Sunday, May 1, 2011

Remembering Mom 91 and Counting

At age 91 and suffering from dementia and physical oldness, my mother has made it very clear that she's ready to move on. She's been saying that now for close to five years or maybe more I don't remember. Mom moved on all right. She's moved right on in with my hubby and I and she's very happy about that when she remembers.

With Mother's Day approaching and finding that Mom can't make any new memories but seems to really still have a grasp on the past, I felt like reminiscing about some of my fond memories of her. I don't want these last few years of her life to overshadow my memories.

The first moment I saw her happy was of course when I was born.

I can understand that she was happy here. I was adorable. However she's never let me live down the fact that I almost killed her during delivery. Mom lost her first baby because the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck during labor. My second brother came out fine but it happened again when it was time for me to make my grand appearance. As you can see though I survived. My parents were very happily married and my mother absolutely adored my father.

Christmas, I think, was my mother's favorite holiday. She would bake a ton cookies and other goodies. We all had a good time looking forward to my Aunt coming up from Florida or my Aunt and Uncle visiting from North Carolina. I think back on those years and I'm declaring that my mother definitely had some degree of ADHD. She never stopped.

In later years Mom would enjoy telling us about her memories of the holidays. My father always waited until Christmas Eve to decorate the tree so we'd think Santa brought that too. Of course as we got older we decorated the tree which was a big event and had to meet Mom's standards. That being that once the balls were on the tree then tinsel one strand at a time. After all that's how she had been taught.

So every year before we began the tree decoration Mom would tell her favorite story. When she was young all the women were in the kitchen preparing the turkey. Yep, all the way from chopping off the head to pulling the feathers. While they were doing that the men were in the living room decorating the tree. My great grandfather enjoyed making homemade wine, particularly dandelion wine. She probably told me what they were sipping that one Christmas Eve but I don't remember. Maybe I'll ask her later today. Anyhow the rule was that each strand of tinsel went on one by one. Well, evidently there was a bit too much sipping and the men took handfuls of tinsel and threw it on the tree. There was a lot of laughter which drew the attention of the women. They all went to see what was going on and immediately proceeded to scold the men. With my imagination I can just envision the scene. To make matters worse, my grandmother was part of the temperance movement!

I don't think I mentioned that my mother was a very talented seamstress as well. As part of her Christmas celebration she always made matching shirts for my father and brother and a dress for me.

Easter was as important to Mom as Christmas. She went all out with baskets, Easter outfits and of course dinner. As you can see we were drenched in candy and fun.

Some Easter Bunny huh?

We were allowed to open one basket and feast on a couple of pieces of chocolate before we headed to Sunday School

The pictures are a little out of order but I think you get the idea. Every year was almost exactly as pictured above. That is until my brother and I got older.

Summers were always great too as we headed to the shore with my aunt and my grandmother.

I hated sand then and I hate sand now. We have some fabulous pictures of all our adventures to the shore. They help to bring back some lost memories that are really great to re-visit. I've said before in my previous Blogs that my mother and father followed in the footsteps of my great grandparents and grandmother and have a pictorial biography of all of our lives spanning from the late 1800's to the present.

Years passed and my father became more ill. So in order to stay home to care for him and for my brother and I, Mom started her own baking company there in the kitchen. I was about 7 years old when she started. Mom baked, my grandmother cleaned up and I became the top salesperson over my brother. One of the most memorable first sales was when my mother had prepared a tray of date nut loaf cakes and dropped me off in front of the First National Bank on Broad and Cooper Streets (it's long gone). I can vividly remember walking up to the wooden doors that had to be 20 feet high. I put the tray down so I could stand on my tippy toes in order to ring the bell. It was after hours. The very tall guard answered and I timidly walked inside. It was a vast place just like those you see on TV. The ceilings were up to the sky and the foyer was massive. As the guard and I moved through the bank you could hear the echos of our footsteps. Anyhow, I reached the area where the bank managers were working to close out the day. The first cake I sold was to Miriam Richardson, who come to find out, was Preston Foster's sister. I'll let you Google him to find out why I was so impressed. The cakes sold quickly and I took orders for the following week.

Word spread quickly about how good Mom's baked goods were. Before long she was making pies for the holidays, fancy sandwiches for special parties and of course the loaf cakes. Eventually she even enhance the baking business by starting a little gift shop in the dining room. Meanwhile I was making a nice commission on the sales. Those were the days.

Even though she was so busy Mom still made sure my brother and I had fun. Every year in May our elementary school held a May Fair. It was always great fun. Kids made posters with the winning ones hung around the fair. The theme for this one year I can remember was America or something along those lines. I remember entering the poster contest and drawing mountains with the sun setting on the plains. Good old Mom was there to tell me what colors to use to make the mountains just about right. She must have been pretty close because my poster was hung up for all to see.

Along with the poster contest there was a parade for contestants to enter their decorated bikes, scooters or in my case a baby carriage. As you can see my brother entered his scooter.

Happiness is having Mom help decorate - better yet - we won!

I know Mom was always happy with my accomplishments. The first was to successfully graduate from Kindergarten.

She was really proud of my successful completion of Kindergarten; for it was that year that upon having one of the meanest teachers ever allowed into the profession, that I wanted to be a school drop-out. I managed to muddle my way through elementary, junior high and high school with Mom's continued harping of "you're going to college". There was no choice in the matter. You didn't mess with Mom.

My father died when I was ten years old. My mother made like she was happy but she had lost the love of her life and nothing could replace that. So there were a lot of years when she just existed. She didn't let that stop her though from trying to keep us happy. Strangely enough two of her other best friends had lost their husbands. My Aunt Nancy lost her husband during World War II and then Mom's best friend lost her husband shortly before my father died. They formed what I called the Merry Widow's Group. The group grew to five and then to six.

