Emma-A Portrait of Love


Emma’s High School Graduation Picture


“Who comes with Summer to this earth
And owes to June her day of birth,
With ring of Agate on her hand,
Can health, wealth, and long life command.”
–  June

My mom turned 79 on June 12th.  She was born Emma Rita Parise to immigrant parents from the province of Calabria, Italy (“the toe of the boot”).  She was the last of 5 children; two older brothers who died as children and 2 older sisters.  She was born in Philadelphia, PA when her mother was 40.  Her mother was warned not to have this last baby because it would negatively impact her health.  She was an asthmatic and had a bad heart because of the asthma.  She of course ignored them.  There was no question about having the baby.  So my mother was born into her new family.  Sadly, her mother died three years later, and my mother’s oldest sister, my Aunt Mary (see her remembrance post), took over raising my mother at the age of 13.

To say my mother was a bit of a street urchin or hellion is putting it mildly if all the talk is real.  She has described herself as running the streets, and learning all sorts of behavior and language.  To know my mother, you can picture her perfectly as an urchin. Her life was still filled with love from her two older sisters (my Aunt Theresa, the middle sister, who was 8 years older and Aunt Mary 10 years older) and her father who worked hard as a painter to support the little family.  My mother was lucky to have this family who loved and raised her, and I think that is why she turned out the way she did despite any hardships she encountered.

Sisters-Mary, Emma, Theresa

As a teen she was definitely rebellious.  She defied her sister Mary and the nuns who taught at her high school.  Yes they sent her to a Catholic high school which she called torture, and my mother is a devote Catholic.  She would get a ruler across her knuckles; if she was chewing gum they put it in her hair…OK it was a bit of torture.  The best story was the one she told about when she would get on the trolley to go to school wearing her socks the right way and her skirt the proper length.  Before she arrived at school, her socks would be turned down and the skirt hiked up to the latest fashion length much to the horror of the nuns who would then contact my Aunt Mary.  It was the late 40s, the era of big bands and bobby soxers, and she was always in fashion.  I think I got my fashion style from her as I was growing up.  To say she wasn’t enamored with our style of clothing in the 70s was putting it mildly.  Micro mini skirts that barely covered your rear end, tight jeans that showed off your rear end, and those flimsy halter tops certainly turned her hair gray early.  But she let us find our fashion sense as long as we looked clean and not trashy.

Mom on Left

My mom went to nursing school to become an RN.  I always found my mother to be one of the smartest people I know.  She knew her nursing stuff and she knows about life.  To say my mom was always right might be an exaggeration, but when I was growing up it seemed that way.  She always had an answer, sometimes a smart alec, answer to things.  She could be quite sarcastic, but it was never mean.  It was her sense of humor, and it taught us well.  You know the ones, “Well if you put it where it belonged you’d find it”; “If so and so jumped off a bridge would you follow them”.  She was always right about friends and especially boyfriends.  She could spot the losers, and she generally told us so after she met them.  I really hated that and would often try to prove her wrong, but never could.  I learned how to discern about people from her too, but was never quite as good as she was.  I think she learned that skill as that street urchin.

My mom is an incredible mother.  I think she tried even harder to be the mom she never had although I know she loves her sister Mary so much, and is grateful to her for her love and support in raising her.  But my mom was the epitome of the 1950s and 60s TV mom.  She cooked, baked, worked on weekends sometimes, planted a garden, took cake decorating classes (you should have seen those cakes-she was a Cake Boss even then) and cleaned the house morning, noon and night; she even would bleach our shoes laces every night so we looked clean.  She bandaged our wounds, and helped us fight our battles if we needed her.  She was never a “helicopter parent”, thank God,  and she let us learn the hard way if we needed to.  And yes I got spankings, and my mouth washed out with soap because like her I could be mouthy.

My Parent’s Wedding Picture

All my relatives said I look like my mom.  I have her stature and a lot of  her personality.  I was always closely tied to my mom, and often as a very young child had nightmares that she died.  Many of these came because I was in the hospital a lot as a baby and toddler because I was born with asthma and almost died.  As a teen we fought a lot because we were so alike.  As a young adult I wanted to learn on my own and she let me, but she was always there when I needed to come back crying and licking my wounds.  She rarely said I told you so.  Now we are still close and talk often though not often enough.  My fault.  She can come to me with any problems, and she knows I will be there to listen and counsel her(part of that middle child thing).  When my dad was really sick and then died, I know I talked her off some pretty steep buildings of despair.  I used a lot of her lessons to help her deal with things.  At my dad’s funeral we literally held each other up the entire time and never let go.

Mom and Dad 20 years ago

My mother never considered herself book smart, and it took her 4 times to pass her State Nursing Board exams.  She simply had test anxiety, but she never gave up.  That is how she has always been.  Through any adversity or major change in her life, she rarely showed us if she was feeling bad.  She may have been moody or worried sometimes, but she always tried to put on a good face, sacrificed that new coat she desperately needed and gave us what we needed; lots and lots of love.  She was and is always proud of our accomplishments.  She told me recently when I started sending her my blog posts to read, “I knew I had a smart daughter, but I never knew how smart”.  She refers to me as her daughter the writer who is a published author.  That is coming in August.

My mother’s health waivers, and she has health issues that she battles daily that do not stop her from living her life.  My mother will tell you she was never a saint.  She was never perfect, but she was and is an incredible person.  I marvel at the lessons she taught me as a child and still does to this day.  She is a proud, strong woman who has profoundly influenced and shaped my life.  She will always be my pillar of strength, my best friend, my role model and my portrait of love.

Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget. ~ Unknown

Special Note: My mom’s favorite flowers pictured here are roses which are the flower for June her birth month, and which symbolize love.  You can read about my mother’s life lessons that I wrote about at Walkabout Chronicles(Life’s Simple Lessons; The Golden Rule).

