About My Mother

In no particular order, here are a few things about my mother.

My mother was the youngest of four. She had an older sister and two older brothers. She was the one who took care of her own mother in her last decades.

My mother and her mother

My mother lived to the age of 87, although Alzheimer’s took her “in dribs and drabs” for years before that.

My mother loved gardening. Her father brought her some pansies when she was a girl and that started her love affair with flowers.

When my mother was weeding the gardens between the fence and the road, she would shake her fist at cars that drove by too fast.

On summer evenings, my mother always had a bowl and/or a bag and/or a cutting board so she could work on shelling peas or cutting up green beans from the garden. She would then freeze them in neatly labeled containers and we would enjoy them all winter.

My mother made the best soups in the world. Leftovers never went to waste. They would appear in soups and somehow tasted delicious. The turkey carcass at Thanksgiving turned into the best of the best soups. It would simmer on the wood stove for days.

My mother often put on her lipstick using the rearview mirror in the car, but she really didn’t wear much make-up besides that.

My mother struggled to tame her hair just like I do. Sometimes she would wet it down, curl it the right way, and put a little hair clip in to hold it while it dried. Then she would pull the clip out before she left the house (or sometimes the car) and quickly brush through her hair, hoping for the best.

My mother clipped coupons. Loads of them. And kept them in her purse in an overstuffed coupon wallet.

My mother lapsed into Boston occasionally when she spoke. “Pahk the cah on Pione-eh Street.” Most of the time she spoke the right way though.

When my mother would ask me to set the table for dinner, and I told her I was right in the middle of “The Brady Bunch” or “Gilligan’s Island,” she would let me wait until the show was over to do the job.

My mother gave me a negligee the night before my wedding. It was long and lacy and had a matching robe. She didn’t say much when she gave it to me, just “I thought you might like this.”

My mother flew to Wyoming to meet her oldest grandchild. I remember the way she carefully cradled his head because of an infant’s weak neck muscles, just the way she had taught me so many years ago in 4-H.

When my mother needed to hem a dress for me, she would have me stand on the dining room table and slowly turn while she used a yardstick and pins to mark the right length.

When my mother answered the phone, she didn’t say “Hello,” she said, “This is Mrs. P–” She taught me to answer the phone, “Dr. P–‘s resident, Sally speaking.”

When my mother drank wine, her cheeks got red.

My mother was registered nurse. When my youngest brother was in 7th grade, she went to work for the Red Cross, drawing blood at bloodmobiles. She was very proud of the fact that sometimes people would wait for her to be available to do the poke because she rarely missed.

My mother knew how to pick up snakes, using thumb and forefinger right behind the head. Her brother taught her, and she, in turn, taught me.

My mother read to me, sitting on the grey couch that we still have. My favorite books were “One Fish, Two Fish” and “The Poky Little Puppy.” I never heard her complain about reading them over and over and over and over.

My mother taught me to read.

I never heard my mother swear, except for “damn” and that was when she really mad or frustrated, and I’m not sure that even counts as a swear word.

My mother knew six ways to anywhere. She liked to drive ways with the least number of left hand turns, and sometimes she would take a longer route in order to avoid left hand turns.

My mother would drive a few extra miles to save a penny per gallon on gas.

My mother knew all the rest areas between Cooperstown and Myrtle Beach, and had mentally ranked them. She knew which ones were “good” — that meant they were generally clean — and which ones were not.

My mother always made us use the bathroom before we went on a car trip. If we told her that we didn’t have to, she would tell us to “go try.” We usually produced.

Once, when we were coming home from Christmas shopping in Albany, our car ran out of gas. My father hitchhiked to get some gas for us. I was convinced that I was going to freeze to death right there in the car, and my mother calmly had me lie down  in the Vista Cruiser station wagon while she unfolded a newspaper. She placed the large newspaper sheets over me as a blanket. I’m pretty sure she saved my life, although nobody else seemed to be freezing the way I was.

My mother let me have her wedding dress, although I was nowhere near as tiny-waisted as she had been. The seamstress who made my dress used lace from my mother’s to make the yoke on my bodice and the cap for my veil.

Mom

Dad, me, Mom

My mother wrote notes to herself and made lists, both of them to help her remember. I still find them occasionally. One will flutter out of a book, or be mixed with a pile of papers. I’ll recognize her neat handwriting and the way she underlined words that she wanted to emphasize.

My mother, in the summer, hung our sheets to dry on the clothesline by the chicken coop. When she made the bed with clean sheets, she tucked the corners in so tightly that my feet were squished when I first got into bed. The sheets smelled like green grass and fresh air, a scent no dryer sheet will ever reproduce.

My mother loved to sing. She sang in the church choir for as long as I can remember. When she was dieing, members of the choir came to her hospital room and sang hymns to her. It was some of the most beautiful singing I have ever heard.

This is my second Mother’s Day without a mother. It’s good to remember her.