I hope you're not tired of reading Mother's Day posts. I'm not. I've read so many beautiful tributes by bloggers about their moms, alive and past. And I realize one reason why I appreciate this community of bloggers is that so many share so freely from the heart about someone who mattered deeply.
I wish I had a photo of mom doing her crafty thing. I probably do -- in the scan pile. But when people who knew her say to me "You are so much like your mom," they have it nailed.
I suspect, when I get my scanning project well under way, I will find a photo of my mom doing her thing -- making her gingermen at Christmas, cutting out wee bits of a Holly Hobbie or Anton Piek print and making dimensional collages, cooking up something tasty or using plaster sheets to make a doll over a soda bottle.
I remember her doing needlepoint and when I was younger (like five) teaching me how to knit. I'd crawl in bed between them early in the morning, bring my knitting and drop stitches left and right. But that was OK.
When I was kid in Scouts, mom was a leader and I remember her doing crafty projects with and for us. I think my attempt at Valentine boxes probably drove her crazy but I learned! And after she tried to explain to me -- ever so gently -- that I may not be a natural born artist like my younger cousin Patty, whom I suspect was born with a pencil in her hand and that I had other gifts, like writing, and I refused to believe her, she did all she could to help me. She bought drawing books and art supplies and drew with me. And I got better!
Mom loved to cook. But when I was 18 and on one diet or another, she made me a fabulous birthday cake -- three layers! -- out of styrofoam, beautifully frosted. With candles. The nicest cake ever but no one could eat it. She'd done every diet known to humankind and knew my struggle and she would do what she could to help and not derail things -- but give me the ultimate gorgeous cake. (That photo has to get scanned too!)
I went to my first auction when I was in second or third grade (with a book). She was always collecting something -- antique furniture, glass, dishes. Yes, I got the dish gene from her, too. When she was dying she said, "Please don't get rid of my cut glass till you are 40. If you don't like it by then, you never will and then do what you want." I didn't get rid of it. To this day. And I use it often. (And I do have a fondness for all things vintage!)
Mom loved Christmas. Everything about Christmas was special to her, from shopping to baking to wrapping. One of the times I made her cry was at the ripe old age of early elementary. She had slaved making those candy cane cookies with two kinds of dough. I've made them and they take forever. But I didn't know that for another three decades until I tried them myself. And I didn't understand why she broke into tears when I asked her when we'd have store-bought cookies again.
She cried when she turned 40 too. So, I didn't get it and I went to show and tell and told. That didn't go over well either!
My parents were photographers with a dark room and lights. One reason I have so many photos from my childhood is that I was an only child -- and their only convenient model! But I remember my first camera when I was about nine. A Brownie, of course. So I could take my own photos. And as you know, I still do.
As one of the more shy and nervous people about appearing in public, theatre wasn't a normal activity for someone like me. When I auditioned for my first play and had a horrible audition experience, she cried with me. And told me not to give up. I got a little part. That, and her support, helped build confidence and a passion. Lots more parts came later. She and Dad were my biggest fans coming to everything I did -- usually more than once. In high school they'd host cast parties. She was always a part of "what was happening." My friends seemed to love her, too. Always a plus.
And she loved the theatre. She took me to my first play when I was probably five and made sure I saw plenty of live theatre at a young age. She fully supported voice lessons and was a tough but constructive critic when I'd practice singing to Barbra Streisand and Mary Martin (because teenager who thinks they are Barbra Streisand or Mary Martin is a little too cocky!) Kind but honest.
She and dad didn't really want me to be a theatre major -- not without a teaching certificate. So I complied till my senior year. And when I backed out, graduated, started and dropped out of grad school the first time and ended up with exciting jobs (working at a drug store and being a bookkeeper, which really is a job never to be given to a math-phobe) she never said "I told you so."
