he will ever truly grasp the gravity and weight of his words or the important role he plays in my mom- tribe.

I always say that the day a child is born so is a mother.  I want to correct that statement and rectify it.  From this point forward I plan to say, “The day a child is born so is a mother, along with her tribe.”

Let’s be real honest, new moms don’t know what the fuck we are doing.  When I was bringing my baby girl home from the hospital, I vividly remember crying hysterically as I attempted to put on her onesie.  I had NO idea how to get that crazy contraption on her delicate little body.  Instead, I cried for my mommy and waited for the nurses to come and help me…

The hard truth of being a divorced, single, career mom is that I need my people to help me with my kid.  Even though her Dad (the Chupacabra of Joy) and I share custody, I am a full-time mom.

In honor of Mother’s day, I dedicate this blog and my heartfelt thanks to my tribe…each and every single one of them is essential to my survival as a mom and is so deeply appreciated.  I would not be the mother I am today if it was not for them!  I am eternally grateful for the role you have played in helping me raise such a thoughtful, kind, funny, smart, soulful and confident young woman. 

TDF readers, please join me in getting to know and applauding my mom-tribe ….

Nanny (aka mom): I’ll never forget when you held a cold washcloth to my forehead while grasping the tub underneath my mouth as a threw up from the pain of childbirth.  From that moment, you started the tribe.  Now you are a staple in her life and MSP cherishes her weekly Nanny dates and weekend sleepovers.  Nothing warms my heart more than when I hear MSP utter the words, “Hi NAANNNYY!”  She genuinely adores you and cherishes your time together.  I am grateful for our partnership and for you being my witness. Thank you for being the one that takes her to buy me a gift every Mother’s day.  Maybe I never said it, but I love you so much for doing that for her…and for me.

Uncle Greggy:  you are my best friend, my rock, my muse and my balance.  You keep me real and grounded and laughing ‘til I cry (or spew water from my nose). Rehoboth Beach has become a second home to MSP and I. Seeing how much MSP loves you, fills my heart to the brim.  I love when you guys write letters like old school pen pals or when she curls up in the crook of your arm when we are watching movies.  She cherishes your friendship and love, if possible, even more than I do.  To her you are a father-figure and loving uncle; to me, you are my forever person and my life witness. 

Livy:  As you once told MSP, you are cousins by chance and sisters by choice.  You have been an integral part of our lives for the past five years.  Watching you and MSP grow together has been the greatest blessing of my life.  You are her mentor, her partner in crime, musical accomplice and wrestling adversary.  I am eternally grateful for your Friday night hang-outs.  She cherishes her special time with you and worships the ground you walk on.  Thank you for loving her, even more for being everything a sister is and more!

Uncle Jeff:  my sincerest heartfelt thanks for being there as a man, friend, and father-figure for MSP.  For supporting me through the insanity of custody trials and home renovations.  For patchworking our modern, complex family together when both of us hit bottom.  I am living my dream in Westfield, and you guys were my inspiration…and my reason. Thank you for being a confidant and trusted life partner. 

Aunt Jackie: my spunky, fun-sized miniature, power-packed 4’9” Aunt and Godmother.  The same wonderful person who holds MSP’s hand until she falls asleep during a sleepover and who donated her shoes to MSP as they are the same size (Yes, a 72-year-old and 9-year-old wear the same sized shoes; size: 7).  My aunt, loves her great-niece dearly and is there any time we have ever needed anything; who never, ever requires a thank you or a return on her investment.  She’s the kind of person that welcomes everyone and anyone to our family dinners and stands strong as our matriarch.  She is the kindest person I know.

Uncle Frank: For never saying no to MSP, or to me.  For always being willing to pick her/me up or drop her/me off anytime, anywhere.  For making her beautiful name out of wood and being the father I wished I for, mostly for being the grandfather MSP deserves. 

