Marian Enid L. was born September 28, 1920 in the small town of Grimes, Iowa. Her father was a banker during The Depression, and it had to have had quite an impact on Mama that her father worked to keep farmers in business, and keep their farms operating. Eventually he was let go for not foreclosing as expected by his overseers.
At Mama’s memorial service in 1988, there were many young people of all races and walks of life who considered my mother their honorary mother. She counseled, she listened, she advised, she taught, she made people feel welcome and special. She found people who needed her, and they found her.
Mama baked bread. She baked literally dozens of loaves per week and gave away much of it to neighbors, friends, and fellow office workers. The entire neighborhood smelled like a bakery on Saturdays. When she went to work on Mondays, she carried two big shopping bags full of bread on the bus. (My mother didn’t drive and was an intrepid mass transit user in Seattle where I grew up.)
Mama devised a recipe for bread that would offer as much protein as an egg in just one slice. She wanted to see this recipe be used to help feed people in need, as she figured it was about 7 cents per loaf to make. Her bread, and all her cooking, was unbelievably delicious.
|Serving dinner to my father and his mother|
My mother was adventuresome in her cooking, trying all kinds of new, good things. She remembered vividly the evening in the 1940s when she first ate garlic, and she was the first person to try many things at home. She read, watched and experimented with what Julia Child recommended. She was friends with the fish monger. She made a huge assortment of Christmas cookies each year, and made the most spectacular dinners any person could be privileged to eat. I created a cookbook of her recipes when she died, as I knew this aspect of my mother’s life was most tangible and cherished, and would be greatly missed.
|Serving food at a friend's wedding in about 1981|
I learned to do so many practical things because my mother took the time to teach me to do them: I learned to cook of course, and to sew, and to garden. With her college degree in romance languages she helped me learn French, and as a top math and science student...well I needed all the help I could get! My mother was extremely smart.
|Knitting... (ca. 1950)|
After my father died in 1974, my mother had to go back to work, and reentering the work force at the age of 54 could not have been easy. She not only found work at a law office, but became invaluable, a paralegal in all but title and salary. During the last year of her life, when she could no longer make it to work, office staff came to her home to get help managing the business. She didn’t make a lot of money, but when I was choosing a college she said to go where I most wanted to go, and we would make it work. My mother said “money isn’t the only currency.”
On the last Mother’s Day Mama was alive, we went to a garden center where I bought the annuals she picked out, later to put them in the dirt around her duplex. If it weren’t for the shopping cart, she couldn’t have walked, as she had some serious health issues. Still, as usual, she didn’t complain at all, and spent the time telling strangers what great children she had. She said what she always said, “Mother’s Day is the day that I am most thankful for having such wonderful children.”
The feeling is mutual Mama! I love you so much.