Mother’s Day Thoughts

My mother’s life was, I hope and believe, a happy one, most especially her rich and enduring marriage, though truth be told, I was a volatile child and she might well have thought on multiple occasions that I was the fly in the ointment. To her credit, she supported my hobbies, projects, and writing, so  I suspect she had a forgiving heart, and though she never knew it, she was the primary reason I chose not to emigrate to Sweden where I would be safe from the draft and the Vietnam War and potentially never see my parents or brothers again.

I’ve always liked this picture, though I have no idea when or where it was taken. She was a farmer’s daughter. Perhaps that’s why the picture resonates with me from the family archives where it sits with others from the decade in which I was born.

Mother was born and died during times of family hardship.

Her mother died the year she was born: typhoid from contaminated water from the family’s well. Her father remarried and subsequently mother had a younger sister who was born with spina bifida and lived only six years. Mother would have been twelve, I think, when Betty Jane died. The family home was destroyed by fire when Mother was eight.

Mother died of a heart attack when she was seventy-two, a condition she hid from my brothers and me while she was looking after our bedridden eighty-three-year-old father. She wanted to keep him in the house they knew, and while this was wonderful support borne of that giving heart, it strained finances and probably shortened her life.

Among the other slings and arrows of family life with a husband and three boys who were pratical jokesters, mother learned to laugh and (I hope) take pleasure from our shennanigans. She had a habit, for example, during Sunday dinner or saving the last piece of meat on her plate for the  last bite. Since we ate this meal in the dining room, she came and went from the kitchen multiple times bringing more iced tea or Parker House rolls. While she was gone from the table, I tended to hide that last piece of meat. When she couldn’t find it, there was first confusion because she remembered leaving it there, and then a smile when she realized that some low-life person had hidden it (usually me).

Every year she placed a manger scene on the mantle, and every year, something unusual appeared in it, usually a tiger or some other critter that didn’t belong there. Her loud exclamation of surprise was they moment we were waiting for. Suffice it to say, the missing piece of meat and the tiger in the manger scene did not represent the totality of weird moments that happened around the house. She took them all in stride and that fact, above all others, is what I remember the most today thirty seven years after she left this world for a better place even though our home was usually filled with laughter.



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