Sep. 25th, 2015 01:18 am
loracs: (Default)
Today is the 15th anniversary of my mom’s death. 

At the moment of her death, I became acutely aware of time passage. Each hour, each day, each week, each month, I was aware I was in new territory. Territory where I continued to breathe and she did not. One and a half decades I have been breathing without her. Quickly approaching a quarter of my life has passed without hearing her voice. Without us sharing our old family stories and making new ones.  Mom loved to tell stories.

Today I want to share one of her oldest stories that involves me. I was 4 years old.  My memory of this event is completely composed of her version.  She told this one so often that I feel like it is my memory. There was a neighborhood boy about a year older than I was and he lived a couple blocks over. This was just far enough away that we didn't often play together, but when we did and something made him mad he would reach out and grab my hair and yank really hard. When I got home I would tell mom each time this happened. She was a strong believer in letting kids sort stuff out, so she never intervened by calling his mother.

One windy day she put a hat on me with a strap that went under my chin and snapped on the other side. And sent me out to play with this boy in our backyard. Mom could see us from the kitchen window. After only a few minutes of play, the boy let out a scream.  Mom looked up in time to see him reaching for my head, but with the hat there was only a couple of inches of my hair sticking out the bottom. He was screaming in frustration, because he couldn’t get a good handful of my hair and he couldn’t pull the hat off either.  Before he could move out of my reach, I grabbed a big bunch of his hair and pulled with all the strength my 4 year old self could muster. He let out a shriek that would "wake the dead" mom said, and ran home. I continued to play happily by myself.

Within minutes the phone rang. The boy's mother was very upset. She yelled at my mom. "DO YOU KNOW WHAT CAROL DID TO MY SON?" My mom calmly said she did and explained what she saw.  The woman didn’t believe that her son would ever do something like pull my hair and she blamed it all on me.  My mom didn’t accept my guilt, but pacified the woman by saying she would talk to me.  As my mom took my hat and coat off, she said I should never start a fight, but if someone else started a fight, I should defend myself and end it as quickly as possible.  The boy never came to our house again and I was never invited to his.

Over the years, mom would tell this story and she always got a little gleam in her eye and a smile in her voice when she got to the part where I pulled his hair.

Mom, I miss you having my back, no matter what. I miss your stories.  I miss you as much today, as the day you died.     


loracs: (Default)

It's Mother's Day - that yearly Hallmark holiday meant to sell cards, flowers and candy.  When my mother was alive, I always sent a card and/or flowers depending on our financial situation.  It's been more than 10 years since she died and I can truthful say that every day is mother's day for me.  I have at least one mom-memory every day.  It's often small things. For example this morning, when I was getting out of the shower, I remembered how my mom taught us to dry ourselves off from head to toe while we were still in the bathtub, so we wouldn't track any water on the floor.  We didn't have a bathroom rug or a bath mat.  Of course, I gave this up many years ago and I use a bath mat now. 

Every time I peel a potato, I remember my mom's expert use of a paring knife to take as little potato off with the skin.  When I had to peel potatoes, half the flesh would end up in the pig's bucket.  My mother would show me over and over again how to do it and I never got it.  And carrots were even worst – one carrot became one carrot stick under my knife. When I finally discovered the peeler tool, I was so happy. And so was my mom, alas the pigs were less happy. 

These memories come unbidden. She is a part of my everyday life, her words, her deeds, are linked so deep within me; I can not imagine what a day would feel like without them.  I’ve never been a mother, never really wanted to be a mother, but on this commercial holiday, I take a moment to wish that part of me that is her, a very Happy Mother’s Day.

loracs: (winter)

I’ve been an orphan for 10 years.  Today marks a decade since my mother died; ten very long, blink-of-an-eye years. 

I can see her, standing at the kitchen sink with her long, thin, grey hair wound into a little knob, held in place by two bobby pins crossing each other to form an “X”.  Softly, she is singing and yodeling, which I can just barely hear over the running water. 

I can feel the soft and loosening skin hanging from her upper arm. As a small child, I would cling to her big, soft arm and inhale the smell of her, a mix of sweat, cigarette smoke, Joy dish detergent and most often, onions.   As an adult, who only saw her every few years, I took every chance I could to sit next to her and hook my arm around hers.  She smelled the same minus the cigarette smoke. 

On one trip, several years before she died, I video taped my mom telling some family stories - ones I'd heard over and over again.  She loved to tell them.   Mom had a hospice nurse visit her weekly for the last several months of her life.  After the required medical stuff, this woman would sit at the dining room table and mom would "bend her ear" with one story after another.  I will forever be grateful to this woman for listening to her. 

I've never watched the video, maybe this year I will. 



Sep. 25th, 2008 02:21 am
loracs: (rose)
Eight years ago today, my mom died.  I missed her yesterday, I missed her today and I'll miss her tomorrow.  I suspect there will never come a day when I won't miss her.


Sep. 25th, 2006 12:14 am
loracs: (Gilly)
Looking in the rearview mirror a few weeks ago, I saw my mother’s mouth and it was sitting under my nose. I never realized I had her mouth. I find this very weird. I’m almost 50 years old and I never noticed this before. My mother’s mouth, when in neutral, had both corners turned way down. She said everyone always thought she was mad or sad, unless she was laughing.

