This Mother’s Day, I look back at simpler times and honor my own mother who set the bar pretty high. She is still there to listen to me. When I visit, she pulls out her well-worn cookbooks and concocts gourmet meals. The last time, she made boccone dolce, a layered dessert of meringue and chocolatey goodness. I know!
I’m not sure I could 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 melted, and would proceed to recount the trivial events of my young life. I always had a lot to say, as you can imagine, but she would listen and hand out advice and encouragement like our sweet after school snacks.
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 remember staring in wonder at the results of her effort.
When I needed a dress for Confirmation, I fell in love with one in a department store. Unfortunately, the high price tag kept my mother from purchasing the purple mini with the long sleeves and square cuffs,. As tears welled up in my eyes, she said, “Don’t worry.” She scrutinized the details and not only duplicated it, but improved on the design. I had become self-conscious in the seventh grade, so I beamed at the compliments I received.
Mom 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 she had sewn the jackets and pants from Vogue patterns. The perfect topstitching always amazed me.
Now that my mom is 85 and has glaucoma, her sewing machine is stored in a closet. I cherish the outfits she created for my children like pieces of valuable artwork. She taught me the value of time and money.
I have learned so much from her words. One time, saying nothing taught me a lesson. I tried out for the school play when I was a junior in high school. Since my friends and I sang and danced, I skipped the dance tryout and wasn’t considered. Crushed and angry at myself for relying on an assumption, I came home from school feeling dejected. My mom talked me into working behind the scenes. My dad created the sets for the musical that year, so I signed up to do everyones’ makeup. It was a blast. After the final production on Sunday, I attended the closing night party.
“Oh! So that’s what a “tallboy’ is.” The drinking age in Wisconsin was eighteen at the time. I was seventeen and the parents who chaperoned figured it was close enough. The next day I woke up with the worst hangover of my life. My mom said nothing about coming home drunk. 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 pretty long time.
Mom to the rescue. When I was in my seventh month of pregnancy with my second child, Courtney, I bent over to put the dog on the leash and felt a whoosh of blood. My husband drove me and my two-year-old son, Kelly, to the hospital. They kept me for observation. I had a placenta previa – my placenta was attached too low. The doctor informed me this would be my new home for the next two months. Whoa. I had a two-year-old at home.
My mother had a full-time job, but dropped everything to watch Kelly while I stayed in the hospital on complete bed rest. I still call Courtney “my fingernail baby” since she hung in there, literally, until her due date. I avoided giving birth to a preemie, knowing my mom was at home taking care of everything.
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. She didn’t have a driver’s license until my father taught her how to drive at the age of thirty-two. She wanted a better life for her children and has always believed women should be treated as equals.
My mom is still one of my best friends. When I phone her in Wisconsin, she is always available to hear my continuing saga. She is supportive of my latest endeavors although horrified by some of my skiing adventures.
When my own 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? Do you have adopted mothers in your life? Are you celebrating the day?
This is a rewritten post from 2012. I hope you enjoyed my blast from the past!