If my mom were alive, she'd be 92 today. She was born on December 7, 1917 in Niagara Falls, New York and she died September 21, 1998 in Las Vegas, Nevada. I don't think my mom and I were close in the same way my daughter and I are close but I know that she loved me unconditionally and I loved her. She was as good a mom as she could be and I have so many great memories of times with her. She and my brother and I share a history that no one else does.
My brother and I were the original latch key kids. Mom worked the swing shift for many years and she would be gone when my brother and I got home from school and then half asleep when we left for school in the morning. There was also a period of time she worked graveyard shift and so she'd leave after we went to bed and get home after we went to school, but then she'd be up when we came home from school. Some of my fondest memories are of the time we lived close enough to walk home at lunch time and eat with our mom. We'd watch Father Knows Best while we had lunch. We had to leave to get back to school before the show was over so every lunch would start with our mom filling us in on the end of the previous day's episode.
I remember a time when Mom had a weird schedule where she'd be off on Monday and Tuesday the first week of a month then Tuesday and Wednesday and then Wednesday, Thursday and Thursday, Friday. Then she'd have Friday, Saturday and Sunday off in a row. Those were the fun weekends. Looking back I don't know how she did it. She'd work from 3 to midnight and then on her days off try to keep a schedule that accommodated us. And she wanted us to have good family memories ever though we weren't in a traditional family - which may not seem strange today but back then we were the only divorced family in the neighborhood. She worked for an airline and got discount tickets and so, for a treat, she'd fly us somewhere for lunch. Once it was San Francisco and another time it was Denver. When our best friends moved away, she flew us to Chicago so we could visit with them. Fun times!
She wasn't the greatest cook in the world; she relied a lot on instant rice and instant potatoes and, to her, a salad was some iceberg lettuce with a few cherry tomatoes and blue cheese dressing. But there were a few things she made better than anyone. I loved her chicken and dumplings, beef stew, lemon meringue pie and mince pie. She also made a great apple and cabbage salad that I can remember but have yet to duplicate. And I forgive her for making me eat liver several times a year, mostly because she served it with the best strawberry shortcake in the world. She also made refreshing orange-lemonade with lemons from our own tree and served it with tasty tuna sandwiches at the picnic table in the backyard. We did have a lot of processed foods, some of our favorites being Van De Kamp lemon tarts and hot cross buns. Nothing came in amounts easily divided by 3. If there were 8 blueberry muffins, Mom got 2 and John and I got 3 each. I must have been a pretty selfish child because I don't think I ever considered letting Mom have one of the extras. Then again, she probably wouldn't have accepted it.
There was always a layer of dust and clutter around our house, partly I'm sure because Mom just didn't want to spend her limited spare time cleaning. She also wasn't the best task master and never insisted that my brother and I help clean up which she really should have. I suppose she felt guilty because we didn't have a stay at home mom and so she let us slide on the chores. Though she did always make me go to the laundry mat with her and now I would love to tell her how much I enjoy thinking about the times spent with her there, washing, drying and folding clothes together. I know absolutely there was more love than dust in our home.
I miss Mom all the time, but especially this time of year because it is her birthday month and also because of the holidays. Mom loved Christmas. We always had a tree and spent an evening together decorating it. I loved all the traditional ornaments and the tiny glow-in-the-dark angels. My brother and I enjoyed the tossing of tinsel on the tree. Stockings were hung on the mantle. We got to open one present on Christmas eve and, magically, more gifts appeared overnight. The gifts appeared overnight long after my brother and I 'knew' about Santa. Christmas morning was always spent with just the three of us, checking out what was in the stockings and having breakfast together before my brother and I headed off to the other kids' houses to see what they got.
Mom may not have been the best cook or the best housekeeper but she was the very best mom anyone could ask for.
Happy Birthday Mom, where ever you are.