To the editor:
As a child, I found my mother a bit strange, even weird, when I compared her to other children’s mothers.
I recall being painfully embarrassed when she served cream of asparagus soup on the occasion of my birthday lunch. As my friend turned her nose up, I understood that something common, like tomato or chicken noodle, would have been preferable. But, my mother was anything but common. When I ungratefully complained about it later, she told me that she thought that cream of asparagus was just the right soup for a special occasion.
Then, there was the time when she took two of my friends and me to the Peabody Essex Museum. I wanted to hide and make believe she wasn’t my mother as she oohed and aahed with wonder and amazement at the exhibits. Little did I know that her enthusiasm was a natural expression of her ceaseless curiosity and fascination about the world around her.
I knew nothing about what it meant that she had been educated at that Ivy League women’s college in South Hadley. In fact, she completed her senior year after marrying my father in September and still graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a double major in History and English Literature.
After all, she must have felt an urgency to imbue me with a bit of culture. While it seemed idyllic to me, she doubtless felt that life in Pigeon Cove was more than a touch provincial.
In her efforts to expose me to valuable cultural experiences, Mom took me to the ballet in Boston. She also took me to art museums and dramatic plays in Boston and made sure I saw wonderful Broadway musicals at the North Shore Music Theater. One of my earliest movies was “The Red Shoes” at Rockport’s Little Arts Cinema, which screened worthwhile films.
She and Dad enjoyed entertaining their friends with off-beat suppers of shish kebabs cooked in the fireplace in our living room, followed by a group reading of a famous play by George Bernard Shaw or some other illustrious playwright. Everyone had a part to play. Odd. Eccentric. Embarrassing.
I learned later on that my parents were seen as “intellectuals,” and probable Communists because of their liberal politics and their desire for a regional high school to be established on Cape Ann. Other signs of their liberal bent included their fruitless campaigning for Adlai Stevenson’s presidency and Cynthia’s work for the mental health association.
Then, in 1959, our family moved to Puerto Rico to live for five years. That was certainly a life-changer.
As the years ticked by, I gained more and more respect for my mother as she went to the University of Puerto Rico to further her education and, after our return to the states, Tufts University to work on her Master’s. Then, she became a guidance counselor at the Ipswich elementary school and later, worked as a mental health professional in a community counseling center in Lawrence.
Now, as she approaches the end of her life, I am proud to say that Cynthia Fisk is the only person I have ever known who understands completely what it means to live in a democracy. Always a highly political person, she has been an active Quaker and peace activist for many years. She has always known who her congressional representatives were and what was going on at every level of civic and governmental affairs. She has frequently made herself heard by people at every level of government.
She is a prodigious writer and always carefully reads newspapers (The Gloucester Times, Boston Globe and the New York Times) and magazines like the New Yorker, The Atlantic and many more.
And as the readers of the Gloucester Times know well, there is probably no one other than Cynthia Fisk who has written columns and letters to the editors as prodigiously as my mother. A childhood friend of mine recently announced that in one weekend, he’d managed to find 63 letters that were still online that she had written to the Gloucester Times over the years.
Happy Mothers Day Mom! I’m endlessly proud of you and the many indelible marks you’ve made on the world.
Your passion and enthusiasm, your never-ending attempts to make sense out of a crazy world, your decency, kindness and goodness are all to be commended and admired. I love you.
PAMELA HEPBURN FISK
Pompano Beach, Fla.