My mother was the one who instigated our move from my first real childhood home and elementary school when I was in sixth grade. It was a very homogenous neighborhood and she felt I was becoming pretty blase and unimpressed by things -- a bad quality in one who is ten. And, she knew, probably in large part because of her experiences teaching elementary school in a pretty rough end of town at the time, that I would have a lifetime of being with people from all backgrounds, religions and races. And I'd better get used to that. So we moved to a district where I would be in a highly integrated high school. It was the best thing they ever could have done for me and taught me that my friends could be of any race, religion or socioeconomic status. If they were good kids, that was good enough.
My mother loved to party and to play. I remember her getting dressed up for some function. She loved it!
And she adored the lake where she had grown up as a child each summer and instilled that love in me. I have loads of memories of my mom and aunts at the lake, sitting on the porch, laughing for hours. My love of family comes from her in great part as well.
Family. Oh yes, when you got the sisters together it was always talk-talk-talk, non-stop. And if one did or got something, the others had to do it, too.
|With her sister Grace, my uncle Martin and Dad|
|With her older sister, Iris|
Of course the family that she loved most was my dad and me. They were so unalike when they met. She was from a fairly well to do background, pillar of the community family. Dad was from a farm who struggled during the Depression.
But this short, shrimpy little woman and the big tall guy were wonderfully compatible. The only quarrel I can ever remember hearing them have was on picking the restaurant where to eat dinner. To this day I'm generally pretty happy to let someone else make that decision.
She loved to travel and one of the best experiences of my life was visiting a place we both felt close to -- England. The two of us went when i graduated from college. I didn't realize at the time her cancer had started. Neither did she. I just thought she was a tired, old person. (And, a younger one than I am now!) We hit Stratford and Cambridge, did brass rubbings and saw seven plays. Most of
all, we laughed a lot.
And she volunteered. Her two big things were Junior League and hospital auxiliary, along with church activities. When she volunteered at the resale shop, I'd go along. I have a great fondness for resale shops. And a string of volunteer tasks in my past and present.
My mother grew up and lived in the same city all her life, apart from college and a teaching stint out of town. She taught me city history when we planted flowers at the cemeteries for my grandparents. When I go through town I see the place she was born and raised, the spot I first called home as an infant (well, I didn't know it then!), the houses we lived in later years, the hospital where she died. My roots here run deep. Very deep.
I make her sound like a saint. She could have her snotty moments, too! Especially when she and her sisters got together. But she was really pretty mellow, caring and outgoing and compassionate. She knew how to live and live well. And by that, I mean "live good." (And do I get the snotty gene sometimes? Who me? Oh NO! Not ever!) Right.
And she knew how to die well. I've said before, probably here, that this may well have been her greatest lesson to me. Courage in the face of pain. Joy and a smile whenever possible. Upbeat attitude. A cute dressing gown, wig in place. And Hope. Always hope. Teaching me how to live while dying.
|The last photo of Mom before she died in 1977|
Which might have been why I really didn't think she would die. I was 25. And I knew. Yes, I knew. But I didn't want to believe it. And I sure wasn't ready to grieve it. Not for another six or seven years. I've learned a lot since then.
She left before I landed in the right career with the right man by my side and two great little boys who are now young men. She would have reveled in Greg's art, adored Rick's classical guitar and baking skills (and freaked out with me when he goes on his long cycling excursions) and loved being with Kevin, Molly and our Baby Grand. She wouldn't freak out about changing him like I do. (I'll get over it.)
That makes me really sad and Mother's Day is probably my hardest day of the year. Harder than her birthday or even the anniversary of her death. Her gifts were great ones, though. Gifts I see and live with each and every day of the year. The things I inherited from her are all wonderful -- the cut glass, the dishes, the jewelry, a thousand photos (I think!) -- those are all good.
But they aren't the real gifts. I live the real gift when I pick up a paintbrush, write a blog post, support a cause that makes a difference, make some new dish in the kitchen, watch the sunset on the beach up north, arrange flowers, take a photo or sit in a dark auditorium and wait for the curtain to rise.
When I visit Southern Exposure and see women my age there with their moms, I get a pang of envy. She would love that so much. But I'd like to think she knows all about it. And road trips to the lake, visits with the cousins, the happiness I feel with my family and friends.
Because really, she's sort of there. I may not be able to see her. But I like to think she's still there.