At 31 years old, Shekeya Washington was not above crawling into bed with her mother.
Washington, a registered nurse, had lost a 50-year old man with COVID-19 that day in the medical intensive care unit at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn. "I had a bit of a breakdown with that patient," she says. "I remember going to my mom and crying and her hugging me."
She knew her mother, Novlet Davis, 59, could comfort her, because Davis also works at St. Francis, as a nurse practitioner in the cardiothoracic department.
And also because, well, she’s mom.
This year, Washington, who lives with her mother in Rosedale, Queens, and her sister, Latoya Bucknor, 39, of Baldwin, a nurse practitioner in the critical care department at St. Francis, have perhaps leaned on their mother more than in most years.
For essential workers, mom’s support has been invaluable, daughters say. Here's how:
Washington and Davis work the same 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. overnight shift, so they often drive back and forth to St. Francis together.
"Driving home, we get to debrief. Sometimes, the conversations were very solemn and sad," Washington says, especially at the beginning of the pandemic.
Other times their rides were joyful. "When we had a success story, that was the greatest thing — someone is off the ventilator, someone is talking to us."
And the three women see each other when they are at the hospital. "Being able to see a familiar face when you’re going through so much despair, even just a brief smile … was a relief and a comfort," Washington says.
It was also, at times, scary. "For me as a mom, I was scared knowing that all three of us were in the hospital," Davis says. "I’d walk in the unit and see them in their mask, their gowns, their glasses, their face masks; I was scared."
Things are improving, though, they say. "It’s not so severe now. The patients are getting better. The number of patients in the hospital are less," Bucknor says.
The maternal lineage in Novlet Davis’ family is strong, the women say. For Mother’s Day this year, the three women, along with Davis’ husband, Paul Bucknor, 60, a mechanical engineer and contractor, and the couple’s third daughter, Shenequa Bucknor, 29, who works in public relations, will be flying to the island of Jamaica to honor Davis’ mother, who recently died.
"I just wrote a book on my mother’s life called ‘Mama’s Heart,’" Davis says. Frances Amanda Davis had 14 children; after Novlet Davis lost six of her siblings, she started the LJDR Davis Foundation, and, with the help of St. Francis, since 2012, has sent a team of medical personnel each year to Jamaica to offer medical care. The most recent trip in 2019 consisted of a team of 83 people who saw 1,400 patients over four days, offering dermatology, gynecology and heart care. "My two girls have been an integral part of this foundation from the start to the present. We take our vacation from St. Francis and that’s what we do for that week," Davis says.
The trip had to be canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic; however, when Davis’ family returns to Jamaica in May they’ll be distributing a shipping container of donated supplies including hospital beds, wheelchairs and clothing to churches and communities.
"I think my mother is OK with Mother’s Day being about her mom this year," Washington says. "She was another strong woman."
When the pandemic hit, Lourdes Reina, 51, of Medford, a kindergarten teacher in the Uniondale School District, and her daughter, Alexa Reina, 26, of Forest Hills, Queens, then a fourth-grade bilingual education teacher in the same district, were both abruptly thrown into remote teaching.
Alexa was able to mine her mother’s expertise at engaging students, which became a lot tougher online. "Several times I would call my mom exasperated. She would let me vent, and then she would suggest something," Alexa says. For instance, when it was a challenge getting students to keep their video cameras on, Lourdes suggested implementing a reward system.
"My mom and I have always been close. I probably talk to her on the phone every day," says Alexa, who this year moved to teaching fifth grade remotely.
The support was a two-way street, Lourdes says. When Lourdes struggled with using the unfamiliar Google classroom technology, Alexa was able to troubleshoot. "I was comfortable with Google classroom because I had used it before the pandemic," Alexa says. And when Mom came down with COVID during the pandemic, Alexa brought her groceries and left them on her stoop.
Alexa is still teaching remotely, but Lourdes is back in the Kindergarten classroom. This year, on Mother’s Day, they play to go to Lourdes’ mother’s house in Elmont and celebrate with three generations together in the backyard.
In July of 2019, Yvonne Parker, 51, and her husband, Errol, launched EY Parker Logistics in Hicksville, a delivery service provider that works in partnership with Amazon to deliver packages. Their daughter, Esprit, 25, is the general manager. The Parkers envisioned the company would have a fleet of 25 vans and 40 employees.
That’s not exactly what happened. When quarantine caused people to turn to Amazon delivery in droves, the company had to quickly ramp up to 55 vans and 140 employees. That’s when the mother/daughter teamwork really kicked in, they say.
"When we had to hire a lot of people rapidly, I had too many people to interview," Esprit says. She was trying to hire 12 people per week, which meant interviewing 40 via Zoom. Yvonne jumped in to help her. Dinners each night involved talking about routines and operations to prepare for the next day, they say.
With the help of Amazon, they were able to get their delivery staff needed PPE to keep them safe, and they shifted from daily morning meetings in person to communicating with staff through a walkie-talkie app. "It’s definitely stabilized. We’re back to a new normal. We definitely have everything down to a science now," Esprit says.
The women also leaned on each other personally, as they lost several relatives and church members to the virus, they say. "We were kind of lifting up one another," Yvonne says. "We’re a close family, but it just makes you realize and appreciate one another and not take one another for granted." For Mother’s Day this year, weather permitting, the family will have an outdoor brunch to celebrate, Esprit says.
Sandra Collado, 50, of Levittown, is a human resources manager for the Long Island district of the United States Postal Service. In her position, she deals with the health of employees, which for more than a year has involved COVID situations.
Her daughter, Maité, 22, works a night shift as a mail handler assistant. They both work in the plant in Melville; Maité works sorting mail, touching packages. "For a while, they said the virus lives on cardboard and paper, so it was always a worry," Maité says. Sandra was also privy to who in the plant had been exposed to or had COVID-19, and that added to her anxiety about her daughter.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Maité was working a lot of overtime because employees were afraid to come into work, she says. Sandra made sure her daughter had enough gloves, sanitizer and masks. When Maité got home from work, they had a routine; Maité would undress in the garage, Sandra would spray her with sanitizer and she would get straight into the shower.
They recently both got their first vaccines the same week.
During the year, Sandra lost her godmother to COVID; Maité lost her uncle and grandfather to the virus. "It was very tough," Maité says. "We got through it together. She’s really been my rock mentally. We were always really close, but this year brought us closer."