On this Mother’s Day I thought it might be nice to reminisce about Mom. And in the process, I will be singing the praises of mothers everywhere.
Mom loved her family. She bore five kids, one of whom was born when she was 40. She loved us all dearly. When she was older, seeing any one of us was the highlight of her day. If we were all together, she was in her glory.
She especially loved to see us when she didn’t have to cook. Oh, how she loved to eat out! (A trait I seem to have inherited from her.) And can you blame her? If I’m doing my math correctly, I’m estimating she prepared about 16,000 dinners in her lifetime, about 2700 Sunday morning breakfasts, and I can’t even imagine how many lunches she packed. In addition, I’m guessing she baked well over 100 birthday cakes. Then, while everyone else was reveling in time off from work or school, she prepared well over 200 beautiful holiday meals, most of which involved a couple days’ work of cleaning, preparation, baking, cooking, and cleanup.
Mom was a registered nurse. In fact, that’s how she met Dad. Her roommate became her best friend, and a year or so later, her roommate’s brother became her husband.! When Mom and Dad got married, Dad started building a house on the plot next door to his sister. Mom got to live next door to her best friend, and we got to grow up with our cousins. All in all, it was a good arrangement!
Mom was a nurse for a while, but once the babies started coming, she gave up a career to focus on us.
When we were young, she would wake us up for school, make sure we were dressed, clean, fed, and out the door in time to walk to school or catch the bus. In the afternoon she made sure we did our homework and, at the proper time in the evening, she ushered us off to bed. Sometimes she would softly rub our backs. On other nights my sisters and I pestered her with “What shall I think about” questions. (We were under the strange impression that unless we had something to think about, we wouldn’t be able to fall asleep.)
On summer days, when we were young, I have very fond memories of Mom walking the four of us siblings (Brian wasn’t born yet) next door to meet our cousins and aunt, and then taking a walk down Burnt House Hill Road. We chattered excitedly, picked wildflowers, and waded in the creek at the bottom of the hill.
I also remember us accompanying Mom on her errands. Once or twice each week she went to the local butcher to buy lunch meat for our sandwiches, and chicken and hamburger for our week’s meals. We would watch as the butcher deftly de-boned the chicken breasts with a thwack of his knife and the prying of his thumbs. Or, if we got bored, we’d walk around the store, eyeing the potato chips and other goodies of interest.
Occasionally in the summer Mom would take us girls shopping and, for an extra special treat, (more for her than us, I’m sure), we’d sit at a booth at Grants and order a hamburger or grilled cheese with an icy soda. (Sodas were not a common indulgence back then.)
In an effort to save money for her large family, Mom would sometimes sew matching Easter outfits for me and my two sisters. I confess these were seldom my favorite outfits, but in retrospect, I respect the effort it took for her to make them. Later, when I was in high school, she would pick up various articles of clothing for us from local thrift stores. Of course they were never quite in accordance with my own taste, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t sufficiently grateful. Many years later, I would frequent thrift stores myself and feel ashamed of the attitude I had when Mom was simply trying to enlarge our wardrobes on a small budget.
Like many women, Mom provided unpaid labor not only in keeping the household running, but in helping Dad with his business. She was the one who sent out invoices to his customers and she was the one who paid the bills. All of this was largely unseen and unappreciated work. It must have been frustrating for Mom to always be doing so much for everyone else. I’m pretty sure she didn’t get thanked often enough for all her hard work.
I remember one day when I stayed late for after-school activities in high school. I had arranged that morning for Mom to pick me up instead of taking the late bus home. She was late, and I was embarrassed to be waiting so long there at the front of the school. On this particular day I didn’t thank her for picking me up as I usually did, instead I complained about how late she was. To my great surprise, she burst into tears. Apparently Dad had called to ask if she could pick up some materials to bring to the job. (Dad was a builder.) Whatever it was that she had picked up–probably plywood or something to that effect–had been strapped to the top of the car. Then, en route to the job site, it had fallen off. Mom had had to struggle, extremely flustered, to get it back on, by herself. (There were, of course, no cell phones back then.) Then she had to rush to Dad to drop it off, rush to pick me up, and then, of course, she’d have to rush home to, once again, get dinner on the table in time.
I had picked a terrible day to be ungrateful.
One of the few people in our family who faithfully expressed gratitude to my mother was my paternal grandfather. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, when ten or more of us would sit down at the table to eat the lavish feast that Mom had prepared, Grandpop would remind us of how much time and effort it had taken her to place all this food before us. He said that after hours and hours of cooking, it would be a sin to gobble it up in just a few minutes. He would then eat very slowly, savoring every mouthful, stopping now and then to compliment Mom.
Grandpop knew how to do gratitude.
When I was in my thirties, I had to face the sad fact that I was going to be getting a divorce. I found myself really nervous about telling Mom. But yet again, Mom surprised me. She totally took it all in stride. I asked her about it one day. I said, “I thought you’d be angry or disappointed.” She said something to the effect, “I just want you to be happy.” Mom, you got a big gold star that day!!
When Dad was about 70-years-old, he had been invited to do a job in Europe. For some reason, Mom had not been invited along. Later she told me that she would have loved to have gone. It was only then that I began to have an inkling that Mom had had many dreams that had gone unfulfilled.
Another unfulfilled desire was that she always wanted to redecorate the house. But Dad didn’t think this was a wise use of the family’s money, and so we seldom had new furniture. Sometimes Mom would get new curtains or a new framed picture–something to help brighten up our living room. But I strongly suspect that she gazed with envy at the homes of many of her friends who had wonderful taste and less frugal husbands.
Mom, I wish you could have known, deep in your heart, that though our home wasn’t always fit for House Beautiful, the more important thing was that it was always filled with love and laughter. People of all ages loved to come visit us. Our home was a happy place. People could feel the love.
Thank you for creating such a wonderful home for us to grow up in. Thank you for always loving us, no matter what. Thank you for all your many sacrifices. Thank you for your beautiful soul. I was blessed–we were all blessed–to have you as a mother.