THE GUILT OF MOTHERS by Peter Nolan Smith

Back in the 90s I deserted New York to spend the Christmas holidays with my family on the South Shore.

Despite my abandonment of God as a child my mother persisted in requesting my attendance at Midnight Mass. It was a small sacrifice to make for the woman who brought me into this world and I always said, “Sure.”

One Christmas Eve I dressed in a dark-gray suit with a black cashmere polo shirt.

My mother came into the bedroom and asked, “Where’s your tie?

“Mom, this shirt is pure cashmere.”

“But you look better in a tie?” My mother was old school.

“You can’t wear a tie with a polo shirt.” I had worn a tie every day at Our Lady of the Foothills.

My mother frowned with disappointment at both my wardrobe and rejection of her God.

“I hope at my funeral you’ll wear a tie.” Her eyes were dewy with tears.

“I will.” Refusing my mother was impossible and I changed my shirt and put on a tie. It felt like a garrote.

“Better?” I asked in the kitchen. My father was seated at the table in his best suit.

“Much better.” She smiled with triumph and kissed my cheek. “You’re a good boy.”

Upon my return to New York I related this story to the mother of my diamond employer. Hilda tsked and said, “That’s the difference between Jews and goyim.”

“What?” Her son and I were befuddled by Hilda’s statement.

“Your mother simply asked for you to wear a tie at her funeral, if it had been me I would have said, “Once you kill me, I want you to wear a tie to the funeral.”

“Aha.” I replied, for Hilda had explained the true depth of Jewish guilt in a single sentence.


We were all bad boys, except to our mothers.

To them we were saints.

Happy Mother’s Day From Maine

Falmouth Foresides, Maine 1957

My mother in bliss.

A summer afternoon with her kids and my father.

We were a happy family.

Then now and forever.

I’m on the far right.

8 years from my first beer.

Happy Mother’s Day.

We all had one.

A mother. Not a beer.

Top 3 Mothers Day Songs


MAMA TRIED – Merle Haggard


Peace on Mother’s Day

According to Wikipedia the First Mother’s Day was established as a “Mother’s Day for Peace” by Anna Jarvis from Virginia in honor of her mother, Ann, who had been a pacifist during the Civil War.

According to the Anna Jarvis Museum in Webster the daughter received her inspiration after a Sunday service when her mother shut the New Testament and said, “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mothers day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.”

After her mother’s demise in 1905 Anna Jarvis petitioned the government to grant a holiday to all mothers and President Woodrow Wilson in 1914 just before the advent of the Great War.

Anna Jarvis was appalled by the instant commercialization of the holiday now promoting the sale of flowers, cards, and candies.

“A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.”

Jarvis fought to honor her mother by protesting at1925 confectioners convention in Philadelphia, where the police arrested her for disturbing the peace.

Anna Jarvis gave her all to protect her mother’s ideals.

She was rewarded with ridicule, destitution,and incarceration for the final four years of her life at the Marshall Square Sanitarium in Chester PA.

Her medical bills were shared by the cardmakers and candy purveyors of America, who now earn $22 billion from the holiday

Personally I believe Jarvis’ version of undying love for one’s mother.

Love to all mothers.

Love is all.


And daughters too.

Like Anna Jarvis.

Beloved of Ann Reeves Jarvis.

Lhasa-Nepal 1995

I spent September-October 1995 in Tibet.

I traveled around Lhasa visiting various monasteries.

I prayed at each one for my baby brother’s departed soul.

Michael had died of AIDS that summer.

I especially liked the Jokhang.

There was no place holier on Earth.

Michael would have liked it.

He was spiritual in many ways and I taught English to monks and workers.

The People’s Army were a big presence in Lhasa, but no Chinese soldiers were allowed inside the Jokhang.

The female cadres were good fun atop the Potala.

They never had guns.

The men carried AK47s.

The ARs had no ammo.

At the end of October my Chinese visa neared expiration.

