Another year, another Mother’s Day and I am faced with memories of my own mother every time I look in the mirror and with every action I take (well, not necessarily EVERY action). What a woman she was and one that I so admire. She managed to raise all four of us on a paupers wage as if we were eating like Kings.
She did this because she knew all to well how to pinch those pennies and budget. She also, to her credit, never complained about money to us. To her it was none of our business. We were children and children were not to be bothered by those issues, they were to only worry about school, play and growing up. Was this necessarily the way things ‘should have’ been done? In my mind, yes. But to many, they might disagree.
We ‘ate like King’ because she would plan our meals right down to the left overs. She knew before going to the store each week, what we were having Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and so on. For instance; Sunday was always the big dinner. Usually roasted chicken (cheap) or, if we could afford it, a roast. Monday would be meat loaf. Why? These two dinners would serve as lunch meat for school lunches. Then the later part of the week was left overs. And it wasn’t like what most household do now where you just place it on a plate and into the microwave; oh no! She would make that chicken into a completely different type of meal, like stewed chicken (yum!), or chicken casserole. My point is, she had to be creative because things were so tight. But, again to her credit, she never complained.
My fondest of memories? Going to sleep and hearing that Singer sewing machine going only to wake up and find a brand new dress hanging on my closet door. My favorite smell? The scent of fresh cotton (because that was what my dresses were usually made from). I remember all to well the trips to the ‘yardage store’ (this was the term for fabric store in those days). She would walk us to the pattern books, we would look through all the Butterick and McCall patters and, with her guidance, pick what we liked. It was usually something that had many different looks in one or something she could alter with other patterns she had in her arsenal. Then she would walk us through the fabrics. Placing each against our faces and explaining how one would look better and why.
We gained so much style and knowledge from her (well, we girls did…). She had so much creativity and so much determination. She was determined to keep our family together at all costs. And to give us the holidays, birthdays and the family traditions no matter what.
Were there things she could have done better? Certainly. Couldn’t that be said of us all? But what I admire most of this woman was right up to the day she died. She ended up living the last ten years with a disease called Vascular Dementia. Where your body has several small strokes and your brain gradually looses cognition. We tried taking care of her ourselves, and it finally got to a point we needed to place her in an Independent Living facility with a Memory Care unit.
But this was something where I, all of us, had hoped that she would never know she had for we knew this was her nightmare and something she never wanted for herself. I used to take her coffee in the mornings on my way to work and sit with her (she loved her coffee). There were mornings in the beginning where she would ask me, “how long have I been like this this time?” I would simply say, “oh, a few days, but you’re not to worry. It’s our turn to take care of you.”
But this isn’t the remarkable thing about her. As time went on, and she barely knew who we were and could barely move, she needed a great deal of assistance (but still would be smiling and cheerful); I would stop by and feed her when it was dinner time. There was a time when, a time just before her death, we made eye contact and in her eyes there it was, I knew she knew. I knew it on her death bed, just knew and she never, in all this time, ever complained.
She carried herself with so much grace; grace is the word to best describe my mother. Now I entitled this “I am my Mother’s daughter…” But truth, I can only HOPE to be as graceful, as prudent, as honest and as full of integrity as she was.
Happy Mother’s Day Mom. It is from you, and Nan, and Great Gramma Kimball and all the woman before me that I get my strength.