Memories with Mom (to comfort her in her memory loss)
– begun Mother’s Day 2009, completed Mother’s Day 2012
My mom is an Elvis-loving Okie with mostly Irish roots, a public relations editor turned elementary school teacher. She is putting the finishing touches on a biography of Nellie Cashman, a hero of a woman and a woman after my mom’s own heart. Nellie came to America as a child on a hell ship during the Irish potato famine and struck it rich as a mining woman, dying penniless because all the money she made went to helping people. My mom had her own struggles growing up and shares Nellie’s independent, no-nonsense spirit, appreciation of new places to explore, and eye for where help is genuinely needed. She takes after my Grandpa John whenever she helps us kids, saying to help our kids the same way, like Grandpa John said when he would help her.
More About Mom
Nellie would go through hell and back to take medicine to sick miners. Similarly, Mom read manuals when I would get sick, and gave great medical advice (“Am I unconscious, Mommy?” I ask. Mom chuckles and answers, “Yes, you’re unconscious,”) … but I survived.
Listen to how she describes herself on her Facebook profile: “I am a steady person who longs to be a rebel. I love writing, teaching, reading, swimming, gardening, biking, crocheting, oil painting, horseback riding, but most of all hangin’ out with the fam. All of this is based on a real long relationship with Jesus that just keeps getting better. I’m a mom of great kids and a grammy of amazing grandkids. My husband and I have been married 43 years this January and love each other more now than ever!”
- Mom still sometimes says things like, “Now don’t tell me I never gave you nothin’” “Heaven’s to Betsy” or “…Mergatroid” “Yes’m, Roy Rogers” “Sorry, Charlie” “Your mother wears army shorts” and the like. And she is always running on idiom-atic.
- She still keeps a beautiful rose garden, and sometimes a vegetable garden, even though the weeds often threaten to win.
- Mom never has gone long without owning a small dog with too much personality. She takes Cozy in the car with her to get frozen yogurt regularly so the dog wigs out in anticipation.
- She still sometimes knows something we don’t know, and it always has the property of flying if you throw it hard enough.
But it’s been a long time since she blamed everything on the little green men in blue overalls, and Enaj the Rekcolrut (while Dad was pastoring in Turlock). Her booming laugh (which she still has, obviously) inspired a dream in my circa-5-year-old mind in which a line of Raggedy Ann dolls walked from the bus out front, through my bedroom window, back to her office, and turned her into a monster with that same laugh. That was a crazy dream. It was the only time I looked at myself sleeping and sleep-walked through what I thought was an earthquake. It really is a very good, wholesome, contagious laugh, though!
- Mom always played piano and Sylvia and other country music. And Elvis, of course. She still plays piano.
- She tickled us with the excuse that her hand had gone totally out of her control, somewhat like Jim Carrey’s claw on Liar Liar, but better. She made us smile by saying she thought she saw a smile creeping out the corners of our mouth. She bounced us on her knee to a horse-racing song. We did the same when our children came along.
- Mom tooted the imaginary military horn when turning on the lights many a morning. I’m not sure if this is because her dad and my dad served in the military, or if it’s because Mom is Mom. Probably both.
Church and Values
Every church Dad preached at (and the two he pastored at), she organized potlucks and plays we would be part of. Even when Dad wasn’t preaching or pastoring, she involved us in church every Sunday, including church barbecues. She broke it to us easy when we had to leave Turlock.
She didn’t let us have Barbies because she didn’t want us to think that’s how women ought to look. She didn’t teach us that Santa was real because she didn’t want us to think she lied about Jesus, too. Speaking of Santa, she made us pajamas every Christmas and dolled us up for church. She would go all-out. The decked-out Christmas tree with presents underneath, the gift-stuffed stockings, the mistletoe, the Bing Crosby, the Frank Sinatra, the hay-rides and Christmas carols. She decorated everything down to the scent, cooking up unforgettable tastes.
When my Dad was done pastoring in Stockton, she forced us to go to our new church’s youth group and I finally got used to it, made some great friends, and eventually actually wanted to go. The point is—she didn’t spoil me by letting me always get my way. “Suffering builds character,” she would say, as well as “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I love that Nietzsche would roll in his grave if he knew his wisdom was used for domestic purposes to justify sending someone to a Christian youth group against their will.
When she and Dad didn’t know the right answer to my boy-related problem, she took me to the youth pastor. She let me take off from school for that. She never made me feel like I was doing anything wrong in my relationships with boys, never gave me a single guilt trip. She made a big deal out of that virginity ring (now part of my wedding ring) and setting good dating standards, which made a very good impression. I argued a lot with my dad about teenager stuff, but I don’t remember a single argument with my mom, besides her telling me to lay off my dad.
