Mano Mamyte (My Mother)

Mamyte Knife Dance

You’re not going to believe this, but this is a picture of my mother, well before I came along.

She made this costume for a dance she created.  I have no idea when or where the performance was, only that she was very proud of it.

She was born in a small village in Lithuania.  Her parents named her Kunigunda, after an Austrian Duchess of Bavaria from the 1400s.

She was 43 when I was born. The doctors told her it was very dangerous to have a baby at her age, but by the time she had survived the bombings of World War II, she had decided she could survive anything.  Besides, she knew exactly what to do about it.

Lithuanians from small villages have many superstitions.  One of them is that if you keeping looking at beautiful things around you, you’ll have a beautiful baby.  My mother spent a lot of time at the Philadelphia Art Museum looking at beautiful paintings, believing this guaranteed I would be a beautiful baby. This was her antidote to doctors.  Quite worked.  I emerged healthy and sound.

We always spoke Lithuanian and I called her Mamyte, but she was never motherly in a traditional sense.  She treated me like a little adult from the time I was born.  She challenged me.

I learned many things from her.  My work ethic, perfectionism, to judge people based on character, to never whine, to treat guests like royalty, to never let anything stop me, to be the best I could be, to create my life.  She specialized in life lessons.

But I think the most important thing I learned from her was to never be ordinary.

She’s been gone physically for a while now, but never spiritually, emotionally or intellectually.

With deep gratitude I honor her this Mother’s Day.  In Lithuanian we would say, Laiminga Motinos Diena, Mamyte! Aš tave labai myliu! (Happy Mother’s Day, Mamyte!  I love you very much!)

May you enjoy a very rich day with your own mother!



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