I don’t know how I would have survived the drama of elementary or high school without my mom. After skipping home from school, she would greet me with a smile, something warm from the oven, and the question, “How was school today?” I would plop down at the half moon counter my dad installed in our small kitchen and snatch a warm cookie, its chocolate chips still melting, and proceed to recount the trivial events of my young life. I always had a lot to say, as you can only imagine, but she would listen and give advice and encouragement.
As well as being one of the greatest cooks, my mom also sewed. She whipped up matching outfits for my sister, Patty, and I on her 1950’s Singer sewing machine. The acrid smell of ironed tissue and the sound of her sharp scissors slicing through pinned fabric filled our small apartment. The machine rumbled late into the night. I always stared in wonder at the results of her effort.
When I needed a dress for confirmation, I fell in love with the dress of my dreams in a department store, but the price of the purple mini with the long sleeves and square cuffs was well out of reach. No problem. My mom scrutinized the details and not only duplicated it, but improved on the design. I had become self-conscious in the 7th grade so I beamed at the compliments I received.
She continued to make our clothes all the way through college. Many times random people asked where I purchased my cool threads. No one could believe the jackets and pants had been made from Vogue patterns. The perfect topstitching always amazed me. Now that my mom is 85 and has glaucoma, her sewing machine is stored away. I kept the outfits she sewed for my children. I know she sacrificed a lot of time in creating them and taught us the value of time and money.
I learned so much from her words and yet there was a time saying nothing taught me a lesson. I had wanted to be in the school play when I was a junior in high school. I tried out with two other friends with a song and dance routine. I thought that would be enough to get in and skipped the dance tryout. Of course I wasn’t even considered. Crushed and angry at myself for relying on an assumption, (I still find myself making that mistake), I came home from school feeling dejected. My mom talked me into working behind the scenes. My dad created the sets that year, so I signed up to do everyone’s makeup. It was a blast and after the final production on Sunday, I went with everyone to the Sweeneys for a closing night party.
“So that’s what ‘tallboy beer’ is!” The drinking age in Wisconsin was 18-years-old at the time. Need I say more? The next day I woke up with the worst hangover of my life and my mom who knew everything, said nothing. She informed me that even though “the other kids” were staying home from school, I had to go. It was the worst punishment ever! I didn’t drink alcohol again for a really long time.
When I was pregnant with my second child, Courtney, I started bleeding out because of a praevia – my placenta was attached to my cervix. Not good. I was only in my 7th month, so after running to the hospital with my husband and 2-year-old son Kelly in tow, the doctor informed me that it would be my new home for the next two months!
Mom to the rescue. She had a full-time job and dropped everything to watch Kelly while I was on complete bed rest. I still call Courtney “my fingernail baby” since she hung until her due date! I avoided giving birth to a preemie by living stress-free knowing that my mom was there to take care of everything.
She is the glue that holds all of us together. This Christmas was the first time my parents weren’t able to fly out because of my dad’s heart condition. Instead, my mom suggested that we all come after the holidays. For the first time in 20 years the whole family met in Wisconsin.
I have learned through her example of determination and perseverance. My mom grew up in a household where her brothers were given all the opportunities while she and her sister were treated very differently. She didn’t have a driver’s license until my dad taught her at the age of 32! She wanted a better life for us and believed early on that women should be treated as equals.
My mom has always been my best friend. When I phone her in Wisconsin, she’s always available to hear my continuing saga. She is supportive of my latest endeavors although horrified by some of my skiing adventures!
When my college-aged children unwind at my kitchen counter, I gaze back at the memory of one from a different time in my life and smile.
Happy Mother’s Day Mom!
What are your fond memories?
All photos by Susie Lindau