Sunday, May 8, 2011

This Mother's Day

I only knew her less than 8 years. She's been gone nearly 45 and I still grieve.
I imagine sometimes magically stepping back - a time traveler or somehow able to see through a looking glass - and watching her. How I would soak in everything about her - those things that are vague memories - how she walked - how she talked - the sound of her laugh - the kinds of things she found funny.
I've been told that I am much like her. And when I look at this picture, I think it might be true. I've always wanted to be like her and loved that Great Aunt Hazel, in her elder years, thought I was my mummy and called me 'Jeanne'.
I don't remember ever hearing her play the guitar or the bass but I remember that she played the piano. She played the bass in the Cranberry High School Orchestra where she also played basketball - the days of a six woman team. My Aunt Dorothy, her older sister, said she could play any instrument - could do anything she set her mind to - and was smartest in the family. I think Aunt Dorothy idolized her as I still do.
She was a tomboy, I'm told and was a bit of a daredevil. I've tried to look close at her knees in the picture above. I can recall asking her about black spots on one of her knees. Well....she had taken her brothers bike, which she wasn't supposed to do. And she got going too fast down a hill and crashed at the bottom - got cinders in her knee - and was afraid to tell her mother. The cinders healed over in her knee.
Perhaps part of my radical spirit came from her.
I remember her as a strong, quiet, caring woman. We went to the Franklin Library regularly together. I could choose a book from the children's area and she chose books - not just for herself, but to deliver to Grace - an older cousin I remember she often visited who had polio.
She was our Brownie Scout leader, served in the Ladies Auxiliary at the Sandycreek Fire Hall and was active in the Congress Hill Church of God.
Perhaps some of my community spirit came from her.
I had no idea in those days just how ill she was, though I do remember her in the hospital from time to time. Still, I felt her strong and active.
As a child, I simply had no understanding of it. I think that was the way she meant it to be for those around her. She did not see herself as weakened - would not. I remember her coming home from the hospital and in bed once. Dad had taken my brother, little Mikey, and I to the Atlantic station where they gave us really cool new "Super balls". I was so excited to show Mummy and set about bouncing the ball around her in the bedroom. Knowing she should rest, Dad started whisking us out. "No!," she said, "let them stay." And we played around her in the room.
I believe it was not long after that she had a most serious talk with me. We sat alone at the little kitchen table; she in her pink quilted robe. It was probably about this time in 1966. She showed me a picture of a heart and explained what doctors were about to do. Many times I had laid my head on her chest and heard the bumm bump shsssss of her leaking valve. She explained that the doctors were going to fix that. She explained that it was very dangerous.  But that day never came.
Just weeks later, she collapsed while giving little Mikey a bath. Everett, my Dad's cousin, was there and while he and Dad tried to save her, Mikey and I stood holding hands. He was 4. I was not yet 8. Not long before that night, the preacher had given a sermon about faith and praying in Jesus name. And so, with all the understanding and belief of a 7 year old, I held Mikey's hand and said we had to pray. We were children. The preacher said, if we prayed with the faith of a child and in Jesus name... And so we did.
In the days, months, even years that followed, I refused to believe my mother was gone. Dad tried to help me understand but even seeing her in the casket, I refused to believe it. 45 years later, it is still difficult to accept. And the day I turned 30 - the age she was when she died - I fell to my knees with the impact of how young she was and how little I had accomplished in comparison.
When I have imagined having a day to see her, I've tried to picture what day I might choose if only allowed one. While I miss my mummy, I also remember the many mothers who were there for me - many of them gone as well - both Grandmothers, Aunt Elaine and Aunt Ruth. So, what if it was a day when they were all together?
I see them all in a field, out on Pone Lane, picking berries together, kids in tow. The women in my extended family were close as girlfriends. They were strong, creative, hard working women. They loved, they laughed and they supported each other. I would want to see them all together and watch them all. If I could, I would stop and talk with them. Would I marvel at their youth or at their wisdom as I watch?
At 50 something, I still see my mother at 30 as being wiser. In the last picture I have of her there is a far away look in her eyes. Was she seeing something more that night in April 1966? Did she know more than I can know now? I like to believe that some day, some how, I will know.
What has carried me to this day is that I had many mothers. There was the first who gave me life and those formulative years of values. But, I had a large extended family. Both Grandmothers were there for me. Aunt Elaine, Aunt Ruth, Aunt Margie, Aunt Flocie, Great Aunt Dorothy, Great Aunt Hazel, Aunt Dorothy.... And I had a step-mother who did the best she could in a deep shadow.
For far too many years I felt sorry for the loss. This mother's day, I am thankful for what I have had.
I am my mother's daughter. Those early formulative years had a significant impact on me. I have hung onto the best of what I remember of my mother and desire to have those same qualities. I see none of her failings – certainly she had some – but they are not mine to own. How lucky I am to remember a perfect mother!
I have had many mothers. These were women who loved and honored my mother and thus cared for me. I probably had more puberty talks than most girls because they were each afraid none would tell me. How lucky I am to have had such strong, caring women that mothered me!
Happy Mothers day with all my heart to each and every one!

1 comment:

  1. Your mother is looking down from heaven with a smile on her face knowing that you are your mother’s daughter! What a wonderful blog to share on this very special day! I am glad I have you in my life. xoxo