The "White Carnation"

Tony pays tribute to his mom as he shares his memories in this special Mother's Day weekend blog.


                                          The “White” Carnation
I do it once a year and it always draws close scrutiny. On the Friday before Mother’s Day, I don a white carnation on my lapel. The boutonniere is of course symbolic of the devotion I have for the single most important person in my life, my loving mother. I wear it to commemorate her. You see ever since I arrived at WSAZ , the carnation has been a tribute to my mom who passed away shortly after I relocated to West Virginia.
When asked what made my mom so special, I start with her golden touch with people. If you met mom, you instantly liked her. She treated all people with a kind word and warm heart. When people come to my house and tour my dwelling, I show them mom’s debutante portrait from the 1930s. “Meet Miss America 1938” I am known to say.
Sure, mom wasn’t Miss America “officially”, but her beauty was stunning none the less. I guess what made mom’s beauty so endearing is that she felt uncomfortable if I made a fuss about it. Of course that shyness made mom all the more beautiful.
While mom's smile was magnetic, her steely eyed look when I did something wrong was just as daunting. I still remember the night when mom called "court" after dinner and presented me with the "curfew" warning from the Philly police for staying out after hours. Talk about wanting to hide!
But there was no punishment, just a word of advice to not let it happen again, which it didn't!
To this day, when I meet someone my age that still has their mother, I am jealous. You see, mom died when I was only 30, leaving me with a ton of memories for sure, but a lot of missed opportunities.
The story that best tells about our relationship takes me back to grad school at Penn State. I came home for 3 weeks on spring break in 1981 with the sole purpose of studying for my Masters Comprehensive exam. Think of the comps as a no holds barred test where everything and anything in meteorology is fair game. Most of my buddies were staying at Happy Valley another year, but I wanted out into the real world. So I attempted to write my thesis (A real yawner titled “a Methodology on Tiros-N Radiance Data”) and study for the comps in the same term. Suicidal? Perhaps.
But mom knew how driven I was to get my TV career started so she formulated a game plan where I did the studying and she took care of the rest. Up and atom at 8 AM, a nice breakfast was waiting for me. Plenty of fruit would get me off on the right foot, mom surmised.
If I happened to put the TV on (hey, I was in love with Holly from the "Price is Right" probably because she was a ravishing red head like mom), mom would quickly remind me what I was trying to do (remember, my friends studied for 6 months, here I was studying for 3 weeks). Mom kept me on message!
Midday lunch included a nice kiss and my favorite combo, home made soup and sandwich. Back to work by 1, with the afternoon filled with Differential Equations (I learned to derive the Classius Claperon equation in my sleep…and sure enough, it was worth a whopping 10 points on my exam!) and Quasi-Geostrophic Vorticity theory.
A late afternoon errand for mom broke the monotony before dinner. Mom let me select the menu every night, which meant lots of Italian dishes like Veal Parmigianino and Baked Macaroni. Mom made the best meatballs I have ever tasted. DePalma’s crusty Italian bread and a green bean salad (of course in a spicy sauce) were staples!
After an hour or so of evening study, mom encouraged me to go out with my friends. She knew all work and no play made Anthony a dull boy. She trusted me to be safe and make sensible decisions when out with my friends.
Anyway, after 3 weeks of this routine, it was back to Penn State for a “judgment” Saturday. I had 8 hours to show what I knew. It was pass and get your Masters degree or fail and be in limbo.
Anyway, I opened the exam that spring morning, browsed thru the questions and within 5 minutes I knew "we" had passed. All that was left was to spend the next 8 hours writing down what I had learned over a lifetime. I thought of my mom at 8:05 that morning. You see we had accomplished this together!
When I received my first break in TV via WGAL-TV in Lancaster, Pa, mom was there to make sure my apartment was liveable. One of the joys of my 5 year stay in Lancaster was that mom could see me fuzzily at our home in Northeast Philly.
On Holidays, Mom, Dad and brother Frank would come to Lancaster for dinner at the Historic Strasburg Inn. This "Early American" Colonial eatery would become Mom's fav. The drive out through the Pa Dutch Country included driving the same roads that the Amish used with their horses and buggies. At the Inn, all servants were decked out in 1770s garb. We had to bring our won flask as no alcohol was served. Mom thought this throw back feast was so neat and if mom approved, I was pleased.
I could tell you all sorts of stories about how my mom nurtured the talent that God gave me. How she raised me to be a good Christian, how she taught me how to be a capitalist, how she agonized when I was sick and relished in my successes. But all you need to know is that my mom was the single most important person in my life. It’s no wonder I say a prayer for her every night before I go to bed and why on this weekend starting Friday night I don the white carnation in her honor and memory. Oh yeah, there is a tear in my eye too.
I love you Mom!
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