Quartzy: the Mom Mom edition

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Happy Friday!

While much of the world celebrated the birth of a new royal baby on Monday, I was celebrating someone who constitutes the closest thing to royalty in my own family. On May 6, my grandmother Ellen (also known as “Mom Mom”) celebrated her 102nd year on earth.

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Image: Lauren Spinelli

Mom Mom’s birthday gave me reason to fly back to New York, where her party became the grand finale to a series of celebrations, each of which owed something special to the heroic power of moms.

Take my mother-in-law, Melanie. Although I traveled to New York without my husband, for a few nights last week I stayed with his parents in Brooklyn. Melanie insisted that I invite my friends over for dinner, so that I wouldn’t have to run around trying to see everyone. She and her husband marinated chicken for the grill, made a huge bowl of salad and a cheesecake, stocked up at the wine store, and set 10 places around their table for my friends and theirs. Every time I thanked her, she just said: “It was so much fun.”

The following night, I attended a party at MoMA PS1 to celebrate the release of a book about the art of Tom Slaughter, who died in 2014. Tom was my dear friend and to open this book, created by his daughters Hannah and Nell Jocelyn and son-in-law Jimmy Mezei, felt like stepping back into his SoHo studio. When the light there was particularly good, Tom would ask you step onto the fire escape for a Polaroid. (There I am, circa-2006.)

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I lived across the hall from Tom in my mid-20s, when Hannah and Nell (pictured below) were teenagers. At the time, he was separating from his wife and collaborator of many years, Marthe Jocelyn, and while I never really knew Marthe, at PS1 I got to tell her how much I adore her daughters—how talented, smart, beautiful, and generous they are. Even better, she got to say to me, “I had something to do with that.”

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Image: Tom Slaughter

When it came to Mom Mom’s 102nd, the main event was made up of many small moments of family, food, and togetherness. The importance of this kind of hanging out with loved ones—sitting around, taking walks, eating bagels, catching up—has been paramount to Mom Mom for as long as I can remember.

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Image: Larry Avins

People often ask me my grandmother’s secret to staying young and sharp, and I think she’s got a few (not least of them Winnie, her wonderful live-in caretaker). Mom Mom keeps her friends and family close; if you’re leaving after lunch, she asks what time you’ll be back for dinner. She’s an eternal optimist, sometimes to the point of willful ignorance—although she reads the New York Times daily. She calls everybody precious, but if you’re being a smart-ass she’ll tell you to stop being “fresh.”

As a grandmother, she’s increasingly indulgent. It used to be she wouldn’t let you leave the table without finishing your math homework; now you can’t get up without having a bit of dark chocolate. When we talk on the phone, Mom Mom is happy to hear about work—we recently chatted about cannabis’s potential to ease patients off prescription painkillers—but even happier to hear about the fun I’m having: a beautiful hike, a great concert, a dip in the ocean. And she ends every phone call with an embrace: “I’m sending you a big hug and a kiss.”

Lately, I’ve been trying to send similar vibes to friends who are new moms, some of whom have confessed to feeling overlooked as soon as the baby was born (a natural byproduct of a tiny adorable sidekick). So this Mother’s Day—it’s on Sunday!—take time to recognize the mothers in your life for their generous care-taking, sage wisdom, bits of chocolate, and independent personhood.

Especially if the baby is brand-new, Quartz’s Annaliese Griffin (mother of two) recommends something to ease the sleep deprivation. She sends homemade granola and a pound of coffee from her local roaster to faraway friends. To nearby ones, she gives the ultimate gift: a few hours of babysitting. All these gifts reflect Annaliese’s own experience as a new mom: “What I wanted was to be fed, to take a long shower, and to have a moment to myself when no one needed me to do anything for them.”

In other words, show those moms some motherly love.

Have a great weekend—and a happy Mother’s Day!


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Image: Tom Slaughter
Image for article titled Quartzy: the Mom Mom edition
Image: Jenni Avins

One of my favorite people to discuss motherhood with is Indrani Sen, the longtime editor of this email, who left Quartz last week. (We celebrated in style with Brown Derbies and a delicious “face-cake” depicting Indrani’s own visage, made by our colleague Sarah Todd.) In many ways, Indrani’s encouragement and sensitivity, paired with her incisive editorial expertise, shepherded this newsletter into what it is today. I am a chronic second-guesser of my own choices, editorial and otherwise, but my “internal Indrani”—a voice of support paired with a critical eye—is now extremely strong. As a friend, she’s never more than a text message away. As an editor, she’ll be dearly missed.