Saturday, May 13, 2017

Missing Mom

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.


Linda @ A La Carte said...

This makes me smile and get a tear in my eyes at the same time. Lovely tribute to your Mom. I am one of the lucky one's who still have my Mom around. I am blessed! Hug to you!

Pam Jackson said...

Such great memories of your mom. Thank you for sharing.

Mary@mydogsmygardenandmary said...

What a beautiful tribute to your lovely mother. Such wonderful memories you have of her and your father. They certainly loved you very much and she was a wise mother.

Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful post with us.

Have a wonderful Mothers Day.


Lynne said...

Lovely Jeanie . . .
We have many parallels in our lives . . .
Like . . . our mothers . . .
This was a beautiful tribute . . .
I see your "mothers touch" in you, in so many ways . . .
And I have never met you . . . or your mother . . .
Yet, . . . I have . . .
Happy Mother's Day . . . and memories . . ,

Sally Wessely said...

Jeanie, of all your blog posts, I think I loved this one the most. You painted such a wonderful portrait of your mother. I have read bits and pieces about her over the years, and I've seen photos, and I've heard stories of the lake, but I don't think you have ever given us so much detail about your mother.

I loved reading about her creativity, and her personality. I didn't know she was a teacher. I loved how she wanted you to live in a community where you would learn to embrace diversity. She truly was a beautiful woman. I looked at her last photo for a long time and had a hard time believing she was dying. She looks so well, so together, so beautiful. I loved her advice about the cut glass.

I am heartbroken with you to think you didn't get to share so much of your adult life with her. She missed so much. You missed so much.

She would absolutely love your blog where you bring together all the legacy that she left you: the creativity, the writing, the designing, the decorating, the collections, the art. Thank you for giving us all this gift of knowing your mother. I will be thinking about you tomorrow. Hugs.

joared said...

Lovely memories, photos in tribute to your mother and family.

Valerie-Jael said...

Wonderful post about your Mom, you both must have had a wonderful relationship, and that is really valuable. Thanks for sharing all the lovely photos. Have a great day, hugs, Valerie

Daniela said...

Dearest Jeanie,
I'm feeling so touched by your post, my eyes are shiny with tears ... you've lost your Mom so very soon, and truth is that we do need a Mom's love at every age ... Mom s are ours Angels on earth, especially for us who grew as only-children, maybe more linked than normal to our cousins who are our brothers and sisters to us !

Your Mom was such a beauty she had a so sweet smile, I'm sure you're missing her every moment of your life, Dearie, but I'm sure that she's following every step you're taking, since who has loved us deeply, will never leave us, remenber than Love is much stronger than Death.



Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Dearest Jeanie, do you have children? I don't.....and yesterday I realized through my tears, that I am still a child in the sense that since I have no children, I can never be on the "receiving end" of Mother's Day, only on the lonely side of an orphan, never knowing what it's like to be a mum. Your mother is GORGEOUS and ya know what? She lives in you.

Carry on and love your heart out. That's all we have left.

The French Hutch said...

Jeanie, a beautiful tribute, your mom was a beautiful lady in so many ways. I feel your loss. Mother's Day is hard for me too, I miss my mom so much on this day. I enjoyed hearing the stories and yes, I see you in your mom, from the big smile to all your arts and crafts. I know I have a love of dishes, got that from my mom from her collecting and following along looking as them shopping. Oh those sweet memories. Happy Mother's Day Jeanie, hope you get to see the boys and the grand this weekend...........

My name is Erika. said...

This is a wonderful Mother's Day post Jeanie. You had me in tears. Your mom was surely fabulous. But I like too how you got me (and most likely a lot of us readers) thinking about our own moms in a different light. Thank you. And hope you are feeling better and are back up on your feet Happy Mother's Day to you. Hugs erika

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

What a beautiful post, Jeanie. My heart hurts for you, though. I hate that you lost your mom at such a young age. It sounds like she was a truly wonderful women. Not perfect, because none of us are, but the perfect mom for you. Having people tell you that you are just like your mom sounds like the best compliment you could get.

