Mother’s Day is once again upon us, bringing memories of my own mother. She was always upbeat and happy, with never a bad word to say about anyone or anything. She cheerfully practiced frugalness, as was my father's wish. Shopping at Ames for school clothes, she would amiably point out something positive about a cheap, ugly shirt that was the only thing we could afford. "Look," she'd say, "the sleeves have cute buttons on them!" With her enthusiasm, I'd learn to love that shirt and wear it proudly, (even though my classmates probably had pity on me.) We would buy 2 outfits for school, one that I would wear twice a week and one for three times a week, and I would feel honored doing so. It is ironic that her positive vibe rubbed off on me, making it impossible for me to be ashamed or dissatisfied.
For many years, my mother was a volunteer. As the President of the PTA at Oakland Beach School, she regaled in sponsoring fun activities for the students, and editing the newsletter in an upbeat manner. ("Spring has sprung, the grass is riz. I wonder where the flowers is.") As a Girl Scout Leader, she would arrange weekend forays to Camp Hoffman, teaching us about cooking a whole meal in aluminum foil over the campfire. We would enthusiastically march in the Veterans' Day Parade in time to the music from the Hendricken band, high stepping it like horses prancing. My mom was great fun!
My mom rose above the many troubles she experienced. No one knew that her parents were so self-absorbed that they sent her to live with an aunt who already had 8 children because having a child crimped their style for their weekend nights out. This aunt went to work as a maid every day and the children were locked out of the house. They shared meager meals and wore tattered hand-me-down clothing. Then her parents bought a farm and brought my mother back to live with them so she could pick cucumbers in their vast garden. She would earn five cents for every blister. There was the time that she was a maid of honor for her cousin and best friend. She wore another hand-me-down dress that did not quite fit but had to do because her parents said they could not afford to buy her a new one, and the nickels she earned did not add up to enough to buy one on her own. Standing there at the end of the aisle in the church wearing her ill-fitting outfit, she was mortified to see her parents walk in with brand new clothing, including her dad in a new suit and her mom in a new dress with a newly purchased elegant mink coat.
As a teen and young adult, my mom belonged to the USO where the military men at the weekly festivities were just glad to have someone to dance with and didn't care about her clothing. She fell in love with my father just before he shipped out overseas for the war. When he returned, she married the love of her life, even though the atrocities he witnessed had changed him and he no longer loved to dance, or even go to parties for that matter.
He became a recluse, and she joined him because she loved him and she was his wife, after all. After ten years of trying, I was born, and she was overjoyed. (My father, not so much, as he saw me as competition for my mother's time.) A few years later, tragedy struck, and my brother was born severely disabled due to Rubella Syndrome. My dad and the doctors urged my mom to "put him away", as was the custom in the 1950s. However, for the first time in her life, my mom selfishly refused and spent the rest of her mothering years trying to focus on keeping my dad happy while caring for a daughter and extremely needy son.
For someone with such a history, my mother could have been bitter, angry, and resentful, but instead she had an inner spiritual peace, a tranquility that enveloped her and helped her love life and unconditionally love her husband, her son and me. For that love, I will be forever grateful. Happy Mother’s Day, mom!
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