I wish you could have known my mother. If you have followed this blog, you already know she was an elderly first-time mother. But there are so many other things I would like you to know.
My mother was rather small, maybe 5’2’’,; maybe 110 pounds. She was quiet and unassuming, but she was wise, sometimes funny, and the steady, reassuring force of our small family.
My mother was born not in the last century, but the century before that, the middle child of nine children. The story goes that her mother had started the laundry, paused to give birth to my mother, and went back to finish the laundry. I think some of that strength and determination was present in my mother though not always physically.
The thing I would most want you to know about my mother is that she was fond of saying, “Everything will be all right.” She said this with such conviction that I totally believed her. I had the feeling that I could walk in the house and confess to the most heinous crime, and she would say, “Everything will be all right.” And it would be.
My mother was a great story-teller, so I know that she got her only spanking when she was five. She had on a new red dress and following too closely behind the street cleaner, which would have been a horse and cart affair, she got the dress dirty. I know she had a doll with blond curls and that this doll was named Priscilla. I know she went to Billy Sunday tent revivals. A favorite story, often retold, was that one time she put on a rubber girdle before she was completely dry from a bath, so when it came time to take it off, father had to cut her out of it.
There were several things that were a mystery to me. My mother said she studied elocution at Emerson College and would give recitations. Where? I have no idea though I have one or two of the pieces she would recite. My mother read tea leaves. How did she pick up this skill? I have no idea though I do know that she scared herself when was too accurate too much of the time and thus gave it up. My mother played the accordion. Again, how did she learn? Where did she play? This was all long before I was born.
In the days before TV, the radio was big in our house. Each afternoon my mother would listen to the soaps: “Helen Trent”, “Stella Dallas,” and “Life Can Be Beautiful.” On Wednesday nights she and I had a standing commitment and listened to “Life with Luigi” and “Doctor Christian,” taking turns supplying the treats.
It was amusing that when we got our first TV, in 1951, this quiet woman delighted in the “Friday Night Fights” and would shout and pump her fist in the air with pretend jabs . That is the only time I ever heard her raise her voice
My mother’s specialty was baking cookies. Many mornings I would wake up to the smell of gingersnaps or other yummy cookies baking. (BTW: she let me eat them for breakfast!) I cherish the recipes copied in her own hand and the comments – usually 100% – on the ones clipped from the newspaper. She also made excellent brownies and fudge and was so good at making donuts that she daydreamed about opening her own donut shop.
My mother was a whiz with money so though the household income was meager, we owned our own home. My father said she could squeeze a nickel until the buffalo hollered! She was reputed to have spare funds hidden in her “sock.” I just know that if I needed money for something special, she would go in her bedroom, close the door, and come out later with the money. When she died, I was disappointed that I did not discover her “sock” or hiding place.
Now, don’t get the wrong idea. My mother and I often had our moments. Not having brothers or sisters, I sometimes took my bad moods out on her, taunting her. Sometimes I was just a plain brat. We also got in huge hassles over my not practicing the piano. She would threaten to send me to reform school, and though I wasn’t sure she could really do that, I would reform my behavior myself for a while.
On the other hand, my mother was a good sport. She would play school with me and be a willing pupil unless I gave her a certain name. “I will NOT play if I have to be Laura Recupero!” She would play Jacks with me and once , in a contest with my father, even proved she could touch her toes. I would call and ask if twenty or more kids from the church youth group could come to our house and all she would say is “When?” Nothing seemed to faze her.
There are so many other things I would like you to know about my mother, but, it’s time to stop. Honestly, I didn’t even intend to write this piece. It just sort of insisted.
My mother passed away fifty-two years ago today, but I can still hear her voice, and sometimes she is saying “Everything will be all right.”
© Dorothy C. Judd
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