Sunday, May 10, 2009

Flowers for my mother

I know a lot of people say this, but sorry, I really am the one who had the best mother least that's how it seems to me. She was different from me in many ways, and in so many ways I learned and got to be a better person because of her. Not a single day goes by that I don't think of her. I strive to do things as she would do them. Most every day I miss her and wish I had new times with her.

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.

Mama at age 6

My mother always looked out for the less fortunate. She was the most open- and fair-minded person I have known personally. She did not apparently see race, class or gender as anything other than man-made obstacle or advantage, although she always looked after the underdog. Many mothers are naturally nurturing to their own children, but my mother had nurturing feelings--and took action on those feelings--for the entire world.

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 tried 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)

...and gardening (1961)

She didn't have fancy taste in many things, but she had refined taste in music and literature. She played cello through college. She was a devoted reader and history was her favorite subject. Lincoln and Jefferson were her favorite historical figures, and she read and re-read Churchill's writings. My mother avidly recycled, but before she let a single newspaper go she made sure she had read every word of it. She was unafraid to be political, and caucused for her candidates, went door-to-door for causes and talked to friends, as well as those in disagreement with her. She insisted I take issues to heart, to others and to the street. She was brave and strong in her convictions.

My mother didn't swat bees, but carried them out of the house by their wings. She once went a few days with a broken arm without going to a doctor, because "it just didn't hurt that much."

My mother loved to have fun too. She loved movies, games, laughing. Her laughter took over her entire body, with tears streaming down her reddening face. Even though she was older (40 when I was born) she was a lot of fun for me and my brother, always taking us to parades, the zoo, the park, movies--she put up with 7 showings of Mary Poppins for me. She always bought us balloons and cotton candy.

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.


Darla: Retro Ways said...

Shes so pretty I love the last photo of her.

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

What a lovely tribute. Your mom is beautiful!

denisebrain said...

Thank you for reading! My mother didn't see herself as beautiful, but she was.

Anonymous said...

She sounds like an extraordinary women and your tribute is lovely!

denisebrain said...

Thank you...she's my heroine, in case you couldn't tell!

fuzzylizzie said...

Maggie, I feel as though I knew her after reading your story. You were so lucky to have had such a lovely mother.

Jeff said...

I'm so overdue in reading your blog (now that I'm starting one of my own). You write so beautifully -- I'll have to work hard to keep up! So touching to read your post about your mother -- she was such a lovely, generous person; it was a privilege to know her.

denisebrain said...

My goodness Jeff, you're right about my mother (and it's so nice to hear from someone who knew her), but I'm sure you are quite wrong about keeping up with me-

You blog is already a must read!! I love it!