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The first mother's day without my mother has come and gone. I survived. I didn't flourish, but neither did I wither in grief. Just moments of tear-filled memories. At church we sang "Oh How He Loves You and Me"--the song I was singing when Mom died. Talk about tears! "What He did there brought hope from despair"--amen, Lord!
I am going to throw caution to the wind and put in a piece I wrote earlier, in honor of my three mothers. Share, if you wish, about multiple mothers in your own life.
I didn’t have just one mother. I had three.
Grandma moved in with Mom and me after Grandpa died and Mom divorced my father. Later, Aunt Violet needed a home and joined our all-female household. As the only child in the family, I was the focus of the mother love of all the others. Each one taught me something different.
Since Mom worked as a social worker for the state of Maine, Grandma was my primary care giver. Often the sizzling sweet smell of melting chocolate and peanut butter would greet me when I came home after school. She would allow me to add oats to the mixture and dip them onto waxed paper. We called the treat Poodles because of their bumpy surface, but they’re better known as No Bake cookies. I ate as many as I could before they cooled and hardened.
In spite of her physical limitations, Grandma chose life. By the time I reached junior high, she was largely homebound. But no four walls could contain her world and imagination.
I would sit on my bed in my spacious room and listen to her pumping the treadle of her sewing machine. Every year she made me a fashionable dress in a different color Easter. I wore my favorite red velvet Christmas dress year after year until I finally outgrew it.
Grandma’s love of needlework bypassed my mother and came straight to me. Grandma taught me how to knit my first stitches and crochet my first poncho. Every time I pick up a new cross stitch project, I have Grandma to thank for my love of color, needle and thread.
The greatest passion of my young life was music. I longed to play piano, and my dream came true shortly after my ninth birthday. By then Grandma was 69 years old. She practiced along with me, forcing her arthritic fingers through the exercises of John Thompson’s Teaching Little Fingers to Play. Perhaps she had dreamed of learning music for six decades longer than I had.
If Grandma taught me creativity and beauty, Aunt Violet taught me humor and a sense of adventure. Aunt Violet’s husband deserted her while she battled years of illness that kept her confined to a hospital, yet she never displayed any bitterness. Later in life, she advised me “I believe everyone should take responsibility for their lives and not look at the past.” She lived what she preached.
She also said I should never condemn something without trying it. That’s why she occasionally smoked—and later stopped. She had been a slender, stylish, working woman at a time when the ideal woman stayed at home. A graduate of secretarial school, she gave me my first typewriter that equipped me with the keyboarding skills that have kept me employed throughout my life.
Although Grandma did most of the cooking in the house, occasionally Aunt Violet and I attempted a meal together. She encouraged my sense of adventure when I decided lamb chops were the appropriate choice for a Good Friday meal. Since lamb wasn’t a common item on our menu, we looked for directions n a cookbook. It recommended broiling the meat. We bungled the project; one of dropped the broiling pan on the floor, and the chops flew in all four directions. Instead of getting upset, Aunt Violet laughed—and I chuckled with her.
When I went to college, I was jolted out of my insularity when I saw someone put catsup on eggs. She reminded me “Someone who salts ham shouldn’t make fun of someone else’s eating choices.” She always made her point with a dash of humor that I have carried with me throughout my life.
The day came between my junior and senior years of high school that Aunt Violet had moved to a place of her own and Grandma died of cancer. Mom and I were left as a family of two, a duet that felt unnatural to both of us.
We felt our way together, forming new routines. After a lifetime of supper at five, we ate later, after Mom made it home and we could fix a meal. “It’s the custom in Europe.” She made light of the extra work. Still a somewhat spoiled, disgruntled teen, I insisted that I wanted to eat at American meal times. We still laugh about it.
Our common love of story kept us occupied through many difficult nights and gave us common ground. The first time we watched A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, we laughed from the first scene to the end. (When we saw it again years later, neither one of us could figure out what seemed so funny.) Masterpiece Theater made Sunday nights “must see TV.” as we watched The Six Wives of Henry VIII, The Forsyth Saga and The First Churchills. We even settled down with popcorn and iced tea to watch foreign films. I felt so adult. I saw The Seven Samurai long before I ever saw The Magnificent Seven.
In addition to her love of story, Mom passed her love of learning and faith on to me. In the years when the rest of America was discovering colored television, we didn’t even have a T.V. set for several months. We spent our evenings reading through the Bible, putting together puzzles, playing games. Of course we read classic books, from the time I first discovered The Cat in the Hat as a child through A Christmas Carol and beyond.
The mother of my childhood seems like an aloof figure, not nearly as present in my life as Grandma and prone to disappoint my expectations of perfection. Did I ever thank her for arranging for piano lessons and making sure I made it there, even when we no longer had a car? No, I blamed her for missing my last football game, where I played in the band. Did I thank her for giving of herself, so that I got to paint my bedroom my favorite color, lavender? No, I blamed her for making me “work” on my birthday.
In other words, I was a typical child and didn’t recognize how good I had it. I didn’t treasure the sacrifices Mom made for me. She always worked, even if it meant scrubbing toilets or working as dispatcher for a cab company, so that I would have a roof over my head and food to eat. The hand she was dealt wasn’t the one she expected or wanted, but she lived with strength and courage. I never heard her complain, even when it meant inviting her mother to live with her or sending me to spend a summer with my father.
Mom was the driving force behind girl scouts and music lessons, summer camp and new bikes. I never lacked anything materially that children around me had. She supported my dreams. When I reached college age, she never hinted that her lack of job or college fund should hold me back. She gave me the wings I needed to reach for my dreams.
After her first stroke, Mom came to live with me. We had a six wonderful years together, rediscovering each other and I came to adore Mom once again.
When Mom died this past February, I lost my best friend.