Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Mother of the Year/Blue Skies and Grey

Babushka dolls along Fifth Avenue. 4:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Tuesday, October 17, 2017.  It was  sometimes sunny, mostly cloudy yesterday in New York, as if it were going to rain. But it didn’t. It was cooler too. A wool blazer required instead of cotton.
Getting ready for the big day. On Lexington, between 70th and 71st, next door to Sette Mezzo. It's a deli/bodega and they always have great flowers.
I went to the American Cancer Society’s 22nd annual Mother of the Year lunch at the St. Regis. I think I’ve been to all 22 of them as Diana Feldman, the group’s ringleader (Volunteer Chairman), is a friend, and an always cheerful one.

For me, Mother of the Year is one of those obligations (to cover) for a good friend who gives it her all. Besides, the vibe at these luncheons of mainly women, is a good one.  Health is the common denominator that brings everyone together. And with a good doctor in the room (being honored), it’s also an up vote.

I had a good seat at a table facing the podium, between Charlotte Ford and Arlene Dahl. This was a “talk” luncheon. A lot of speeches. A risky situation always. Diana opens it, while lunch is being served. She’s one whose face is in a smile in repose and when she speaks. So too, her eyes.  She’s quick to laugh also, and quick to laugh at herself.
Diana Feldman.
Diana lost her mother, her father and her sister to the dread disease, long ago. That explains her unflinching devotion to the AMC and this luncheon.

Then she introduced Kitt Shapiro as Mistress of Ceremonies. Kitt is the daughter of Eartha Kitt.  She talked about her mother as a very special woman who was also a very good mother. Eartha was diagnosed with colon cancer in January 2008. She died on Christmas Day that year.

Kitt  recounted the experience of taking care of her mother and how it reflected how her mother had cared for her from childhood. She talked about recovering from the great loss. The mode was about the loss and the suffering but her words were those of a child who had a loving mother.
Kitt Shapiro.
Kitt then introduced Dr. Arnold Baskies MD, who is Chairman of the Board of Directors of the American Cancer Society. The doctor talked about the history of the AMC and how it has collected $5 billion over the years and distributed it for finding a cure or cures as well as helping those who are diagnosed or suffering, as well as assisting their families.

Dr. Baskies was followed by Christie Del Rey-Cone. Ms. Cone told us the story of herself as a mother, being pregnant, and as a daughter whose mother was diagnosed and died just a couple of days after the child was born. Ms. Cone has a comedic quality to her very emotional story and it is garnished with a natural wisdom for survival. She has excellent timing, delivery and yet powerfully moving in its reality. This was another story about Mother and Daughter and cancer.
Christie Del Rey-Cone.
After the main course of the luncheon,  Kitt Shapiro introduced Emma Boolbol and Mackenzie Boolbol, sisters and award presenters to their Mother of the Year Susan K. Boolbol, MD. The Boolbol girls were young women of about 12 and 14.

Their introduction was written in poetic form. Everything rhymed and was often so funny that you were reminded of a sitcom family. Their mother, the doctor, was revealed as a real mama who was also always working and keeping up with her patients and their travails and recoveries (she is a breast cancer doctor, also).
Mackenzie and Emma Boolbol.
Dr. Susan K. Boolbol.
The girls’ very witty rhymes were about an adored mother not beyond a daughter’s objections, whose own life was so rich as to be awesome. Then Dr. Boolbol came up to the podium and posed with her daughters. A powerful yet pleasant demeanor, she told us how she worked on Wall Street until she was 27 and decided she wanted to go to med school and become a doctor.

She’s one of those people who is very frank about herself and her approach to life. She talked about that life as a doctor and a mother and about her relationships with her patients. She’s one of those people who you can naturally depend on. She loves being a doctor. There’s a spiritual quality to all this.

Kathie Lee Gifford presenting the Mother of the Year award to Hoda Kotb.
After Dr. Boolbol, Kathie Lee Gifford came up to the podium to present the Mother of the Year award to her friend and co-worker, Hoda Kotb. I was probably the only person of the hundreds in the room who’s never seen either of the women on the Today Show or on Kathie Lee’s show with Regis. I’ve seen them at Michael’s fairly often, however. I’ve never met them, but on observation I can see the energy of their personalities by their style of communication, by the way they walk into a room, the way they greet people. Very nice women. Big, animated personalities.

At the podium Kathie Lee began with a burst of love and affection for Hoda. She recounted their meeting at a lunch to discuss their possibly working together on the show. Kathie Lee wasn’t that interested because she’d had a long career successfully doing just that. However, Hoda cast a magic spell for her: the two got along — as they used to say “like a house a’fire.”

By the time Kathie finished her paean of admiration and praise for her friend, there were many women in the room wiping their eyes over the experience of a friendship.

Then, as if the whole hour was perfectly scripted, Hoda came up to the podium, and after her warm thanks to her friend Kathie, told us about herself – much of which is well known to her enormous daily audience – and how at 51 she adopted a daughter. It was brief but an emotion- and laughter-packed acceptance, and the happy ending.
Hoda Kotb.
Mothers of the Year, Dr. Susan K. Boolbol and Hoda Kotb.
Benefit co-chairs for this very successful luncheon were Cricket Burns and Jessica Mezzacappa. Honorary Chair was Brenda L. Johnson.

I sat there for a minute amazed.
There had been 9 speakers at this hour-long luncheon. It not only flew by and informed, but it let you see what’s possible and affirmed in human relationships. Everyone was excellent, none too long, some intense yet positive; gratitude a word weaving through, some amusing, even hilarious; some emotional and emoting; others informing and wise.
American Cancer Society's 2017 Mother of the Year Luncheon Co-Chairs and Board Members.
When people got up from their tables, there was a sense of having been rescued from the direness of the medical situations, not to mention the world out there, and departed in a state of having recovered, or at least recovering.  This was the most effective of these Mother of the Year luncheons, and I don’t doubt it affected everyone in that grand ballroom of the St. Regis Roof.
When I got home from the luncheon, I took the dogs for a quick one down on the Promenade. It was a beautiful grey afternoon with blue skies in the distance. The air was definitely cooler and the river/tide was on the rise and there were waves indicating a rougher sea.
As regular readers know, I often check out the clouds over the river. The big sky is available only along the coastline. The cloud formations are often dramatic and sometimes provocative. Looking north toward the RFK Bridge and Queens. 3:30 p.m.
And just to the south, same time looking west at Roosevelt Island an beyond above. I liked how the blue of the tent cover on the island matches the blue opening in the sky above. Those grey clouds carried the rainfall that was predicted but passed us by.
And to the south on Roosevelt Island, I love this cloud cover because it looks like it had been painted by an artist with the broadest strokes juxtaposed to actual reality below. A writer's life.

Photographs by Annie Watt (MOY)

Contact DPC here.