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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.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Mary - This is a beautifully written tribute to your mom. I envy your relationship. I loved my mother, but we were never close. Other than the word 'No', I don't recall any helpful words of advice from either of my parents. (One of my older sisters loves to tell how she lay in bed crying, thinking she was bleeding to death when she had her first period!)

As a child, any emotional issues had to be dealt with internally. Isn't there a wise old saying,"He who acts as his own therapist, has a fool for a client!"?

You had a wise mother and I think your tribute to her is lovely.

Obviously, you were also a good scholar and learned many skills from her.

Mary darling, I just love you and your very special
mother. That's just the way I feel about mine and not a day goes by that I don't think about her!
I have had a very busy and productive life and now that I am on the downhill run, I look forward to seeing her again! Thank you for reminding me of how great that will be!

Thanks, Mary, for the lovely story about your dear mother. My Mom taught me to sew, but what I'm most grateful for are all those strait wool and dirndl skirts of the '50s she lovingly clothed me with. I always felt "in style" during high school. She was a whiz with her little Singer Featherweight machine and could produce on it everything from Prom Formals to canvas lawn soakers.

Also, speaking of High School, I am forever grateful that she insisted that I take typing, even though I was on the "college track", because "you never know when you might have to support yourself." Well, you can imagine what a boon touch typing is in this computer age! Who woulda thunk it?

I enjoyed revisiting these fond memories thanks to your memoir.

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