During these in between years, as I like to think of them, Mom would either take us to Florida to visit my Aunt during the summer or we would go to the shore with the Merry Widows and their kids. One summer, when we were in our teens, however the Merry Widows decided to take us camping at Lake Absegami in the Pinelands of New Jersey. I think of all the times that we had a vacation together this had to have been the funniest.

The guys of which there were five slept in a lean-to by themselves. I can remember the first night they were yelled at by other campers and perhaps the ranger because of the noise they were making. You could hear it all over the place. They were having sleeping bag races using them as sacks and hopping across the wooden floor of the lean-to. That was not the funniest thing though.

We kept the food under a tarp that covered the picnic tables. The last day that we were camping my mother's best friend, Aunt Helen, wanted to have her hair done before returning home. By the time she returned to the campground it had started to rain. The rain continued harder and harder with water swelling up in the tarp causing it to droop. We were all gathered under the tarp preparing to say our good-byes to Aunt Helen and her kids when Pete, my Aunt Nancy's son, unconsciously took a broom handle and pushed the drooping tarp to empty the water. We may as well have been on television because when the water poured out, Aunt Helen happened to be standing right under it. Our first reactions were of course shock and then the laughter broke out. I don't remember Aunt Helen being angry but I'm sure she was. Hmm... we never went camping again.

My brother and I finished high school and went on to college. I started off at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Mom was very unhappy to see me go but very happy that I would be separated from my now husband. We had been going together for a year or so and well, you know how mothers are about some things.

I remember the school scheduled Parents' Day in October. Mom agreed to come out for not only that occasion but to celebrate my birthday. She hated to fly so she arranged to come by train. Prior to leaving Mom baked my birthday cake and carried it in a hat box all the way to Missouri. It was quite an adventure for her as a bee had stung her in the foot while hanging up clothes the day before she was to leave. Then once she reached St. Louis she had to change trains. I wish you could have seen her face when we picked her up at the train station. She had switched from an Amtrak train to one of those old fashioned trains with wooden cars and opened windows! She was hot, dusty and tired but she was happy. Oh, and the cake survived the trip.

In preparation for her arrival my friends and I located a trailer for us to stay. It was quite nice. I was also fortunate enough to secure tickets to the Missouri football game right on the 50 yard line and only about 10 rows up. After the game we all went back to the trailer to celebrate my birthday.

We did the Parents' Day things the next day and then my mother took me for my first time to see Gone With The Wind. We had a great time!

I came home for the holidays and cried each time I had to return. I always got homesick from the first time I went to my grandmother's house just up the street. Therefore during my Spring Break I checked out a newly formed community college. I had been interested in nursing and they offered me a full scholarship if I should attend. I waited until summer to inform my mother that I wasn't going back to Missouri - she was pretty mad to say the least.

Then when I received my cap she was happy.

I only had one more semester to go but decided that nursing just wasn't my thing so I changed schools once more and became a teacher. I finished within the regular 4 years. At this point Mom started saying I was giving her all her gray hairs.

My graduation from college made Mom very happy. She had completed her quest. Then I married and a whole new life started not only for me but for Mom. Grandchildren, do I need to say more?

They will have a grand time recalling all the fun they have had with their Grandma. There are close to 15 pictorial albums of their adventures with Grandma. Every year we either went to the shore with her for two weeks or we took her on our vacations. Most of those that were not at the shore were trips to Williamsburg. She was a real trooper. We all had a lot of fun.

One time when the kids were school age we headed down to Williamsburg for a few days. The trip always included Bush Gardens.

A previous visit without Mom, hubby, the kids and I had a family portrait done at one of those dress up places. It was a joke for Mom because my brother and his family always had their family pictures taken at church and framed for her. She was always getting on us to have one done. So we did and she didn't liked it. As a matter of fact she never put it in her living room.

On this particular trip with her the kids insisted that we have another family portrait, this time including my mother. At first she was adamant about not doing it. However as the kids started selecting their outfits she jumped in. She was so upset when the final product came out that she threatened us if we should ever show anyone. Here's to you Mom - you know you had a ball doing this.

We had a great time on this trip. One for the memory books.

Time passed with many happy memories molded into our minds. We had a birthday party for Mom as she hit milestones such as 50 and 60 years. We of course had a big 75th birthday party for Mom. She was upset about the age but had a lot of fun at the party.

She and my aunt were very close. We have many memories of Auntie, my second mother. Not only did we visit her when she lived in Florida but Auntie bought a house in Ocean City that became a second home for our family. Mom was very happy during those years when she was visiting with her sister.

The next party was when Mom turned 80 and then the most recent one was last year when she turned 90 years old.

As you can see from this hodgepodge of memories there are so many and even more that I haven't even mentioned that I will always remember my mother the way she was.

Even though Mom isn't holding on to new memories, she is still giving us new ones. She can still retaliate at hubby's needling or teasing. She still loves to socialize. Her 91st birthday party is next week and she will enjoy having all her family there to celebrate yet another milestone.

Next week many will have the pleasure of celebrating their Mother's Day with their mother's while other will have to enjoy memories of what they had and lost. For those who still celebrate I've of course made cards and gifts inspired by my own mother.

Feel free to stop by and check them out at Firecrackinmama's

Here's a peek:

The inside of the card is blank so you can easily customize it online.

Mom loves her coffee and tea.

After I designed this mug I went back and selected another type and color.

I forgot all about this card.

With work I haven't been able to really devote much time to my creations. However it is a priority for this summer. So there's a sneak preview of some of the gifts and cards available.

For now have a Firecrackin Great Day!

1 comment:

Alia Dalwai said...

I really loved this article! Ur mom's a very wonderful person!

I really liked ur blog!