“Everything is going to be alright, sweetheart,” my mother would remind me as I relayed the latest drama in my life. She was a sweet and comforting presence who could calmly get me back to reality long enough to help me reframe what seemed like an insurmountable dilemma.
Everything as a preteen was challenging and yet somehow, a little chat with Mom would invariably help me to see beyond that very second when I felt so upset and defeated. Everything seemed doable with those initial words that she offered as her best consolation.
She would always add, “You’ll feel better in the morning,” which would invariably come to pass.
My mother, Ruth, was born in Manchester, England, in 1902, and 10 years later boarded a ship in Southampton to travel all the way to Argentina with her parents and sisters. Her older brothers were already there, having travelled in advance to get settled, find jobs, and call for the family to join them.
Mom often told me about the trip to Buenos Aires on a ship where she withstood acute sea sickness while trying to cope with her newly acquired feelings of doom. “We were poor, and we certainly did not travel on the top deck… more like the bottom. If we went any lower, we’d drown.”
She described it as crowded and noisy, smelly, uncomfortable, bleak. And of course, there was a multitude of people who seemed to feel just as miserable as she did.
A scrawny child, she had no idea why she had to leave her whole life behind to go to a country where she neither spoke the language nor knew anything about.
Though they were a big family and could lean on each other as England became a distant speck on the horizon and then vanished altogether, most days were full of nothing but water that rocked the ship to make nausea a constant companion.
She would later recount those nights of finally falling asleep to the sounds of babies crying and people moaning. The weather was ghastly, and she often felt that the thick dark clouds and fog of England were accompanying them and looming overhead making the whole atmosphere gloomy, not to mention perilous at times.
Years later, watching Titanic with my kids, I would be reminded of Mom’s stories. Needless to say, I cried when I saw the conditions in which lower class passengers travelled when just a couple of decks above, there was glitter, lively music, delicious food, and sophisticated conversation held by high society ladies and gentlemen.
To pass the time when her stomach was relatively stable, Mom learned how to count to 10 in Spanish. Her fellow travelers were so impressed that they insisted she stand on a makeshift stage (a wobbly chair) and recite the words until her audience too began to learn how to count in Spanish.
As she learned more words, she would add them to her repertoire and recite them during her nightly performance. She also learned a song “I’m a Pretty Little Girl from Nowhere,” and gladly sang it to them. I recently found it on YouTube. It made me very happy to hear it again so many years later.
After what must have felt like forever, they arrived at the port of Buenos Aires. The warmth of the sun and the clear and bright blue skies of the city were blinding, inviting, and most of all – welcoming.
While Mom couldn’t understand most of what the officials and port employees spoke to them, she could sense that they were kind and exuded a warmth that she found most soothing.
Argentina, a country of immigrants, was merely welcoming yet another family to its fold. While it didn’t feel like home, leaving that ship and walking into the warmth of the sun and to her brothers’ arms was definitely a brand-new day.
Mom never forgot that wonderful feeling and it predisposed her to immediately take a liking to her new home. Maybe it was at that very moment of setting foot in her new country that she learned that everything was going to be alright and that indeed, she felt better in the morning.
How do you remember your mom on Mothers’ Day? What are some lessons from your mom that you still think of often? Have you passed these on to your children and grandchildren? Please share with our community!