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Phyllis McGuire at the president's house at Williams College last year.

That's Life: Happy Birthday, Phyllis

By Jennifer SciarrattaiBerkshires Columnist
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Editor's Note: We're letting Jennifer Sciarratta take over her mother's column today. Jennifer, a frequent subject of columnist and iBerkshires writer Phyllis McGuire, wanted to turn the tables and write about her mom as a birthday surprise. Happy Birthday, Phyllis!

Here's the reason we keep taking your picture, Phyllis. We knew we'd use them someday.
Today is my mom's birthday, and since she spends most of her time writing stories about me I thought it would be nice to write a column about her.

As her dedicated readers, I thought you are owed a little insight into Phyllis McGuire the person. I can honestly say she absolutely loves writing her columns and it has become a hobby she really enjoys. I laugh sometimes when I call her to chat and she says, "Can I give you a call tomorrow morning I have a 3 p.m. deadline today for an article."

I tease her and call her the "roving reporter" as she dashes around Williamstown and the surrounding areas to cover a story or interview someone for an article. We have shared so much as mother and daughter, but I love her articles about my family. I have learned so much and they are something I will always cherish for years to come.

I grew up in Queens, N.Y., which is so different than Williamstown with its space and sprawling hills. However, I can say each location has its own beauty. We lived in an attached house that was small but cozy. We had a small yard, but my parents made it feel like it was an "oasis escape" for my brother and me. In our yard, we had a tire swing, a sandbox and a small pool. The pool wasn't one that had a filter or a ladder, just the kind you would step into. I remember waking up in the morning on a warm summer day and find the hose in the pool to fill it. At the same time, my mom would be carrying pots of hot water out so the water wouldn't be too cold.

Along the gate of our yard, there were beautiful rose bushes that my mom would take care of. I remember looking at the colorful roses and having their fragrance fill our back yard. Next to the rose bushes was a small garden. I remember being so excited to see our vegetables grow and remember at a young age being amazed that the corn stalks were taller than me!

My mom stayed home and took care of the house and my brother and I. Being a mom myself now, I can say that is a full-time job. We were a middle-income family and my parents would make sure we had what we needed. My mom would invent games for us to play, which included floor tennis with a ball and two books. She was very creative and it worked! Desserts were creative as well and she always made them taste so good.

I remember TV time at night in my house and how we would have to move the antenna to try to get good reception on the television. When the television wasn't on there was the record player, usually playing Shirley Bassey, Johnny Mathis, Perry Como or Barbara Streisand. I remember my dad grabbing my mom at times and they would dance in the living room and I would just smile.

She is very dedicated to her religion and was always dedicated to her church both in Queens and in Williamstown. We at times would joke how priests would leave the parish after she had confession with them. We would tease her and say, "what are you saying to these priests that is causing them to leave?" knowing that with her kind ways and spirit she wasn't the person leading them out the door.

My parents shared a special kind of love and I remember my dad coming home from working in New York City on many occasions with a Lord & Taylor bag for my mom containing either a new skirt or a blouse. She would cook him his favorite meals, which sometimes included the lamb chops that he loved. They really took care of each other and as their child, I was able to feel their love for each other which was one of the best parts of growing up with them as parents.

At times my mom can be a "Nervous Nelly" just like anyone else. So when my father passed away almost 11 years ago, I was worried about how she would handle it. My mom decided to hold his wake and funeral in New York. From the time she arrived with my brother at my house to the time she left, I was amazed at her strength and spirit. My father's death came as a shock but I was also shocked in a good way by my mom. She was my rock during this time of mourning and a pillar of strength, I couldn't have made it through without her.

So to the readers of my mom's articles I want to say thank you for supporting my mom and for your kind words and feedback, it means the world to her.

And to my mom, happy birthday, I love you, I am so proud of you and even though you have become a great columnist you will always be my No. 1 mom, too. 
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