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How Does My Jewish Mother Spoil Me? Let Me Count The Ways

As a professional living and working in Manhattan, I—and I alone (as I fit into the have-yet-to-find-my-bashert contingent)—pay for all my monthly basics: rent, utilities, phone, cable, renter’s insurance, co-pays, Trader Joe’s shops, and even the occasional manicure, 8-week French class or Alexis Bittar bangle. The living ain’t easy, but I get by and I’m grateful.

I’m also grateful for the fact that my mother (and, OK, my father too) continues to occasionally “help me out.” In other words, spoil me. Still. At 35.

Maybe it has something to do with my singledom. Or maybe it’s the lack of grandchildren, or the fact that I just last year resigned from my cushion-y full-time job as an editor to pursue a career as a freelance writer. But to be honest, I can’t quite offer a justifiable reason for the occasional generosity beyond unconditional, smothering love (with a side of pity).

Does it sometimes feel funny to accept a $50 bill for a cab that’s likely to cost $8? Yes. Is there a lingering guilt festering inside when she hands over a coupon and her Gap card for new PJs and underwear? Very much so. Do I long for the day when I can finally take her to dinner in the West Village without worrying I might be charged an overdraft fee? You betcha. Yet, I’m still all “thank-you-very-much-I-love-you-longtime.”

And I’m not the only one, either. This month sees the publication of The Jewish Daughter Diaries, edited by journalist Rachel Ament, in which 27 writers share tales of their mothers’ undeniable love—including Buzzfeed’s Lauren Yapalater, who confesses that her mother continued to bag her lunch well into her 20s.

Inspired by this phenomenon, I’ve put together a list of the top five “gifts” my mom’s given me this past year, followed by her spiel as to why:

1. Holy Moly (AKA Trip to Israel)

I’m a city girl, and after a few months living in London last year and some time in Paris, Edinburgh and Amsterdam, I wanted to see Berlin, too. But funds were dwindling, so I propositioned a few friends to come with to help cut costs. None were free. Then I spoke to Mom, whose arm I could practically see waving from across the Atlantic as if to say, “Me! Me! Me!” Except, she didn’t want to go to Germany…

The Spiel: “When you called from London you sounded kind of down about being alone and not sure where to go. I remembered the time you called from Singapore or Hong Kong or somewhere when you were in Asia and I couldn’t meet you. This time, I could, but I didn’t like the options you suggested. I knew paying for it would lure you, so I suggested Israel. For selfish reasons, yes—because oh my god it had been so long since I’d been—but also because I wanted to travel with you!”

2. Woman With an Audi (AKA Moving Help)

After returning from the six-month stint abroad, during which I rented out my West Village studio and stuffed a small storage space in Chelsea with excess handbags, toiletries and more, I just couldn’t swallow paying a man with a van to help move a few things. But I also couldn’t do it myself—no car. So my 62-year-old mother, in all her Athleta-clad glory, volunteered to schlep boxes and bags down from the dank space and back up five flights of stairs. Twice. In summer. On 80-degree plus days.

The Spiel: “I physically can. It’s quality time. You needed the help and your father would never do it. Plus, you’re single, you don’t have a man to do it with you.”

3. Mumford & Mom (AKA Concert Tickets)

I love Mumford & Sons, and while I was tempted to see them play at a newish venue in Queens, I wasn’t tempted by the $90-something price tag—especially since I had just seen them in Amsterdam and my safety savings for the aforementioned career change and travels were depleting fast. Then, in swept Mom…

The Spiel: “It was a great venue. I wanted to see them, too. Also, it was your birthday! Though, in retrospect I realize I was just about the oldest person there and I learned that new music is better listened to on Sirius Radio.”

4. Mac Attack (AKA New  Computer)

My six-year-old iBook was outdated and out of memory. Plus, it was too damn heavy to carry around from coffee shop to library to coffee shop in my new career as non-nine-to-fiver. Could I have financed a new Macbook Air and then declared that bad boy like I did my first Mac 10 years ago? Probably. But…

The Spiel: “I knew you needed it. You didn’t have any money and you helped us with the business website, so I too, could declare it as an expense!”

5. Happy Feet (AKA Sneakers)

The idea of spending over $100 on shoes with boring arch support that I might-hopefully-maybe wear in my new pursuit as a sometimes-runner seemed silly. Sparkly Kate Spade peep-toes are way more my style, despite the fact that they won’t get me very far without blisters or a prescription for a new knee. While on the Upper East Side visiting a museum one day, we passed a Super Runners Shop and…

The Spiel: “I knew you wouldn’t spend the money. They were good for your feet and I still feel guilty for putting your legs in bars as a child to straighten out your pigeon toes. You have terribly flat fleet and I’ve always felt bad. Because of them you shouldn’t be buying the shoes you do.”

So thanks and Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! Johnny Walker Black on the rocks—your treat?

Sara Lieberman is a writer and editor based in New York City. Her work has appeared in The Daily BeastThe New York Post, Cosmo UK, Hemispheres, and Fodor’s. She’s also the founder of News Girl About Towns, a blog featuring musings on self-discovery while discovering the world. She allows herself a cup of black coffee on Yom Kippur and implores you to try the babka from Breads Bakery.

Image: Sara and her mom in Jerusalem (supplied by the author)

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