Mothers Day Remembered

It’s been three years, now. Three years since my mother died.

And it’s only been recently that I started sorting through her belongings, bringing things out to use. Things like a tiny gold elephant pin, an elephant wearing huge black glasses, ala Barry Goldwater. Circa 1964.

Or some pretty glitzy pink, pearl and rhinestone earrings. Date unknown, but I also have the evening gown she made to wear with that jewelry. Of course, it’s too small. My mother having been short, by far the smallest in our family.

She was also quiet, as meek and retiring as the rest of us were decisive and boisterous, outspoken and…well, with the exception of my brother, who was her favorite. There was never any doubt about how my father and I felt about anything.

Never did I hear a word of criticism of anyone, inside the family or out. And, to my knowledge, only once did she let my father know, loudly, very loudly, how much she disagreed with him. He shut the windows so neighbors couldn’t hear her expound on the issue, whatever it was.

Once he came home from Sparky’s Auction House with an accordion, which we could ill afford. She made him take it back. Another time, I found her crying because the checkbook couldn’t stretch far enough to cover the bills on the kitchen table.

She had coal black hair, a woman who married a man ten years her junior. A woman who started her family later in life.

She wanted to take her time to settle down, preferring to travel around the country with friends in her open roadster. Before women did things like that.

My mother worked most of her life, first as a secretary in a law office, later as secretary to a judge in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. I remember, as a preschooler, occasionally sitting quietly on a long, low couch in a law office, waiting for her to complete her work so we could go home.

She worked well into her 70s and by the time she retired, my father was no longer around. She seemed to enjoy being alone, being quiet.

She had a sense of humor, humor so subtle most people missed it. During repairs to the kitchen, my father, over her objections, decided to barbecue dinner in the basement. She was especially amused when the fire department came.

Once, when hearing a wealthy friend say she wanted a big, new Cadillac when she retired, my mother responded that she only wanted a horse. A horse like she rode on the farm growing up with her four brothers.

She loved a good highball, always scotch and club soda. And she smoked for at least 50 years. Camels. Always Camels.

An avid golfer, reader and bridge player. She loved a quick nap, always denying sleep, merely "resting my eyes," with Ladies Home Journal folded open on her chest.

A cub scout leader, Sunday School teacher. And always at parent-teacher conferences.

She made a great cherry pie, but just once a year. George Washington’s Birthday. And I still use her rhubarb pie recipe. But most of her cooking was unremarkable. Most of her household skills were unremarkable, come to think of it.

She was a good seamstress, making a formal gown for herself every year. Gowns, as I said, that I still have. Along with her hat collection.

She loved hats and scarves and pins. But, especially earrings.

She wore two sets of wedding rings. The originals plus a set Dad provided for a special anniversary. A larger, more valuable, set pried off her fingers and stolen at a nursing home.

The nursing home. Her home for the final ten years.

No, she never got that horse. And, in the end, after at least five years of confusion, or dementia, or Alzheimers, I didn’t have that mother any more.

On her last Mothers Day, I arrived with card, flowers and gifts, and greeted her with "Happy Mothers Day."

She replied:

"I’m not a mother. I never had children."

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