Mother’s Day is almost here. I want to honor my mom, Marilyn, a very special lady. No flowers, no candy, no more stuff. . . so I came up with this essay. I did send mom a card, a Snoopy card, my mom is bigger than life, no silly sentiment, curlicues and nicety nice sappy stuff will do. . just an exuberant dancing beagle, so much more fitting!
I think Larry, Laura, and Leslie would agree, the mom of our childhood was full of life and fun. Back then, when she entered the room it felt like the prelude to a summer storm, the air was charged, electric, as if she had flipped our switch to ‘on’. She talked. She talked a lot, her trademark bright red lipstick, colorful clothing and huge earrings a fitting punctuation to her upbeat litany. We felt braced against a fresh gale, buffeted by the anticipation for fun.
She loved people, her laugh was infectious and loud, her insight on the lives of the people around her sound and witty. We were the lucky kids. While our friends’ moms were preoccupied with the minutia of living, our mom would drop everything and take us swimming, ice skating, to the park or a movie. She would talk to everyone around us, had so many friends in our small town and was a positive example of generous living.
My friends loved her because she would do stuff with us instead of just drop us off, and was always interested in their lives. I remember mom asking them questions and then thinking, “I didn’t know that”, she actually helped me get to know my friends better!
I remember one of the most important lessons she taught me was the value of reading. She sat in a brown easy chair and enjoyed a cup of coffee or a glass of tea and a good book. Always. Not that our house was ever dirty, but there was some cleaning freak who lived on Rogers Court and she was the example of how not to be. Mom would say, “She doesn’t read, she cleans”. So now I read too. One time when I was all grown up, a friend said she had to do her spring cleaning. I said, “Huh?” I think it involved moving furniture away from the walls, ain’t gonna happen. That friend of mine didn’t read either. Mom would recommend books and we’d talk about them. I loved that we had no TV in our living room, we all sat around reading. One of my junior high teachers, Mr. Radel, commented on the books I read in my lap beneath my desk while he was teaching and I told him about my family’s love of reading. I’ll always remember when he said, “Your family really sits around your living room reading?!” That was one of my first clues that my family was pretty special.
Mom was sitting in the same brown chair when she tried to tell me about sex. I was 17, no ha, maybe 12. I was sitting on the gold couch under our bay window practicing my inscrutable look; I learned that from my dad. I was laughing inside, of course my brother Larry had already told me everything I would ever need to know. He told me that the man took a sperm out of his ear and placed it in the women’s belly button. Mom’s version was quite different and I had to keep my chuckles inward as she stumbled around what to call a certain crucial male part. But when my little girl Andrea was around 3 and astutely observed that little brother Kyle was different, I used the words peanut and wizzer. Perhaps the terminology can progress with age; I was 12 for heaven’s sake! Yes, Larry was always a fount of information, he helped mom out with the sticky wicket issues. He was also the one who told me that Leslie was adopted and mom and dad were trying to find her real mom so they could give her back.
Every year mom was challenged by a trio of fruit trees in our backyard. She was cursed with her frugal dad Gene’s frugal gene and thought she had to use every single plum produced by this crazy little tree. I remember plum pulp bubbling away on the stove and a big strainer thingie to separate the juice, sticky mess all around. Jars of plum jelly lined up on the counter. What I don’t remember is anyone actually eating the stuff. I’m sure it was quite good, but we weren’t really a jelly family. She did make wonderful cherry crisps with cherries from another one of our prolific trees which forever spoiled me. After the real deal, I can’t stand the syrupy sweet artificially red cherries that come in a can. Mom was fun in the kitchen too, always experimenting with new recipes. She introduced us to artichokes, my sibs and I would peel off the little leaves and dip them in butter, none of my friends got to do that!
I remember her willingness to carpool us all over Quincy. At one point she drove a little white VW bug and kids would unfold themselves and pile out. I’m sure we looked like the proverbial phone booth with an improbable number of bodies being ejected. Mom was a very jerky manual stick driver, or was that the little gold car that she backed into the car behind her in the driveway? Or did she back into the boat, or the side of the garage? All three? Or did I do one of those? She would also drive us to and from Lake Okoboji, a 9 hour road trip.As I got older I remember learning that my mom was a bit directionally challenged. Quincy is definitely east of Okoboji but I had to point out we were driving into the setting sun at one point on the way home. That just didn’t seem right and we got turned around. I would guess I was snotty about telling her too.
The danger of writing my mom an essay like this is that she has a much better memory than I do. Did I make all this stuff up? No, I’m pretty sure the memories are true to life, but I fished them out of the depths of my memory bank, a spotty place at best, got that from my dad… but hmm… I think I may have already written her an essay with some of the same stuff. Will she remember? Ah, well… Happy Mother’s Day to the best mom ever!