Memories of My Mom

February 21, 2011

She would have been 88 years old today. In retrospect, it’s amazing that she made it to just shy of 82 years old, considering that she’d smoked for 69 of those years, but still I feel cheated. I want, I need more years with my mom. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel lonely for her.

You would have had to know my mom to understand what made her so special. She wasn’t a typical stay-at-home mom of the the 1960s in a house dress and curlers. She worked. She always worked. She was a waitress and bartender at night while my dad worked construction during the day. And she was the “hot mom” on the block. In her tight capris and her middie shirt, she’d stop all the Saturday afternoon traffic on our block when she was out on the front lawn pulling weeds. You could never tell from week to week what color her hair was going to be – black, blonde, red, and on one memorial occasion, lime green. But you could always count on the fact that her nails would be long and painted red, her make-up impeccable and her figure fit to die for.

When I was about ten years old, Mama suddenly decided that she wanted more out of life. She’d been forced to drop out of school at age 13 to help support her family during the Depression, so she lied to the local community college and said she couldn’t provide a copy of her high school diploma because the school had burned down and taken all the records with it. So the college admitted her with the rough equivalent of a 7th grade education and she sailed through real estate classes. Then she sailed through real estate broker classes. She was half way to real estate lawyer when she retired with my dad to raise Arabian horses and grandchildren.

Her smile was sunshine. No matter how much or how little money we had, or how much aggravation life threw at her, my mom never stopped believing in the innate wonder and glory of life. She certainly never stopped believing in her daughters or the great heights we’d attain in education, society and culture. Although my sister and I married young and didn’t precisely go on to prestigious careers, my mom always supported us and believed we were the most wonderful and accomplished daughters in the world. No matter how crappy my writing was, she’d encourage me and tell me that she couldn’t wait to hold my first best seller in her hands.

I don’t like to think about the years that she spent dying, but they are such solid proof of just how amazing her heart was that I have to think about them. I remember the nights she spent gasping for breath, when she’d apologize to me for pushing the alarm button by her bed as if her dying was some sort of inconvenience to me. I’d crank up her oxygen and help her trembling hands bring the nebulizer to her face. Then I’d sing to her. And more often than not, by the end of the breathing treatment she’d be singing along with me and correcting me on lyrics I’d gotten wrong.

If I live to be one hundred and twenty years old, I can only dream of being the woman my mother was: Beautiful, inside and out. Glamorous in a working-class sort of way. Always hopeful, always happy, always madly in love with her children, her grandchildren, and life itself.

Mama, I adore you. You were and you are the perfect woman. God grant that I’m one tenth of what you were.


4 Responses to “Memories of My Mom”

  1. Mickey Mills Says:

    I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet your mom, but if she were here I’d tell her she raised a mighty fine daughter. (And I’m not talking about your sister.)

    By the way… My mom’s birthday is also Feb 21. I think we talked about that.

  2. You can’t separate my mom’s incredible legacy without including my sister. Rhonda and I inherited our mom’s strength and independence, and her predilection for dying our hair whatever the color du jour happens to be, lol!

    I’m amazed that our moms have the same birthday. And we’re both the babies of the family. Believe what you want to, but as a witch I totally feel our mothers’ hands in all of this.

  3. John H Drake Says:

    One word only

    AWESOME………..story/ reflection

    Spelling errors tho !!

  4. I know, John, lol! Big tears = big spelling errors.

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