This Sunday will be my mother’s 72nd Mother’s Day. Her 96th birthday falls four days later, so this particular May is some kind of miracle.

She was named Leah Rose by her oldest sister, Hazel Mary, who became our favorite aunt. Their mother’s name was Mable Excellencia, but no one wanted to follow in her footsteps, apparently, as there are no other Excellencias or Mables amongst all the cousins (there are no other Leahs or Hazels, either.) Breaking with tradition, my mother plucked my name from a Groucho Marx program she was watching a few nights before she headed to the hospital, then tacked on her best friend’s name for my middle one after I arrived. Groucho had asked his guest, who said her name was Trudy, if that was short for Gertrude, and she said “no, just Trudy.” And Just Trudy is who I’ve been ever since. Trudy Marie when in trouble.

They called me Sam while I was in utero, apparently expecting a boy. My mother’s grandmother, who went by Nellie, asked my mother “Couldn’t you find a nicer name to call it?” But no. So on some primary level, Sam I Am.

I was well mothered growing up, not just by my mother, but by many other women as well. Our backyard neighbor, Shirley Jones (who had 2 boys but no girls), showed me how to crack eggs into a bowl without getting shell into it, and how to pick pansies, which she had aplenty. My Aunt Hazel (who had no children) provided books and the example of the pleasure of reading, which she did at every available opportunity. She also taught me and my brother to fish, which she did whenever it wasn’t raining, and sometimes even when it was. My mother made sure I got music lessons as soon as I could make use of them, and also allowed me to play horse long past the age when her mother-in-law thought I should be stopped. I think I’ve had a wonderfully diverse set of models of womanhood, as well as permission to choose among them.

Like me, many of my closest women friends have chosen not to have children. Some of us already had changed so many diapers by the time we reached reproductive age that we were not going to fall for the romance of having a family. Some of us knew by then, too, that we didn’t really have the aptitude for self-submersion that we observed around us. But that hasn’t prevented us from being drawn into others’ families and providing some of the auxiliary support we ourselves received from other women. It’s almost impossible not to. Right now I’m crocheting a blanket for a baby girl due in June who I probably will never meet and whose mother I do not know because her oldest sister is my mother’s dog walker and all I hear about from my mother is their mother’s pregnancy. I couldn’t resist the variable peach-pink yarn.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and they’re not kidding. What that means is that, while our parents are essential, they aren’t sufficient to provide all the skills and examples of how to be in the world that a budding person needs. Henri Nouwen wrote that it was knowing his uncle, a celibate priest, that led him toward the priesthood and the spiritual worker and writer he became. The difference for men, of course, is they are not hardwired to become fathers. They can start a pregnancy, but they don’t have to finish it.

So those people who have decided it’s morally right to tell a woman what she can and can’t do with the pregnancy she may not want or be qualified to provide 24/7 support for years, even decades of her life, really haven’t considered the essential needs of children. It takes a village, a village largely of women who together provide 24/7 support for infants, covering each others’ lapses and times of needed rest until those children get old enough to be turned over to the different caretaking of men. It takes childless women as well as mothers to mother the world. Let’s celebrate them all. 

Trudy Wischemann (aka Sam) is a writer who crochets in times of need. You can send her your motherhood stories c/o Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit and leave a comment there.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette.

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