This Mother’s Day has been a bit hard. Maybe more than a bit… My Mom passed away on April 29th, about a week and a half ago and nine weeks almost to the day after my Daddy passed.
She always smelled of My Sin by Lanvin when she dressed up, and that was when she went to school plays, piano recitals, and Christmas concerts, as well as having a nice dinner or going to a holiday Mass. She made us practice the piano: an hour for me and an hour for my sister (though I believe my sister’s time would be fudged since she wasn’t as advanced as I was, if you could call me “advanced”). She would watch “Dannysday” every morning at 11:30 with Danny Williams and a very young Mary Hart (from “Entertainment Tonight” fame), and she’d be knitting, or doing cross stitch or needlepoint, or sometimes she’d have the ironing board out in the living room and would be ironing clothes while my little sister and I were out in the backyard playing – and getting dirty, of course.
Even though she hated sewing, she used the skills her mother taught her to make clothing for the family in leaner years. Mom even taught me the basics of sewing, repeating to me what Grandma had told her: “Every young lady needs to know how to sew in case you need to mend clothing or make a dress”. Her patience began wearing thin trying to teach me, I think, just because she disliked the task so much! She knew how to cook, and between my Daddy and Mom we had good food in the kitchen.
I remember falling off my bicycle one afternoon, tumbling hard all the way off the thing. When I got up, both knees were scraped all the way across, bleeding quite a bit, with gravel stuck to the skin. An elbow was pretty well grated, too. I picked up my bike and hobbled home, hot tears stinging my eyes almost as badly as movement stung my knees and elbow. But I wasn’t crying because I’d been hurt – I was crying because the knees of the pants Mom had sewn for me were shredded even worse than my own knees, and I was worried about how she would react after admonishing me so many times to be careful playing in those clothes. Of course the eleven-year-old in me had no idea that when I stepped in the door, Mom’s instincts would kick in and she’d know instantly I was hurt without seeing me just yet. (Okay, that’s how it seemed to me, though.) Immediately she wrapped her warm arms around me, hurried me into the kitchen to get a good look at the damage, then had me sit there until she could run a warm bath for me. While she peeled off the pants, I sobbed that I was sorry that I ruined the pants, and she looked at me for an instant like I was crazy. “I don’t care about those pants. I care about you!” she told me. Things you don’t quite get when you’re a kid.
She attended Stephens College in Missouri for two years, then transferred to University of Oklahoma when her father died in July, 1950. Majoring in Journalism and minoring in Sociology, she began working for the Daily Oklahoman after she graduated. A few years later, she moved down to Houston, Texas, to work for the United Way, and there met my Daddy on a blind date. She used to laugh about the little Spider Dad drove!
“A young lady should always wear a slip” was one of the things she’d tell me that I just hated as a little girl. No one wore slips anymore! I think the battle over underthings raged from first grade through third, when I was finally allowed to NOT wear slips under my dresses. Dad, I believe, would softly walk away from the battlefield with a good-natured smile on his face about little girl problems that seemed as big as the world.
“A young lady should have a string of pearls, and should visit Europe (Florence, especially) if she can.” She went on a European trip with her roomate from college. West berlin, Rome, Venice, and Florence. She loved the Ufizzi, and would talk about her travels every so often. I loved hearing about them, and dreaming about going myself someday. Williamsburg, Virginia, is another place she loved, though she’d only “visited” it in books. I remember looking through those books all the time, imaging myself in Colonial America and in those photographs.
Mom was almost always the one to pick up the phone when I called. She would update me even on the smallest bits of news. Whenever I needed to talk, I could call my parents’ house and get one of them, and they would always listen. That’s one thing I will miss dearly.
So here is the first Mother’s Day without her, but the first of all the rest of the Mother’s Days she gets to spend again with her mother and her husband of over 50 years. I love you, Mom.