I have mixed feelings about Mother's Day. On one hand, I want the moms in our world to get the credit and recognition they deserve because moms do soooooo much, much of it unnoticed or unrecognized. But I don't like how Mother's Day is painful for those who have lost their mom or whose wish to become a mother has not been granted and might not ever be granted.

That said, Happy Mother's Day to you. You've been a Mother to lots of furr-babies and to Rick's kids, and now you are a grandmother! I am sure your heart will be heavy today, but hopefully Lizzie gives you some extra cuddles (or cuddles period?). We'll be spending the day at Phil's mom. We are bringing Oscar out there for a 3 week stay for the wedding/honeymoon. I got his mom a little gift (the books that the show "Call the Midwife" were based on - she loves the show so hopefully she is interested in reading the books). But the best gift will be Oscar's presence over the coming weeks (even though Oscar won't let her touch or pet her - she's particular!!!).

Katie Clooney said...

Oh Jeanie... what a beautiful tribute to a wonderful lady. You were so lucky to have had such an upbeat, talented, loving, brave Mom. I bet she's smiling at you from heaven. Sounds like you are just like her. Btw... I was a theater major too. I am the biggest fan of Barbra's and know the full score to Funny Girl and Funny Lady. Enjoy your Sunday.

Rita C. said...

Jeanie, this the BEST Mother's Day tribute ever, from anybody. Your mother, I'm sure, is smiling very proudly. And there's no doubt in my mind she is with you at Southern Exposure, probably sent you there.

Happy Mother's Day. You do know pets are family, too, right?!

Joanne Huffman said...

A loving and beautiful tribute to your mom. My mother taught me that you can see the immortality of our loved ones in the way they have influenced our lives, that they will always be with us because they are part of us and that we share them with everyone we meet. Your mother will always be with you and your spirit, wit, and creativity give us all a sense of her.

La Table De Nana said...

Well you did it first and I hope only MD puddle eyes.
Just puddles..I have learned to put a stop on the puddles;)

What a tribute..great photos..memories I know why you have so many pics and scans o do..that back shot of you:)
What a lovely girl!
And your parents:) So tall short.So adorable.
I lost my wonderful mom at 19..she had an dad was in the hospital..he had just had a heart attck..he died 6 months later the night of my wedding..

I miss her every day..and I get ..that panks you feel at SE..I felt it all my adult life..the births of my girls..the concerts..every moment.
I hear you dear Jeanie.:)♥

Jacqueline~Cabin and Cottage said...

I loved reading about you and your beautiful mother. You have some wonderful photos and lovely memories to go with them.

anno said...

What a beautiful post, Jeanie: tender, loving, generous. My heart aches for her loss in your life, but at the same time, it's wonderful to see her spirit mirrored in yours. Much love to you today (and always), anno

Janet said...

I'm so glad I popped in today to read a couple of blogs. This post made me smile and also cry a little bit. My mom died when I was young, too, so I can relate to that. And all the family stuff, the things she taught me (and also lots she didn't!) and just generally the the way I miss her...just as you so eloquently expressed here today how much you miss your mom.
I love seeing the photos and reading the stories about you and your family. You have a way of bringing things to life with your words.
Big hugs to you today.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

Anyone in their right mind can't read this and not start to cry. It is such a sad, yet memorable post showing how much you loved and cared for your mother. Happy Mother's Day, dear Jeanie, and happy memories, too.

I need orange said...

Such a lovely tribute, Jeanie. I'm sure she's as proud as can be.

Red Rose Alley said...

I see YOU a lot in your mother, Jeanie. What treasured pictures these are. I didn't realize your mom and dad were both photographers. I absolutely love the picture of the back of you in the pretty dress. How wonderful that your mom loved Christmas. I bet you have special memories of her at Christmas time. I think that's great that she told you all about the town that she was born and raised in. That was interesting when my own parents told me stories, and I was born in the same town as my father was. I love the picture of you and your parents. It sounds like she was a wonderful mother, and she raised an amazing daughter.

