I’m thinking of her today. Her gentle voice and proud image linger about me.
The relationship between a mother and her daughter can follow many paths. A childhood friend was incredibly close to her mom. The two of them talked, laughed and shared silly secrets. Yet another good friend and her mother were like strangers; they barely spoke. At various times I have envied both. Why?
She was generous in her legacies. I cannot fault her for that.
From her I learned the value of family. She was an at-home wife and mother with a large family. At a time when bottle-feeding was rampant in America, she breastfed her babies. When store-bought Wonder Bread became the national favorite, she kneaded and baked wholesome homemade bread and cinnamon buns filling our home with an awesome aroma. Our childhood meals always saw us seated together around the table. As a young mother through the 1950s and 1960s, she regularly used her Kodak, snapping pictures of all those she loved and recording our history for posterity. Throughout her life, she treasured family and family gatherings.
She also loved to read. Another cherished legacy, one that led to my writing. From my earliest days, I saw scores of books on the shelves of our living room – REBECCA, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, JANE EYRE, and a magnificent edition of the complete works of William Shakespeare. In junior high, I brought home Victoria Holt’s MISTRESS OF MELLYN from the school library; that started our shared immersion into gothic romance and then romantic suspense. How she loved those books – a rambling cliff side mansion, a dark, brooding hero, a heroine in danger. Sometimes, I think she saw herself in the role.
From her I learned dignity, self-esteem and stubbornness. She took great pride in her appearance. Each morning, and whenever she left the house, she would preen in front the mirror, freshening her make-up and hair. For nearly four decades she sold Avon cosmetics. It brought in some cash, but it also brought luxury into her life. In her last years, after we all convinced her she was too ill to continue with it, she secretly signed up again and struggled to sell for another year.
Still, there were aspects of her character that I rejected. Parts of her were a puzzle I could not solve, a riddle I never understood. Sometimes, I think I will spend my remaining years trying to understand her, and our relationship. Penance.
It’s now been 3½ years since she left us. Today, she would have been 83.
Happy birthday, Mom. I love you. ∞