BY: Janis Gaudelli – The Champion of Truths, Unicorns & AWE-tism
I have dedicated an entire blog post to my Dad and often spoken of him on The Daily Feels. Today, I devote this space to the glue and the goddess, the 5’2 spark of sass, the Gaudelli Matriarch, the fierce force I call Mom.
I hit the lottery of life when the universe was handing out mothers. Modest, devoted, strong, giving, intuitive – the words I typically use to describe my mom to others. Words that weave together her life story. Words I will use to best express 83 years of a world graced by her presence.
Today is my mom’s birthday, and this blog is celebrating her spectacular life, so let me introduce you to Frances Janet Gaudelli: the woman, the myth, the legend.
Happy Birthday, Mom
My mother was born and raised in Harrison, NY. She was brought in to this world during The Great Depression to immigrant parents, Anna Reale Gatto and Dominick Gatto. The family grew up in humble conditions. My mom often spoke of owning two dresses as a child (alternating one each day) and cherished her only doll, which she received as a gift. As both parents worked hard to make ends meet, my mom and her brother had adult-like responsibilities at home. At 8 years old, my mom would come home from school to an empty house, where her chores consisted of cleaning the house and getting dinner started for when her parents returned home.
Dominick & Anna Gatto and their children – Joseph & Frances (my mom)
When she wasn’t helping out at home, you could find her playing on the Brentwood streets with her friends Nancy Fraioli, Connie Sposato, The Arcara brothers, and The Basso boys, as well as her brother and his friends Bill Bisbano and the Spizzaro sisters.
She made her way through the Harrison school district and, after graduating high school, went straight into the workforce in accounts receivable at AT&T.
She met my Dad at a New Year’s Eve party in 1958 that she hadn’t planned to attend, but her aunt urged her to go because “you might meet your husband.” I still get the chills from that story. The stars were aligned, and she married my Dad on her birthday, September 12, 1959. She would have been married 59 years today, how about that!
She gave birth naturally (back when meds were not readily given and women were child-bearing warriors) to four children: Fred, Annamarie, Robert, and Janis (that’s me!). Once she became a mom, she quit her job at AT&T to stay home and raise the four of us while my Dad worked. They sacrificed a lot. Dad worked 2 jobs and Mom kept the family on a strict budget.
Dad, Mom, Fred & Annamarie
Strict is also how I would describe her parenting style. You did not pull any shit past my mom. All we had to see was her hand raised to her mouth, her teeth biting down on her fingers, and we ran like our lives depended on it. Her exercise consisted of chasing the four of us with wooden spoons– and sometimes catching us. Her strictness kept us all out of trouble and dedicated to doing and being our best. She is the disciplinarian to whom we owe our well-mannered, respectful, considerate qualities.
While my Dad worked, my mom took care of the homestead and all that went with it. She was completely devoted to raising and championing all four of us. Mom was always involved in our school affairs: she was active in the PTA, chaperoned school trips, always cheered from football/track/basketball/baseball stands, and proudly watched her daughter Annamarie soar on stage. She helped us with our homework, studied with us and hired tutors when it got to be too much.
She went head to head with school officials on our behalf and celebrated all four of us at every graduation, from pre-school all the way to college (that about 24 graduations total!).
Dear God, I’m tired just writing about it.
And yet, this woman never stopped hustling, before hustling was even a thing. She is one of the strongest women I know. She is fierce mentally, emotionally and– for a little lady– physically. It wasn’t until I was 15 years old when I realized just how strong she was. She was diagnosed with breast cancer that year, but she wasn’t shaken by the news. In fact, from the day she was told, she looked straight into the eyes of the ‘Big C’ and said, “You chose the wrong person to fuck with!”.
I’m kidding. My mom doesn’t curse (she doesn’t drink or curse, which makes me wonder if I was adopted), but you get my point. She didn’t let that diagnosis stop her from living her best life. She hardly told anyone she had breast cancer. It didn’t become part of her story. She went about her days in deep faith, determined to fight it because the alternative just wasn’t an option. She went into the hospital and had a mammectomy on her left breast. Just a couple days later, she returned home (with drains coming out the side of her chest), put in a load of laundry, asked me to come with her food shopping and cooked dinner for the family that night. She refused chemotherapy and chose radiation instead. For 2 months, five days a week, my mom took herself to her radiation treatment. When she returned home, life went on as usual.
And the award for badass, warrior goddess goes to…Frances Janet Gaudelli
Seriously folks, my Mom has some superhuman powers that I’ve been in awe of my entire life.
In 1995, that small-town girl had the opportunity to move out of the only town she’d ever known. Away from her family and friends to a land where cacti grow, and cowboys run the show: Arizona. She immediately fell in love with the gorgeous desert landscape, snowless winters and the kind, courteous people. She and my Dad built an amazing life in Arizona and, even since my Dad’s passing, my mom still calls it home.
Mom & Dad in Scottsdale, AZ
A year after leaving New York, my Mom’s heart swelled to a whole new level when she welcomed her first granddaughter, Halle, into the world. They say something magical happens inside of you when you become a grandparent. Chambers of your heart you never knew existed are unlocked and you love at the deepest level. The way my mother loves her grandchildren is limitless. After Halle, she was gifted with three more grandchildren: Reese, Jadyn and Kellan. They all call her “Mama”.
Mama and her four grandchildren: Halle, Kellan, Reese, Jadyn
Having been raised by a warrior like my mom, there was never a doubt in my mind that a woman could do anything she puts her mind to, and that includes having a child on her own. I remember the day I called my mom to tell her about my plan to become a single mom by choice. She responded without hesitation. “You can do it on your own.” She has been my greatest advocate and Kellan’s biggest fan ever since.
As my beautiful, ageless, giving, wonder woman of a mom turns 83 today, I reflect upon all that she is, all she has done, and all she continues to do. All of which I am incredibly thankful for. So, thank you, Mom:
Thank you for breeding fearlessness and encouraging me to take risks
Thank you for always exhibiting courage and strength when life throws a challenge your way
Thank you for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself
Thank you for allowing me to always be my truest self (big hair, spandex, tattoos, piercings, all of it)
Thank you for teaching me to stand up for myself and all that I believe
Thank you for sacrificing your wants for our needs
Thank you for letting me make my own decisions, even when you didn’t approve
Thank you for showing me that my opinion matters and to raise my voice wisely
Thank you for raising a woman who supports other women
Thank you for giving me advice when I needed it most
Thank you for passing down your strong sense of intuition
Thank you for picking up the broken pieces when life felt like it was falling apart
Thank you for your fierce support, acceptance, and love for my son
Thank you for having a great sense of humor
Thank you for your generous nature. You raised me to be a giver, and I cherish that about myself
Thank you for having the faith I so desperately lack
Thank you for encouraging my non-traditional path
Thank you for demonstrating the qualities of what makes an incredible mother
Thank you, Mom…for being my mom
Happy Birthday. I love you.
Janis Gaudelli is The Founder of The Daily Feels. She started this passion project to reveal the magic behind storytelling, and how truth-based narratives bring people together in the most heart-warming of ways. Fascinated by soul, depth, intellect, raw truths and rebellion with a cause. Often captivated by the awe of nature: star gazing, moon manifesting, sunset chasing, waves crashing, crickets singing. Fiercely curious about the inner-workings of the human psyche… she professionally studies human behavior for a living. Forever proud and grateful for being a mom to the force that fuels her life: her 7-year-old son, and greatest professor, Kellan.