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Finding insight, forgiveness in ‘Lessons From Our Mothers,’

Jill Ebstein of Newton.Handout

After her mother’s health began failing last January, Jill Ebstein of Newton wrote an essay describing how Rosyne Gardenswartz’s completion of a Jewish studies program at age 81 taught her how “we are all unfinished people with opportunities to grow, learn, and embrace the world around us.”

“I read it to her and she loved it, and I thought, ‘This is my next book,’” said Ebstein, a writer and marketing and business consultant.

Her story, “My Mother’s Rolling Backpack,” is among 38 essays in “At My Pace: Lessons From Our Mothers” by contributors from around the world. Ebstein self-published the collection in November.


In many cases, common themes of strength, resilience, and determination run through “Lessons From Our Mothers” and her 2015 book titled “At My Pace: Ordinary Women Tell Their Extraordinary Stories.” Yet Ebstein also encountered the unexpected in the course of the nine-month project.

“I was surprised to find that so many people have complicated relationships with their mothers,” she said. “Yet I found that those who struggled to find the positive, but then got across the finish line, were immensely thankful for the insight they gained into their relationship. So even the negatives ended up being positive.”

The stories range from lighthearted to deeply personal. In “You Look Like a Bleached Out Old Whore: How I Came to Value My Mother’s Candor,” Newton resident Ronna Benjamin said she tolerated a torrent of unfiltered criticism because her mother loved and genuinely wanted the best for her. In “Peace,” an anonymous contributor describes an uneasy relationship with her mother following her father’s murder in Guyana — and the forgiveness she ultimately achieved.

Ebstein said she hopes readers will connect with contributors who have experienced similar joys and challenges. As an added personal bonus, she credits the project with strengthening the relationship with her own mother, with whom she shared each story during the editing process.


Gardenswartz died on Oct. 3 at age 92.

“While I was so happy to have the mom I did, other people have to work a little harder to find their gratitude,” she said. “In both cases, it’s really worthwhile to say thank you for making this difference for me.”

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Cindy Cantrell may be reached at