Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Tribute to my Mother

I want to share with my children and grandchildren how I feel about my mother. My mother is special. She overcame physical pain and hardships to carry me. Her womb was tipped backward and the doctors said she would never have a baby, but somehow she had me and I was her one and only child. She was young...only 18 when I was born. She has always, and still does to this day, worry about me. She gave me a perfect childhood, abounding in love. She played with me and made sure I got plenty of sunshine and vegetables.

She took me on trips, to parades, and the county fair. She let me have pets of all kinds including dogs, cats, parakeets, hamsters,and even a baby opossum. Now I know what a hardship that was. The one and only time it snowed in Texas, I was about 10. My mother put plastic bags around my feet and played with me for hours. We built a snow man, made snow angels, and even snow ice cream. Afterward we had my favorite, hot chocolate and cinnamon toast. Although we lived from paycheck to paycheck, my mother always found a way to encourage my interests, like art lessons and piano lessons. At the time I never realized what sacrifices she must have made to buy a piano. She also made the dress I wore to my recital and I cried because I didn't like it. I was so ungrateful as a child and never appreciated what all she did until I was a mother myself.

All I know about being a mother and wife I learned from her. It seems normal to me to wait on and baby my husband and children. To this day, she still sets the table, uses napkins, and brings everything to the table for my Dad. She writes the checks and figures out the household budget and how to make ends meet. She thought it was important that she be a stay at home Mom while I was young. When I turned 18 and went to BYU, she started her career as a secretary at a school, and later a law firm. She had gone to business college before she got married. Later she owned her own Hallmark card store. My mother loves books and although I preferred TV to reading, she still read to me and bought me classics like Little Women and the original Winnie the Pooh books when they first came out. When I was in school, my mother was always the room mother and even the PTA president for awhile. She was also very active in the Relief Society back in the day when fund raising was a big part of their responsibility. My mother is very organized and creative. She was always in charge of ward parties, decorating for dances, making crafts for church bazaars, ward dinners, rummage sales, and talent shows. The missionaries always ate and did their laundry at our house. She loved music. I know all the hymns and primary songs by heart because of her. Instead of stories, she used to sing to me every night before tucking me in. "Baby Face" was one of my favorite songs. She belonged to a record club and she ordered all the Broadway musical soundtracks. We used to eat popcorn, work jigsaw puzzles and listen to the record player. There was no chance we would ever see a real live play in our little town, but I knew all the words to South Pacific, My Fair Lady, and Sound of Music. My mother is a wonderful cook. She loves cook books and trying new things. Her beans and cornbread and chicken gumbo are so good as well as her cornmeal dressing and homemade cookies. She used to let me cream the butter and sugar when she baked using an old Hamilton Beach mixer on a stand. When it was fluffy, I got to lick the beaters. She loved to fix big meals and entertain her friends.
My mother taught me how to iron. We did not have a dryer until I was 16 years old. There were always clothes on "the line" that we had to hurry and get in before it rained. The dry clothes were "sprinkled" with water and rolled in a ball so they would be damp when we ironed them. The steam iron had not been invented. If we didn't have time, the clothes were put in the refrigerator so they wouldn't mold. Sometimes we had more clothes than food in the refrigerator. She told me she learned how to iron with a flat iron heated on a wood burning stove.

My parents loved to travel and my mother would spend months planning our vacations. We always had a shoestring budget, but she made it work. Our biggest trip was to the Seattle World's Fair. We went in a VW bug with a wooden car top carrier as big as the car on top. We could only afford a few motels, so we slept in sleeping bags without a tent. I can't imagine doing that now, but somehow we managed. There weren't interstates or fast food places back then, so we stopped by the side of the road and ate sandwiches and soup that my mother heated on a small gas grill. We made some wonderful memories on our trips. One time we went on a genealogy trip across Texas and Arkansas, staying with relatives, and searching for "Eoff" on various grave stones at every cemetery we passed. She taught me to love and respect my grandparents, aunts, and uncles. She taught me to send thank you notes, write and stay in touch with your friends, and stay close to your family. She taught me to respect those older than me, to say yes mam and no mam, and to do what your parents tell you. Don't do things that would hurt or embarrass your family.

She battled depression her whole life and never knew it would go away with medication until she was in her 70's. Until then she suffered alone. Sometimes I saw her cry, but back then it was called "nerves". "I just don't feel like smiling for people today" she would say. But she always smiled for me. My mother is very beautiful, but because of an abusive father she has never liked herself. I thank her for giving me complete acceptance and understanding. My mother is left handed, but can write with her right hand. As a young school child, the teacher spanked her hand with a ruler if she wrote with her left hand. Something when I think of all the things she went through growing up, I feel sad for her and appreciation that she made sure my childhood was the opposite of hers. She never yelled at me or argued with me. The truth is she spoiled me and sheltered me, but at the same time taught me to be kind and thoughtful of others. Now my Mother is 80 years old. She is almost deaf, suffers from arthritis, and heart trouble. She is two or three inches shorter than she used to be and her skin is wrinkled, but inside she is still the same beautiful person.

She is the main caregiver to my 86 year father who has Alzheimer disease. Many days he doesn't know who she is. He asks, "Why didn't we ever get married?" One time he said, "Are you my cousin?" She can hardly sleep anymore because of the fear that he may get up in the night and wander off. The police have brought him home several times. Her only brother lives too far away to visit and she can't hear him on the phone. Her own mother passed away almost 40 years ago. She still misses her. So that fun, hard working, kind, enthusiastic lady is now trapped in a body that doesn't work anymore and alone in a house with her husband who grows more distant every day. I am lucky to live next door and see her almost every day, but I'm too often in a hurry. Writing down a few of my childhood memories has made me realize again what a wonderful mother I have. I love her. The scriptures say that we will be judged by the righteous desires of our heart. I believe this is true and my mother certainly has a heart of gold.