November 21, 2019

Mother’s Day, Phoebe Snow and Mama Lions

Phoebe Snow, the pop-jazz singer-songwriter whose single “Poetry Man” climbed into the Top 5 in 1974 died recently and her obituary in the Los Angeles Times prominently included her role as mother and caregiver to her daughter, Valerie, who was born with brain damage in 1975.

“It was very, very tight,” Snow told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2008. “Occasionally I put an album out, but I didn’t like to tour and they didn’t get a lot of label support. But you know what? It didn’t really matter because I got to stay home more with Valerie and that time was precious.”

In another earlier interview with the Los Angeles Times she said that the toll of caring for her daughter, and at times, her elderly mother, left her little energy for her own musical career. What prompted her to return to her music was a comment from her therapist.

“One day, she says to me, ‘Look at how efficiently and aggressively you fight for your child, and have fought for your mother. Why didn’t you do that for yourself?’ ” recalled Snow.

Her comments reminded me of what my own mother (of blessed memory) had said to me when our son, Danny was first diagnosed with developmental delays. “You have to be like a mama lion,” she said, “go and fight for him to get every service, every chance he needs to be the most he can be.” And this was many years before Sarah Palln’s “mama grizzlies” and Amy Chua’s, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”. Mom was always ahead of the curve.

I took Mom’s advice to heart and read up on everything I could about federal funding of Early Intervention, California State Regional Centers and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a key piece of federal legislation that governs special education and other related services to children with disabilities. I was determined that I would never be intimidated by medical jargon, bureaucrats and acronyms. It was almost like getting another graduate degree.

Mother’s Day is around the corner, and since my mom passed away in 2006, it is a day I would just as soon forget about altogether. I try to avoid the perfume sections of the department stores, where the young clerks come up to me and say, “What’s your Mom’s favorite scent?” And the card section of the stores are tough too, since Mom in her later years specifically asked us to buy her more sentimental cards than the humorous ones we were prone to purchase.

Farewell Phoebe—Thanks for sharing your talents and your unabashed love, and thanks Mom, for making me the Mama Lion I am today.