My First Mother’s Day Without Her

By Heather McDonald | @HeatherMcDonald

This Mother’s Day will be the first one without my mom.

My mom, Pam, passed away Dec 21, 2014. She was gorgeous. She went to The University of Wisconsin at Madison where she was a Badger Beauty and Military Ball Queen in the same year. She proudly boasted at cocktail parties that Gina Rowlands was a Badger Beauty the year before her reign. At four years old, she taught me how to pose; hands on hips, right leg in front of left, slight tilt of the head.

I was the youngest of five children in a very Irish Catholic family and by “very” I mean one of those typical Irish, Catholic, alcoholic, bipolar, manic depressive, chemically imbalanced families. I kid, but not really.

My mom had no filter and told me the truth no matter how old I was. She once confessed that she had gone against the church and got on the birth control pill after her third child. However, at a ladies luncheon she heard that Elaine Mark was on the pill and got a terrible blood clot so my mom stopped taking it. She then had my sister and me which was followed by my dad visiting a priest in San Diego who blessed his much needed vasectomy. If it wasn’t for Elaine Mark’s blood clot, I would not be here entertaining you today. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

We lived a middle class lifestyle forgoing vacations for Catholic school tuition. Once, at the grocery store I noticed that my mom removed the price sticker on a package of filet mignon and replaced it with the sticker of ground beef. The cashier didn’t bat a fake eyelash. I guess my mom had been doing it for years. I knew that it wasn’t being totally honest but she was doing it for her family. I was an eight year old partaking and enjoying filet mignon. We were never one of those families where the kids ate something lesser than the parents.

pam-mcdonald

Pamela Lynch McDonald

A few years ago my mom told me the story of how we got our Girl Scout uniforms for free. The next door neighbors had two daughters just a few years older than my sister, Shannon and me who were also Girl Scouts. The couple had gone to Stanford and per my dad’s description “That wife thinks she shits ice cream.” In addition, they were Protestants and were very into their church. Mom nicely asked the ice cream shitting wife if we could have her daughters’ old uniforms since at the time they were kind of a large purchase for mom’s monthly budget. The wife declined my mother’s request stating they were already packed away in her daughters’ keepsake chest.

A few days later, mother got her mail and sitting on top of the stack of bills was a letter with no stamp or address, so she opened it. It was from the next door neighbor’s Pastor. He was declaring his love for her. The letter referenced their love making and his desire for her to leave her husband and be with him forever. My mother quickly walked next door to the neighbors and knocked on the door. When she answered my mom held open the letter so she could see the writing and said, “I’m afraid someone put this in my mailbox by mistake. It is obviously intended for you.”

According to my mom, her face turned white. Knowing she was in a vulnerable state my mother said, “Well, I’m off to the uniform shop. We have our first Girl Scout meeting tonight.” Without hesitation, the neighbor replied, “Hold on Pam, for one second.”

A few minutes later, she emerged with two Girl Scout uniforms and said, “I meant to give these to you earlier for your girls. After talking to my daughters about it, I guess they aren’t as sentimental as I am.” Mom took the uniforms and we celebrated with a beautiful dinner and cherries jubilee for dessert.


Heather McDonald is an American actress, comedian and New York Times Bestselling author.  She is best known for her appearances on the E! series Chelsea Lately.

Born in the San Fernando Valley of California, McDonald, the youngest of five children, was raised by her parents, who were real estate agents. She is of three quarters Irish and one quarter French-Canadian ancestry. McDonald was raised Catholic and attended a private, Catholic school. McDonald is married to Peter Dobias, an investment banker. They have two children, and Dobias has a daughter from a previous relationship. They live with their six chickens in Woodland Hills.

Image courtesy of David T. Burgoyne / davidtburgoyne.com

1 Comment on My First Mother’s Day Without Her

  1. Pam and Bob sold us houses she was quite woman. Sorry for your loss but you have your memories. Thanks for posting the tribute. Peggy Fletcher

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