Six years ago today my mom died. It’s been six years without my weekly Sunday morning calls. It’s been six years since I’ve had the thought “I need to remember to tell mom that” and know she would hear it. It’s been six years since I could call her for a quick check on one of her recipes. I tried for a while to call one of my sisters on Sundays, but it wasn’t the same and it didn’t last long. Certainly not the 18 years of talking to Mom every week. I think we missed 5 or 6 Sundays in all that time. That’s over 930 calls plus all the times we talked more than once a week, I would put it at at least a 1000 calls. Sometimes we’d talk for an hour or more, but I think they probably averaged 30 minutes. That’s 30,000 minutes of sharing our lives with each other. 30,000 minutes reliving favorite family stories. 30,000 minutes discussing our soap operas or politics – not much difference between the two, we often said. 30,000 finite minutes.

I often wondered if I’d stayed in my hometown instead of moving 2000 miles away, if we would have talked more or less. I suspect it would have been less. On the other hand, we would have shared many, many more minutes in each other’s physical company. I would have been there when she had to put Dad in the nursing home. I would have shared the responsibility with my sister of driving mom to her doctors' appointments or to see Dad. Running to the store, bank or post office would have been part of my week. Right up until she died, my mom would put some money in the checking account for utility bills, insurance and taxes and then take the rest in cash. She needed specific denominations because she had a system. Somewhere hidden in the house was a box with a bunch of white envelopes. Each envelope labeled with a use and an amount. They were for “clothes”, “birthdays”, “groceries” “emergencies” “St. Anthony’s” and several others I can’t remember. Each month she filled them. When they were empty, she was done spending until the next month – no credit card for her. While grocery money did run out sometimes, we always had enough in the deep freeze and the cupboards to keep us fed. She rarely went into one envelope to pay for another’s – “Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul” was her solid economic advise. One I wished I’d live by.

For most of my early years, the box was kept under her bed. During the summer, when I’d hear the ice cream truck coming down the street, I’d run for the box asking Mom if I could have a popsicle. Barely waiting for an answer, I’d give her the box and then run outside to stop the truck. By the time I’d made my choice, Mom was right behind me with the money. Sitting on the front steps, eating our popsicles on a warm summer morning was the best.

Re-reading this, my childhood sounds so idyllic. Sometime it was and sometimes it was not. Today, on the anniversary of her death, I choose to remember the idyllic times. Times when the corners of our mouths curved up.
loracs: (Girl with Pearl Earring)
Every Saturday morning, my mother and I would take the bus downtown for my dance lessons. I was about 6 or 7 years old. After class, we'd go to the "Five & Dime" store's diner. Mom would have coffee and I'd have hot coco with a side of cinnamon raisin toast. I felt very grown up, talking and dunking my toast in the coco as mom dunked hers in coffee. The warm chocolate/cinnamon smell, sweet bread, smooth butter floating on top and chewy raisins was just the best. I learned the etiquette of restaurant eating on those Saturdays.

First, always make sure you had enough money to pay for the food and a 3 - 5% tip - this was 40 plus years ago, when gas was .20 a gallon, okay?

Second, keep your elbows off the table.

Third, keep your napkin in your lap, ready to dab any crumbs stuck to your lips.

Finally, stay in your seat, talk in a normal voice and thank the waitress every time she brings you something, even the bill.

Believe me, every one of these were learned over time with many questions on my part. "Why can I have my elbows on the table at home and not here?" Mom never made a big deal about this at home, because Dad always had his elbows on the table. Obviously, his mother never took him out for coco and cinnamon raisin toast. So this was a "only when we're out" rule. "Why do we have to tip? Don't they pay her?" Mom explained the economics of the service industry. "Why am I being punished because I eat faster than you?" I wanted to go "window" shop around the store while mom finished, but I always had to wait until she was ready to go. When we did wander around the store, I always ended up at the books. Every few months, Mom would have a little extra money and I could pick out a .59 book.

Our waitress was always the same woman. In the day, she would have been described, with respect, as an older Negro woman. We were about 4 or 5 years away from using "Black" and decades away from using African American. I was mesmerized by her gold front tooth and her streak of white hair. I thought she was beautiful. She wore a white uniform, pink apron, a little cap, a pin with "Hattie" on it and a big smile. She remembered my name and my order. That was so cool. I always wanted to slide into the booth and say “I’ll have the usual”, but I never did. I watched a few too many “Thin Man” movies. If you'd have asked me if she was fat, I would have said "no - she looks just like my mom." But of course, she and my mother were fat. Fat in a round way. Fat in a curvy way. Fat in a "I want to climb up in her lap" way. I was a few years away from learning "fat = ugly and bad".

Mom knew the bus schedule and seemed very good at drawing out the meal, leaving only enough time to pay the bill and catch the bus. This saved her from saying "no" every time I saw something I wanted in the store. Also, we didn't have to stand outside very long, esp. on those cold, snowy mornings. Sitting next to the window, head pressed against the cold glass, watching snowflakes scramble out of our way and burping up chocolate cinnamon - life was so good.


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