Uncle JJ and Aunt Lele:  our family is so blessed.  We share all the holidays with our incredibly fun, loving and now, large family.  MSP adores the times she has spent at your home with her favorite cousins.  She especially appreciates how you have witnessed and supported her artistic abilities.  You are more than aunt and uncle, you are MSP’s second parents…

Jules:  you are a big brother to MSP and have been a significant influence on her life.  Thank you for always treating her as equal, inspiring greatness and watching over her. She loves Sunday dinner when you come home from college and the fun Dinner & A Show nights.  Your willingness to go along with her crazy dance moves, makes you a true partner in crime.

Katherine: you have become an honorary member of our family.  MSP admires and looks up to you and I am so grateful for your intelligence and kindness.  She has thrived under your tutelage and now requests tutoring session EVEN through the summer!

Nina Deena:  as MSP’s Godmother, you have been a significant influence on her life.  While we don’t get to see you often, she adores Katie and JackJack as well as Uncle Lou.  She counts on you for guidance and love…you have been there in some tough times, and I appreciate that no matter how little or often we talk, we will always be there for each other.

Aunt Moo and Uncle Tom: you both witnessed her first bath and proclaimed her as a swimmer immediately.  You inspired me to follow my dreams of having a career when you brought me to work in the city…and now your daughters will inspire MSP to do the same (whatever she chooses).  Thanks to you both for loving MSP as your own grandchild.  She loves the laugh-filled, belly-busting summer BBQ’s spent at your home.

Titi Tori: from the minute MSP was born, she looked like she belonged to you. She is your doppelganger.  You have an extraordinary bond with MSP that started when you were in high school and watched her after-school.   Since you have become a woman, she looks up to you as a mentor and friend. You have a significant influence on my girl, and I can’t thank you enough for being there for MSP and me through the hardest times. I am so very proud of you and hope MSP is as successful and as kind.

Titi Jesse:  More sister than a cousin, I am so grateful for our friendship.  I remember when you were born and how much I loved you.  I see that connection and bond between you and MSP.  She admires you and hopes to accomplish the success you have.  I hope she beats you to VP the way you beat me! 

Aunt June and Uncle Jay:  you guys are our best friends and a big part of our extended family.  June, no other person has heard more about my custody challenges than you. Thank you for your patience, your love, your undying support…but even more so for letting MSP stand on your kitchen counters and sing her heart out. 

And to all MSP’s teachers, piano tutor, swim coach, Tae-kwon do sensei and many more…to the security guard and the principal.  To MSP’s best friend’s father, Steve for watching over my girl when I am not in Brooklyn or can’t get to a school event; who of course, shares pictures of our girls having the best time together. 

You all matter to this single, divorced career-mom, you matter very much. You matter to my wonderful girl especially because you keep her life filled with love and laughter even when I am not present.  You are her guardian angels.

To my FB friends and family who have watched her grow and always share such heartfelt wishes of congratulations and admiration for her…she reads every single one of your posts.  She relishes your kind words as they fill her up with confidence. 

Thank you all for helping build me up and support the person I love most in the world; my MSP.  In my daughter’s eyes, I found my purpose.  And with your help, she will realize her full potential.

It takes a village to raise a child; it takes a tribe to raise up the mom.  It takes both to make a human complete.  There is no shame in asking for help… believe me I was humbled long ago and will never hesitate because I have the most amazing people backing me up.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers, sisters, brothers, friends, uncles, aunts, cousins, teachers, colleagues, acquaintances…every single person who has demonstrated love to my MSP.  I am so very humbled today and every day for the incredibly rich, diverse, loving tribe that surrounds us.

We love you forever and ever and always.

Happy Mother’s (Tribe) Day!  Did you thank your tribe today?

Xoxo, Cherry

Cherry Maggiore is the proud single mom of her 9-year-old super-sassy daughter (aka Miss Sassy Pants or MSP) and 15-year-old pug baby (Tiki Barber); in addition to being an award-winning senior marketing executive at NBCUniversal.

Beside her side hustle as the Freak of Nurture, she also started a home design company after being inspired by renovating and designing her 1880’s home in NJ.

This insanely curious and passionate “multi-potentialite” can be found dancing the Argentinan tango, swing and Hustle every Saturday, cooking her family an Italian Sunday dinner, singing and air drumming at concerts or searching for her next adventure.

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