The Friendship Highway to Kathmandu had been reopened after work crews had finally cleared a gigantic landslide covering the road connecting China and Nepal.

It was time to say, “Kha-leh phe.” to Lhasa.

My English class sang me farewell.

Their choice was SAILING by Christopher Cross.

I thought, “What a silly song.”

Somehow dust got in my eyes and I wished my students well through a shimmer of tears.

Lhasa had been good for my soul.

I hoped my baby brother felt its holiness in the cosmos.

The next day I boarded a bus to Shigatze.

It was the last big town before the border.

I spent a day visiting the ancient monasteries.

I even climbed to the dzong.

The fortress was in ruins.

The Chinese had destroyed most everything Tibetan during the Cultural Revolution.

The next day I detoured off the main road to Gyantze.

The Gang of Four had sent the Red Guard here to cleanse Tibet of the Old Ways.

The Tibetans were in the process of rebuilding the main stupa.

The inn at Gyantze was horrible. The noodles were greasy. The beer was dusty. Fleas ran rampant in the beds and the flies buzzed through the cracked windows. I slept about five hours and woke to a brilliant blue dawn.

The morning bus brought me back to Shigatze.

It truly was civilization after Gyantze, although packs of dogs roamed the alleys.

The Tibetans have a joke about these dogs.

Why do you need two sticks to go to the toilet?
One to stick in the ground and hold onto and the second to fight off the dogs.

They were vicious creatures far from Man’s best friend.

The paved highway ended at Shigatze. No buses ran to Nepal. I hitched a ride from a van heading to pick up backpackers. I gave the driver $20. Tsering was very happy and we set off south.

The high Tibetan plateau was like the surface of Mars.

No water.

No people.

Only dirt.

The dust plumes of transport trucks were the only sign of man.

We saw one every hour or two.

That afternoon dropped into a canyon.

Tsering pointed to the opposite slope.


It was a mile across.

Workers were clearing the road.

“You walk. I drive van. No problem.”

A large stone rolled down the slope. Workers scattered for safety. I ran to the end of the slide.

It was a bad road.

After that road climbed into the high plateau.



North of Lhatze the van became mired in mud.
A Tibetan herder had his horse haul us clear.

Tsering gave him $3.

Two minutes later the herder was out of sight.

Tibet was open to the sky.

My brother’s soul was in the heavens.

I prayed for his happiness in the Here-Beyond.

He would remain 35 forever.

China National Highway 219 split off to Mount Kailash.

I asked Tsering how was the road.”

“Very bad. Very dusty.”

“Really.” My eyeballs were grated red by the road dirt.

“Yes, # 1 bad.” Tsering’s eyes were red too.

This was the Roof of the World.

We passed a French bicyclist struggling uphill.

I shouted out the window, “Do you want a ride?”

“Non, merci.”

I collapsed into my seat.

We were high and getting higher.

After Tingri I spotted a giant snow mass to the south.

It was miles away.

“Chomolungma,” said Tsering in reverence.


“Yes, to the West. Miyolangsangma, the Goddess of Inexhaustible Giving, lives on its peak.”

I offered a prayer to her for Michael.

The icy summits of the Himalayas filled the southern horizon.

I had Tsering stop for a minute at the top of the Yakrushong Pass.

“Not long.”

He was on a tight schedule.

I said a prayer for my younger brother.

We were at 16,900 feet.

My words were few.

The wind carried them to the swirl of Himalayan peaks.

The sun descended to the West.

We drove down to the border and arrived at Zhangmu in the dead of night.

I could breathe easy for the first time in a month.

Trees lined the valley.

I gave Tsering another $10.

We drank beer for an hour and then went to sleep.

It had been a long day.

In the morning Tsering was gone.

I boarded a bus to Nepal.

Tibet was behind me.

The Araniko Highway was good. A restaurant served pizza in Kathmandu. My baby brother liked it with extra cheese. Tears dropped from my eyes. It wasn’t from dust. I was back in the modern world.