Tuesday, 12 May 2009
M is for the Million Things
By Mary E. Davies of Mary's Real Life
Mother’s Day at our house always got off to a loud start with my dad singing, not the M-O-T-H-E-R song, but,
If it wasn’t for your father
Would your mother be your mother?
So remember Dad on Mother’s Day.
(Is that a real song, or did Dad make it up?)
Despite this quirk, he thought Mom was the cat’s meow. He thanked her for every meal she made, he allowed no disrespect of her in our home and since he talked to her all the time, we discerned how important and smart she must be.
She read parenting books and tells a story about bawling with her own mom outside my closed bedroom door while I wailed inside because her book said to ignore my baby whims and feed me on a schedule.
(Hmm, is that why I like to eat at 7:30 and noon and six? I’m happy with that. Thanks, Mom.)
She seemed to believe there were things a girl would need to know to make her way in the world and she undertook to teach them. Such as sewing my first little blouse at age six. I still remember her saying, “That’s good, Mary, the way you put your hands on both sides of the seam.”
I must be a natural! I thought. She took time to teach “hospital corners” on the sheets and how to cook and vacuum, all of which came in handy when I ran an inn for twenty years.
One year, Mom and Dad sat me and my sister Deb down and said, “We’ll increase your weekly allowance if you’d like to be responsible for buying your own clothes. You’ll have to choose carefully; we won’t be bailing you out.”
We could do the math: Sewing your own = bigger wardrobe. So we did. Because I had to save and plan for them, I can still remember my red leather flats and finally achieving a mix-and-match wardrobe of a different outfit all five school days of the week.
I remember mistakes too - the “angel blouse” I bought despite Mom’s good counsel, a fleeting style that managed to make a lot of junior high girls look pregnant one spring and one spring only.
Mom and Dad had strict ideas about the appropriate age for boy-girl parties. We had lots of fine fights about it, with me flouncing off in indignation and tears. Then one day they said, “Mary, we don’t think this party is a good idea, but we do believe you’re old enough to make a good decision about it. We’re going to leave it up to you.” Well. Of all the annoying things! I had to decide against that party myself, and I couldn’t pin it on anybody else.
Mom wasn’t much help, however, when it came to advice on dating. She only dated two men, my dad and the guy Dad displaced. She was too chicken to break her date with Bob, even though she had also made one with Dad, and they showed up at her door together. She has great stories like that and in telling them, gave us the important idea, I think, that our lives too would be great stories.
She phoned from Michigan the other day to say she was having her first coffee of the year out on the stoop. I can picture her there, in her jeans with the stretchy waistband in back. She probably had her Bible and her journal alongside her, unopened while she watched the birds on the feeder and the branches greening up on the maples.
She was probably thinking about her grocery list or a walk to the library or, no, I’ll bet she was thinking about me, how I’ll be there in July and we’ll be sharing that stoop, that coffee, those groceries and the walks to the library.
May you live forever, Mom. For my sake.