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All content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.




  1. Donna says:

    What a nice story about your mom and wonderful sentiments. My mom would have been 80 this year and her name was Alberta Emma, a name she always disliked. She went by Emma. Another similarity, she too was born in Philly. But I do not resemble her and take after my dad. Sadly, I remember the 70’s fashions, where less was less.

    • Donna says:

      Wow how funny is that…we continue to find so many similarities…I am glad you enjoyed my tribute to another wonderful mother named Emma!!!

    • Donna says:

      Karin how perceptive that I do have my mother’s personality and you are right it does come out in my writing…she is an amazing mother and woman that I am proud to know…thx for sharing in my tribute to her…

  2. One says:

    Dear Donna & Donna, You both have the same name. Even your mothers have the same name and were born in the same place. How can that be possible?

    Is your Mom reading your tribute? Wishing her a very happy birthday!

    • Donna says:

      It is uncanny how much our lives and experiences overlap…my sister is hoping to get my mom to a computer to read this…she is not a computer person…I will be printing it for her and mailing it out this week…

  3. Cat says:

    I enjoyed reading this post Donna. Your mom sounds like an amazing woman who loves life and her family! Your photos are treasures and I’m glad you shared them. I especially love the second of the three girls when young. What a beautiful tribute.

    • Donna says:

      Cat isn’t that picture a hoot..my mother even looks like an urchin with the devil in her eyes…so innocent but not really…she imagined herself a brat that her sisters had to deal with…from what I can see she was loved and loved in return…I love the beautiful clothes and shoes…my mom was 3 when that photo was taken..glad you enjoyed her story…

  4. Diana says:

    Donna, I hung on every word… so much love and meaning, and I know your mother is so proud of you. Lots of similarities in our heritage and ethics of hard work and sacrifice. Blessings to you, your mom and family.

    • Donna says:

      Diana thank you for your sweet blessings…I am so happy you loved it and that it meant something to you even though you do not know her…we were given such rich heritage weren’t we….

  5. Alistair says:

    Donna, you write beautifully and always at your very best when it gets so personal. Make sure your mom has a box of tissues by her side if she reads your tribute, she sounds like a wonderful person.

    • Donna says:

      Alistair I needed tissues after reading your wonderful comment…as I was writing this I had to stop many times and reach for the tissues too…I am glad you could feel the the love that poured out of every word…she is a treasure and is loved by everyone she meets…I plan to give her a printed copy of this post…I’ll send some tissue in the package just in case 🙂

  6. b-a-g says:

    Donna – I prepared myself to read a post about how your garden compares to a Jane Austen novel … Reading your heart-felt post makes me think about my relationship with my mother and all the things that I want to tell her about how brilliant she is and how I respect her. However, I find it difficult to say such things to family members.

    • Donna says:

      That would have been some post….but I am so glad you enjoyed the post tribute to my mom…we were never a very demonstrative family although my dad was a big hugger and my mom is Italian so you know lots of hugs come when we had been away..I have decided after all the years I would say the things in my heart to family no matter…I realized this most with my dad’s illness…

    • Donna says:

      Tina you are too kind….I consider myself an average daughter who loves her mother dearly and is thankful for all the love and lessons….I know I would not be who I am without her influence…

    • Donna says:

      So glad you enjoyed Emma’s story…when I print this she will see all the wonderful comments…I think she will need those tissues…thank you for you sweet wishes!!

  7. Marcia Richards says:

    Donna, as everyone has said, it is a beautiful tribute to your Mom. The love does flow through your words and she obviously deserves every ounce of it. I feel the same about my Mom, who is 87. Everyone should take the time to sing the praises of their wonderful Mom. Happy Birthday, Emma!

  8. Donna says:

    Marcia how wonderful for your mother to be 87 and to have influenced you so much….I agree…love them and tell them all they mean to you…my mom will so thrilled to read all the wonderful wishes and words from everyone…thx!!

  9. Jean says:

    Donna, This is a wonderful portrait of your mother. I really felt as though I was getting to know her. That wasn’t Santa Maria Goretti high school in Philadelphia that she went to, was it? One of my friends has regaled me with stories of her experiences at that particular Catholic high school.

    • Donna says:

      Jean I am so glad you got to know her through my post..she is an amazing woman…she went to Little Flower High School in Philadelphia. From what I can gather the Catholic schools of my mother’s time were all the same in their treatment of children. When I went to Catholic school it was bad, but not quite at the level of my mother’s experiences.

  10. Holley says:

    What a wonderful post, and a great tribute to your mother. I loved seeing the pictures, and I could feel the pain of her losing her mother, the treatment at her school, and the loss of her beloved husband in your words. She was a cute little urchin, and a beautiful woman. I think you both have a lot of be proud of in each other.

  11. Stacy says:

    As the others have said, Donna, what a lovely portrait of your Mom–and of another era. I often wonder what it would have been like to have grown up in our parents’ generation (my Dad just turned 75 on June 12)–most of us have had things so easy compared to them. (And because of them!) It’s so beautiful that now you are able to offer her support in return when she needs it. One of the joys of being an adult is being able to give back to those who have loved us all along.

    • Donna says:

      Stacy your words and sentiments are so beautiful and so true…I often wonder what it would have been like to grow up in the 30s and 40s and think I missed my generation sometimes….I am happy to give back to my mom and it is a joy to now be able to give back love, wisdom, caring…thx Stacy

    • Donna says:

      Alison so funny how you zeroed right in on that one….my mother does not think she was all that incredible and definitely not perfect…I wanted her to know that even if you are not perfect it is far more important to be incredible and she is…

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