My mother is alive and well, thankyouverymuch. This blog series has made me reminisce about some of my favorite memories of her. I hope she realizes how much I cherish them and her.
When I was a kid, my mother planted a huge garden in our back yard. I remember my dad using his old typewriter to plot out the precise locations of the plants and I think I remember him tilling the soil, but my mom is the one who really tended it. There were carrots and peapods, cucumbers and sunflowers, other yummies that I can’t recall. I remember the feeling of the hot garden soil between my bare toes and the taste of carrots picked straight from the ground. I loved digging in the dirt and coming across old glass bottles and shards of china. We would wash off those cool old blue and green and brown bottles and put them on the windowsill to catch the light. Nowadays the garden is long gone but she still has houseplants galore and she plants annuals every springtime. She also has a gorgeous lawn of which she is very proud. I vividly remember playing on that lawn and being stung by a bee. My mother carried me to our big kitchen sink and perched me on the edge so that she could pull the stinger out of my foot.
My mother taught the fourth grade for forty years and loved it. I had her for math class when I was ten and I did not love it. Not because she was a bad teacher (she was a great teacher!) but because my classmates and I all (wrongly) assumed that I could get away with murder in her classroom. Nope, I just got double punishment — once at school and again at home. In fact, this was the case for the whole seven years I attended her school because in my view, her fellow teachers ratted me out in the teachers’ lounge every day. Luckily I didn’t do anything too bad. Since both my parents were teachers they had the same schedule that I did; when I was home, they were home. I hated this when I was a kid but now I think it’s the ideal situation. I distinctly remember once asking my mother why she couldn’t be a “real mom” and stay home and have fresh-baked cookies waiting for me when I got home. Ouch. So, so sorry for that one, Mom.
She was and is a rabble-rouser and a shameless agitator. Union negotiator and president for years and years, she inspired me to believe in the power of collective labor. Growing up, I thought all t-shirts and book bags came pre-printed with “PSEA” (Pennsylvania State Education Association) because we had so many around the house. I think I was wearing a “United Mind Workers” t-shirt before I could read it.
She is a book lover. You could tell the change of seasons by where she was perched with a book — back porch where she could watch the birds in spring, lawn chair in the back yard in summer, screened-in porch in fall, and dining room window alcove in winter. I remember so many summer evenings reading a book on the porch with my mom while she listened to Pittsburgh Pirates baseball on the radio.
She is a beer lover. Her brand of choice is Schmidt’s.
My mother is a wicked talented seamstress. She made much of her own wardrobe and all of my prom dresses. I seem to remember her once making coordinating pants, shirt and hat for a Wile E. Coyote stuffed animal, even (man alive, I wish I had a picture of that!).
She has a great laugh. Watch out when she gets together with my aunt!
My mother loves to dance and I got this from her. I remember her grabbing my hands and trying to teach me the jitterbug and other dance steps. I don’t think I ever learned them properly but I do the same thing to my kids — grab their hands and dance around to my own music.
I mean it as a compliment when I write that she is the model for my strong-willed and stubborn ways. She’s also the one in whose lap I would rest my head while she tucked my hair behind my ear over and over. I only ever called that move “Do This” but she knew exactly what I meant when I asked for it. I never felt more loved.
“I come from bright salmon walls,
spaghetti sauce splashes,
washtub full of strawberry jam
ripe for licking and licking again.
It is warm and I am reading in the corner.
Hair wash in the porcelain sink,
hair cut on the high stool,
pretties on the windowsill,
bouquet of Palmolive soap.
Black coffee with two sugars,
Wheaties and Cheerios.”
— excerpt from “my mother’s kitchen” by Marian Kent (my brilliant sister!)
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.