Happy Mother's Day, Jeanie.


diane in northern wis said...

OH what a lovely tribute to your mom. I loved every part of it and maybe because it reminded me of my mom, whom I lost in 2005. We will see them again and until then, you're right, they are very close to us in more ways than we can ever imagine. The veil between this life and the next is very thin. God Bless You and Happy Mother's Day to you Jeanie.

Paulita said...

What a beautiful, moving post. So glad your mother molded you into the fab person you are!

Barbara Fisher said...

I have read lots and lots of mother’s day posts over the last few days, but yours is the best one of all. I’ve smiled and cried as I’ve read my way through it, your love for your mum shines through your words. All the photographs are wonderful, but I especially love the first one and the one with the old car and the slide.

Victoria Zigler said...

What a beautiful post!

Your Mom sounds like a wonderful woman. I'm sorry you lost her so young, but glad you have so many wonderful memories to treasure, and that you take after her so much.

Pam Richardson said...

Jeanie, what a beautiful post! I have read it are an excellent writer. Your mom lives on in you. She was definitely a special lady and thank you for sharing your and her story...amazing!!!

Jeanne Washburn said...

Jeanie - I'm so glad I read your post...what a beautiful tribute to your mom...and yes, she is still with you loving all that you do. So heartfelt. So beautifully written. A post to be cherished. Thank you for sharing.

carol@The Red Painted Cottage said...

Jeanie, What a wonderful tribute to your mother! I had my mother until she was almost 90 years old and I still miss all the great things we did together, even at her age. Thank you for sharing and I'm happy you have wonderful memories of her.

Debbie-Dabble Blog and A Debbie-Dabble Christmas said...

What a beautiful tribute!! Thanks so much for stopping by!!

Bella Rum said...

What a wonderful tribute and photos. Your mom sounds wonderful. Thanks for sharing it all with us.

Mike@Bit About Britain said...

That's a wonderful tribute, Jeanie, and written so well. Your mum sounds like an amazing person - and it reminded me how lucky we are that some people come into our lives and stay awhile. Not everyone is lucky enough to have fabulous parents - I still miss mine, and I'm grateful they were the way they were, even if I didn't always see that at the time! Loved the way your post made me think of them, though they're never far away.

shoreacres said...

Do you know what came to mind after I'd read this for about the third time? You've titled it "Missing Mom," but your mother isn't missing at all. She lives on in you, in so many ways -- as you yourself noted.

I've been trying to figure out why Mother's Day isn't an emotional day for me: apart from an occasional regret that the old routines aren't possible any more. I think it's because we had such a long time together. Having a mother who died at 93 is a much different sort of experience than yours. You're not only grieving loss of a mother, you're grieving all the years you didn't have.

But thank goodness the years you did have were so rich and nourishing! I hope the day was wonderful for you.

Bonnie said...

Jeannie, Your mother was beautiful inside and out. What a lovely tribute to her. I wish I could write like you do.I feel your pangs of grief as I lost my mother at age 33 also to cancer.

You have the gift of writing. My heart is warmed by your post.

Jean | said...

Jeanie, I'm so glad I didn't miss this outstanding post. My mother died when I was 33, and I continued to learn/realize things about her and myself for several years. If I had to pick two favorite parts of your story they would be: the styrofoam cake and the cut glass. Sweet!

Mary K.- The Boondocks Blog said...

Jeanie thank you for sharing this lovely post about your mom. I lost mine when I was 19 so I understand about growing up and not being able to experience so many things with her. But you certainly have all these wonderful memories and she was very special indeed. I hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day!

Joyful said...

A beautiful post and tribute to your mom. She sounds like a wonderful lady and I'm sure you have inherited many of her qualities for your beautiful personality shines through your posts. xx

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