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.

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