My mother grew up in New York City never learning how to drive a car before she left. When she moved to Frederick, MD for college, she fell in love with the country life. She loved gardening and flowers. Her gardens were quite unorganized and messy compared with my father’s orderly rows of onions and cantaloupe.
When the daffodils came in, she would send my niece off with scissors and a grocery bag to gather them from the neighbor’s lane. I remember walking in the kitchen and the table covered with mounds of daffodils. My mother would put vases of these flowers all over the house. She was as reliable as crocuses in the spring.
At fifty-seven sometimes I am mature, but these days I’m more like a frightened young man. I am happy sometimes, but like the weather, things have gotten pretty dreary. I jogged in the light rain for fifteen minutes around the parking lot circle. My mother used to march through the downstairs rooms to big band music playing on NPR until Dad said she was wearing a track into the carpet.
Now I’m taking my good friend for a frozen coffee at Frederick Coffee Shop–not much conversation, but I am comfortable with her in silence. It will be a quiet Christmas this year, and that’s OK with me.
On Halloween we would pile into the back of a red Chevy truck and be driven around the neighborhood. Trick or treat, give us something good to eat. We knew which house gave candy bars and who gave apples. Often, we would throw the apples back at the house they came from. One year my mom wrapped my head with toilet paper and tape. I was proud to be the mummy until the rain turned my head into a soggy mess. At the end of the night I consumed mass amounts of chocolate. Snickers was always my favorite.
“Hey Mom, I’m not going to school today,” I announced.
“Oh… you’re not? What is the matter?” she asked.
“Last night I threw up all over the toilet. I got some on my shirt.”
I showed her the stain on my shirt, which was really chocolate milk.
“Well what did you eat yesterday?” she asked.
I ate two big bowls of Lucky Charms. I ate my school lunch and Tommy Smith’s lunch because he wasn’t hungry. A couple people in the cafeteria gave me their cake. After school I had Pop Tarts at Grandma’s with ice cream. Then we had dinner–ham, green beans, potatoes, bread. For a bedtime snack, I had a peanut butter and banana sandwich.
My mom said she was going to put me on a diet. She said I should get upstairs, wipe off the toilet, and get ready for school.
Mom dug up some worms. She took me and my new Zebco 33 push button casting rod on a pond fishing adventure. I was a little scared because I was only four years old.
Mom cut the squirming worm in half. I saw some of its guts come out. She took the hook and stuck it through the worm over and over. She put on a plastic bobber, and then she cast it out into the muddy pond.
Hey Mom the bobber is moving! The bobber went under, and mom held onto the rod. I knew she had a big one. Mom couldn’t get my Zebco 33 reel to work right, so she just started walking backwards and the giant sunfish came right out of the pond. My mom caught a huge fish–it was nearly three inches long with sharp teeth like a shark.
Our fourth of July picnic in our front yard was attended by over one hundred relatives, and friends. When my grandmother, who had memory problems, walked from her yard to join the party she was wearing some sort of purple fish net shirt with nothing beneath it. Not even a bra. She was eighty-five, and the party was stunned, watching my mother try to cover her, and escort her back to her home. There was lots of alcohol consumed at this party so most people quickly forgot. I can still picture her walking happily into our party ,forty years ago.
My mother was a great woman. A graduate, with Honors, from Hood College. A self taught expert on the history of Frederick County .A leader in the community with regards to historic preservation. And yet she could never learned to ride a bicycle. she was uncoordinated , a horrible athlete.She couldn’t even play badmitton.
She never really learned to drive correctly. A head on collision on hollow road, she knocked a post over at the post office. She drove our VW beetle through the back wall of our barn.
Mom cooked for a hungry family of seven. I can still picture her sleepy headed fixing our bag lunches. Then find out later she forgot to put bologna on my bologna sandwich.
She considered herself a creative artists and after spending hours on another watercolor she might say, “Stevie how do you like this? Often I would get a puzzled look on my face and reply, “What is it”?
Sometimes it was hard to visit my mom. She might quickly take my hand, and then I would realize she had mashed potatoes, and gravy in her hand. Even near the end it was worth it to go see mom, for suddenly she might look at you, and give you a big smile.I will always miss that.