Today, I’m remembering my mother, a true lady, a woman of integrity, honor, sensitivity and fun. She loved the taste of lemon, sewing (a talent and skill she developed in my youth), children, traveling, nice clothes (she used to wear gloves and hats and had the best shoes), and family (youngest of 8 children). She was sickly when small, took medicine most of her childhood, had a black cat named Inky, was a tomboy who loved to climb trees, loved a boy named Bill when she was in high school.
Mom joined the service after high school, met my dad while they were both in the Air Force, worked civil service after they got married, had me, and stayed home with me to be a full-time mom. She came to all my school events, worked in the PTA, was a Girl Scout leader, watched my concert choir solos, read my homework, met my boyfriends (disapproved of most of them), gave me my love of reading, taught me to jitterbug, to cook, to sing (we did duets), to play the piano (I was never very good but she tried), played dolls with me, watched me dance, roller-skate and finally get married (she was at the first one, unhappy. She was at the last one, joyous). There were many sad days in her life and yet she always found a way to make lemonade when times were tough. Maybe that came from being born during the Depression when you learned to “make do.” It was a lesson I learned and never really knew I knew it until I truly grew up.
She was there (with my Dad and sister) when I left the enlisted ranks and received my commission in the Air Force; and she was with me the day I officially retired from the service.
She rolled my hair in orange juice cans before my senior prom, hung on the Christmas tree all my stupid artsy-craftsy stuff I made in Elementary school, she corrected my punctuation for every research paper and listened to every word of every silly thing I ever wrote. When it was time to work the mascara, we stood side by side in the mirror with our heads tipped back and eyelashes down and laughed as I tried to stab myself with the mascara wand. I was 15. She was delightful.
We were never really “friends” until the last decade of her life, I’m sorry to say. But she was always the Mother to whom I could ask about how to roast a turkey, or sew a button. We clashed and frustrated each other. And I worshipped her more than she knew.
The last gift I ever gave her was a Mother’s Day Plaque that depicted a child’s hand holding a woman’s fingers. It was 2007, I was 53, Mom was 76. I’d been feeling very sentimental about Mother for some months. Did some part of me sense what was coming? I don’t know but she died a month later, quite suddenly (it was the night before my sister’s birthday, forever altering her life as well as mine). I was days from visiting.
I think she knew how much I loved her. I hope she did. I can’t cook a turkey, wear a hat, put on mascara or take photos of trees that I don’t see her in my mind.
Late Spring days bring to mind the Saturdays when we neighborhood kids would be out and about, riding our bikes, pogo sticking, mud pie making or just whispering secrets. The sun would start to dip low and we could see parents (mostly fathers) pulling into driveways all around us. Then would come the call. “Sher-rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeee.”
The wind would blow her melodic alto voice around the neighborhood houses, through the trees, the leaves would rustle, my hair would lift. My head would snap up, I’d jump up and I would begin to run. “I’m coming!” I would yell in my wildest, loudest voice, legs pumping with energy and urgency to prevent her from worrying should I be late.
And then I would be home. Home. Safe in my Mother’s arms and getting a hug and a smile, wrapped in love.
I love you, Mom.
Happy Mother’s Day.