For Ma

With Ma at a friend’s wedding with my sister, Maria.

As another Mother’s Day passes, I pause to think of my absent mother, or Ma as I call her in my memoir, My (Part-Time) Paris Life. We lost her in early February 2011 to breast cancer, transforming Mother’s Day into a day of remembrance. This is the seventh Mother’s Day without her.

When my mother was alive, every Mother’s Day weekend I would take the train from New York to see her, and we would plant flowers in her flowerpots for the summer season, then I’d take her to brunch somewhere special in a nearby town. Every year the same. We were big on traditions in our family when Ma was alive. The things you can count on keep you feeling safe, and loved.

The summer before Ma died, those plants bloomed bigger and more glorious than ever, as if they knew it was the last time they’d grace her back patio.

At the cast party of La Boheme when I sang the role of Musetta.

Ma was the center of my world; we did everything together. She was my best friend. And when she died I was completely lost. I realized I hadn’t built a life on my own terms. I didn’t know who I was without her. Those of you who have followed this blog, or read my memoir, know that I ultimately found myself, my purpose, in Paris. There I made what felt like a reckless apartment purchase, but it led to a changed life—a bolder, more fulfilled life. I realize now that it was Ma who prepared me for this journey. She left me with the will and the courage to not only carry on after she was gone, but to thrive and prosper.

Sigma Tau Eta was my mother’s sorority when she was in high school. It stood for “Seek the Highest.” And our mother did teach us this in so many ways, from pushing us to do our best in school, to bringing culture into our lives. And when I was 16, she insisted I go to Paris with my high school French class. The trip was expensive for my parents, but Ma made sure they found a way to send me because, as she said, “Someone from this family should see Europe.” That trip informed my esthetic, opened me up to a greater world, and ultimately set me on a path that led me where I am now. Thank you, Ma.

Ma and me, and the new Millennium

Seek the highest. That’s the legacy Lillian Anselmo left her daughters. And it’s my message for you today. Your mother gave you life so that you should live it to the fullest. Be your greatest self. It’s the best tribute you can give your mother. I may never plant my mother’s flowers again for her, but I can, and will, continue to nurture myself and flourish like those flowers did.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.

My memoir, My (Part-Time) Paris Life, is dedicated to my mother, and tells the story of a mother and daughter, and how I found purpose after her death in Paris. You can find the memoir here


14 responses to “For Ma

  1. Hi Lisa, I miss my mother too. She passed in January 2015. I’m still trying to adjust to not sharing mother’s day with her. Thank you for sharing your feelings and conveying how much your mother’s influence on your life contributed to your bravery.

  2. Lisa

    As I too list my mom to breat cancer your words are so true and very comforting!!

    Thank you.

    Waiting on your next book ! Your first encouraged me to do the same follow your dream I just purchased my apartment in Nice France yippee !! My second love to Paris but it’s a start

  3. Lovely, through and through. Thank you…particularly from those of us who no longer have a mother living on earth.

  4. Love the M Day post. And love the pics of all you girls. I thought about my mother of course — she died 2 years ago almost to the day and you were with me as you might remember. Erica posted such a sweet note on FB — it made me cry. If your mother were alive, she’d be doing the same. You were an amazing daughter, I am sure of that.

  5. Hi Lisa,

    Very nice tribute to your mom and beautiful pictures of you both.
    Thank you for sharing.


  6. Your writings about your mother always brings tears to my eyes. You never fail to remind me what is most important in life. Thank you Lisa.

  7. Hello Lisa,

    Reading your story, I am wanted to reach out and share my own story about my mother was my best friend. Yesterday marked the anniversary of her death….17 years. I still can’t believe it has been that long! When she died unexpectedly, I was shocked, confused & so heart broken. In the last conversation that I had with her, she looked me in the eye and firmly said, “You are going to be ok.” I think my mother knew her time was near. I remember those words of strength as I grow and move through my life. After weathering the storm of losing her & living without her, I now can draw strength from her. The blessing to have such a gentle yet strong role model in my life was the ultimate gift.

    My heart goes out to you and I send you much love as you remember your loving mother who was so dear to you!



    • Rosanne, your words express so beautifully how I feel about my mother, who died far too young in 1985. Her “gentle yet strong role model” has guided and sustained me throughout my life…indeed, the ultimate gift. Lisa, thank you again for sharing more about your wonderful mother and for giving your readers a chance to share some of their feelings about their mothers who have gone on.

  8. Lisa, you are an inspiration. You are living my dream.
    All best to you and your dear mom and family.


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