Looking back, Mary Martelli always thought having children was “something my mother did.” The now 91-year-old had no idea that life would bring her nine children, six girls and three boys.
“Patience, lots of patience,” Martelli said, describing her journey as a mother.
The secret to being a good mom is to “just relax” and “love everyone for who they are,” she said, advice she gives to her own children, who are parents themselves.
Martelli raised all of her children in Wilmington, Delaware with her late husband, Guido Rosario Martelli. Over the years, the couple also opened their home to seven foster children.
Now spending her days at the Rockland Community Nursing Home, Martelli remains close to all of her children despite being briefly separated during the pandemic. She said her children, some of whom live as far away as Taiwan, still come to her for advice from time to time or when they just need to talk to their mother.
That’s why the 91-year-old mom sees Mother’s Day as another day. She doesn’t need a vacation to remind her kids to talk to her because “there wouldn’t be much point,” she said.
Nonetheless, on Mother’s Day morning, some of Martelli’s children joined her for tea at her Rockland Place residence to recognize and celebrate their mother’s “unconditional love.”
Daniel Martelli, Mary’s eldest son, had a childish giggle as he poured hot tea for his mother while she told tales of his childhood mischief.
“She was like any mother, except she had a couple of kids and a wooden spoon that she used on me a lot,” Daniel said, grinning.
Between sips of tea and digging into the past, Mary asked questions about her grandchildren. She smiled proudly as Daniel showed her pictures from her youngest granddaughter’s graduation day.
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At 91, Mary said she was just “grateful and grateful” for the opportunity to celebrate Mother’s Day with her kids.
Growing up, her mother was a mix of “strict and caring,” said Eileen Martelli, Mary’s fourth child. Mary was actively involved in her life and made sure they were involved in hers, Eileen said.
“She’s done a lot of community work where she’s taken us, and we’ve always seen that as an adventure,” she said. “She was very clear and consistent in her parenting style and had a great sense of humor.”
The Mother’s Day tea party talks reminded Daniel of how her mother always encouraged her to have open discussions about “religion, sex, politics and everything in between” at the dinner table. The family also doesn’t have gendered roles, Daniel said.
“We were a very progressive family and everyone in the house helped with the cooking and cleaning,” Daniel said. “My mother never assigned gender roles to us, so I learned how to iron my own shirt and do my own laundry at an early age.”
Mary ran a large household by setting clear expectations for her children. But according to Anne Louise, Mary’s sixth-born, her mother was much more than a “caretaker” of the home, noting that she was “active parent” and “present” throughout her childhood.
“She had a selflessness,” she said. “My mother never had her hair or nails done and always made sure there was a balanced meal on the table. She spent her time tending to either us or others in the community who needed help.”
Motherhood for Maria was not limited to her own children. She even opened her home to foster children, six babies and a teenager.
“As the Irish say, ‘It’s just another potato in the pot,'” said Mary.
Being a mother was an important part of Mary’s life and identity, but she said it’s “not always sunshine” and that there were days when she wasn’t “as patient as many would expect a mother to be.”
According to Mary, there are all kinds of mothers in the world, and “they are what they are.”
“Sometimes they’re good, sometimes not so good, sometimes they’re patient and sometimes they’re not,” Mary said. “The world shouldn’t limit her to an ideal vision, but love her anyway.”
Contact reporter Yusra Asif @ firstname.lastname@example.org