My mother’s birthday is today ... Jan. 14. In honor of that special day, I thought I’d dedicate a few heartfelt words to her.
Mom grew up in a lively Catholic family of nine children in Cincinnati, Ohio. She fell somewhere in the middle of the pack, and seems to possess many of the qualities of the classic “Middle Child.” She used to say she didn’t even talk until she was 4 years old—didn’t have to with all the older kids talking for her! I used to love to hear her family stories about her and her sisters and brothers doing ordinary things. It all sounded so foreign to me and terribly fun.
As a young woman, my mom was a beautiful sorority girl with creamy skin, short dark hair and a shapely little figure. She was, in short, a “dish.” I recall poring over photos of her with my sister when we were young, wondering if we would ever look like that. (The answer, in case you were wondering, is a resounding “no!”) And yes, she is still a very pretty lady.
Mom had many suitors and attended a slew of social events (as evidenced by her college diary, which I was allowed to read from time to time.) Her social schedule was a literal whirlwind of parties, dates and, of course, school and a part-time job. I wondered when she ever slept. My mother eventually fell in love with “the boy next door,” who would often come over to play basketball with her older brothers. They had known each other since grade school. Mom graduated from University of Cincinnati with a degree in fine arts and she and Dad were married in 1962.
Although my mom was not a military wife, in some ways, she lived like one. My father was a journalist and a young, ambitious man. That combination, mixed with his feisty Irish-German temperament and a yearning to travel, made my Dad a pretty restless guy. He was (and still is) a talented writer, reporter and editor and was eager to prove himself in different venues. Because of that, we moved an awful lot. But unlike our Army moves where packers, loaders, movers and trucks are provided, my mom did almost all of that herself. I remember her painstakingly rolling lamps and clocks in paper and carefully placing them in boxes. She would often do the moving, more or less on her own, while my dad house-hunted at the new location and began his new job. I still wince and cringe at how little my sisters and I helped out.
Whatever Mom’s personal opinions about a move, I don’t remember her ever feeling sorry for herself or complaining. This probably sounds uber- corny, but her love and commitment to my dad simply overrode anything else. She would quickly set about making each new house a home and that was that. (Hmmmm….a good, early lesson for her daughter who is not always so cheerful about her own moves.)
Besides being a gifted artist—she could draw, sketch and paint beautifully—Mom was also an excellent seamstress, like her own mother. She sewed Halloween costumes for us, (I fondly recall being a nurse one year when I was about 4 while my sister was “Little Red Riding Hood.” We also had adorable “Holly Hobby” doll dresses,) regular clothes and prom dresses. There was many a time she would be whirring into the night on her sewing machine, finishing up a “Gunne Sax”-style gown for someone’s dance the next night. And she always finished it.
As for food, Mom makes a lot of tasty things to eat but one of my favorites is her granola. This honey-and-oil drenched delicacy can rival anything in the grocery stores and is so, so satisfying.
My parents live in Wisconsin now—they’ve been there since 1986 and though the topic of moving comes up from time to time, it remains to be seen whether they will re-locate again. The harsh Midwestern winters they continually endure are worrisome for me and my two sisters and I wish we were closer. I just went home for a few days after Christmas and got to be a kid again, eating my mom’s home-cooked meals and sleeping in a double bed with my sister like we were teenagers. We all shared some laughs, got cabin-fever, and talked about how cold it was.
Mom’s latest “kid” is a frisky, black standard poodle named “Pete” who stares at her with adoring eyes and follows her around. Dogs definitely know a good thing when they see it.
Happy birthday Mom—I love you!