Another Mother’s Day





Mother’s Day, 2014.   Another year, another day when I am missing my dear mother, Betty Russak, so very much.  She was my cheer leader, my counselor, my sage, my protector, my healer….perhaps the word “mother” best sums it up.  Those who have such mothers understand, and those who have lost such mothers, I know, share my tears.  So, in memory of my one beloved mother, here is a poem I wrote some years ago….

Mothers Shoes 002



What do girls do once they’ve lost their mothers?

Fill the cup.

The cup needs filling.

Who will care?

Who will plug the emptiness, the sadness?

Because you know that life goes on.

But not for mothers

who worry of belly aches

and finals

and two-hour plane rides

and almost jobs

choking sounds which are words made

when we’ve had a day that was, oh, not quite?

(The perfect pitch of mothers who can hear us in the silence)

Who find with equal grace

a dropped hem,

a swollen eye?

(Their eyes in shadow and yet they see the language of our souls)


What do girls do once they’ve lost their mothers?

They tell their husbands at the breakfast table

who smile and turn the page.

They tell their friends

who embrace and share a serving of heartbreak and coffee,

and then go home to their own stories left untold.

When all we really want  –oh–

  1. Mommy.  Ma.

Standing before us in the old blue sweater

tissues and safety pins in the pockets

with hands as firm, timeless as oak,

soft as the moon.

How many tears can one shed in a void?

Who will count the tears?
Does it really matter?

(There is a paradox in this proximity, so close we feel that breath

in harmony with our own.  Yet distance cannot reach them).


What do girls do once they’ve lost their mothers?

They wipe their tears and leave the void

to face their children

who have mothers still.

They take up the sweaters,

turn them inside out .

Arms in sleeves,

they fill the cup again.—Shirley Russak Wachtel


And so, I fill the cup…….

Mother's Day 2012 005




!Charlie and Shirley 001


And yet again….SEE PHOTO AT TOP!


About shirleywachtel

Shirley Russak Wachtel is the author of The Story of Blima—A Holocaust Survivor (publ.2005), a novel which recounts the early years of her mother, Betty Weisstuch Russak. The novel s listed as a recommended novel by the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education. Wachtel is the author of several children's books, including a series of interactive mysteries, Charlie Wonder, Chef-Detective (2005), which includes several recipes; Brad Sureshot, Coach-Detective (2007) which details basketball skills; and Howie Rocket, World-Traveler-Detective (2009) which has handy foreign language phrases. In The Mellow Light (2009) is her first book of poetry. She is a professor of English at Middlesex County College in New Jersey. In addition, Wachtel is the co-author of Spotlight on Reading (2011), a textbook for college-level students. A mother of three sons, she resides with her husband, Arthur, in East Brunswick, New Jersey. Initially written as a doctoral dissertation for her Doctor of Letters Degree from Drew University, My Mother's Shoes , says Wachtel, is not just the novel of her life, it is the novel of her heart.
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