She never criticized me for having so many questions about Christianity. She had the same sort of questions for my dad when they were dating, and did her own research when he was in seminary. She and Dad did their best to get me started on the answers. Although I took a detour along the way, that became the roots for my interest in apologetics.
Even though other church moms advised her otherwise, she didn’t come down hard on me when I would do rebellious teenager things, probably knowing all kids go through it and that it would pass. But she didn’t let me walk all over her, either. She knew when enough was enough, and how to open her hand and let me go, even when I felt entitled to freedom without responsibility.
More of What She Did for Us
- My earliest memory is the bliss of her rinsing my head with warm water from the kitchen sink’s faucet when I was still small enough for that.
- When I was on the potty chair one time, plastic underwear at my ankles, she sang me a song about growing my penis because I asked when mine would grow. I figured the boys who took a bath in our bathtub once just had penises because they were older than me.
- She rented us cool movies like Annie, let us watch cartoons on weekend mornings, let me have a supervised boyfriend at four. Gus. At four. Explains why I let my son have a girlfriend at ten.
- Mom gave me and my sister ALL of her make-up once, and we put it to excellent use all over our bodies, beds and walls. Ok, so she didn’t exactly ‘give’ it to us.
- She bought us girls rainbow flip-flops before a get-together with Uncle Mike. I miss those rainbow flip-flops.
- Mom made us bed spreads and outfits for the first day of school.
- She made me into a butterfly for Halloween one of the few times she didn’t make us into clowns.
- Mom gave us the freedom to run around exploring outside, climbing trees, building forts with bamboo and old church pews, singing on the swings, swimming in the irrigation water, building swimming pools with a shovel, burying each other in dirt and following the train tracks down to the canal.
- She read us stories before nap-time and sang us songs before bed, after which she held me when I would have bad dreams. She taught me on one of those occasions how to properly pronounce “ghosts”.
- Mom didn’t let me get away with calling my sister “caca” or smarting off.
- She took us to the lake a lot and camping a few times, and occasionally Taco Bell. My sister was mad that I got to go to Taco Bell with Mom when I had the chicken pox—it was that much of a treat for us. Now I eat way too much fast food.
- Mom suffered through us honking the car horn when we would go on errands with her (and a couple times when she checked under the hood—that was mostly my brother’s fault).
- She magically untangled my Kermit the Frog swimming suit many times. That was when I started wondering how everything works.
- Mom always got us cake and ice cream for our birthdays, and our favorite breakfast cereal. She always made the best big breakfasts every Saturday morning. She asked for our input when she was making the dinner lists every week or two. She always made sure there was plenty of family time.
- She made sure we had hair-cuts and trimmed nails.
- Mom set us up with paint-by-numbers and made us hot chocolate on the stove on rainy days.
- I never remember her and Dad arguing because they never did it in front of us, that I recall. And she had a great rule for her and Dad’s “breaks” on Saturday mornings: don’t knock or talk by that door unless you are bleeding. These are two reasons why they have been “married 43 years this January”. They are a great example for us.
- She bought us each a candy bar if we were good at the store. I remember the smell of the bread store.
- Mom went to third grade with me the first day at a new school, introducing me to my new best friend Melissa, which really helped me transition to Modesto.
- She always said, “Have I told you lately that I love you?”
- Mom frequently said she would like hanging out with me even if I wasn’t her kid.
- She let me read to my heart’s content. She encouraged me to write after reading my poetry, bought me writing books and signed them with uplifting notes.
- Mom always asked me how my day went, and wouldn’t just take “fine” for an answer. She would listen to my worries and give good advice. I only remember the asked-for, good advice—probably because that’s all she ever gave.
- She planned one-on-one dates with us so we could talk and eat and catch up. We still do this, most recently at Queen Bean and London Fish & Chips. We also enjoy getting pedicures together.
- Before I left the nest she taught me how to drive and, most importantly, cook her famous Mexican Mountains.
- She saved me from having tulle in my wedding flowers, and didn’t get on my case for changing out of my dress right after walking down the aisle. Everything was the way I wanted it in my wedding—she never suggested otherwise.
- After the wedding she bought me tires so that we would make it across the country to North Carolina for Lee’s first duty station. She continued to help us out like that, as Grandpa John had done for her.
Every time she would visit North Carolina and then Arizona, she would show us places we never would have gone and enjoyed if it hadn’t been for her, and she would watch the boy(s) so we could go on a date. She stayed Mom even during my lashing-out phase in Arizona. She spoiled the heck out of us when we came home. She shared her writing process with me throughout all of it, continuing in person more regularly when we came home for good.
Our families used to get together a lot more often but these days we are all very busy with our jobs and families. Some of us are almost done with college and some of us are just starting. Disagreements happen and Mom lets us work it out and remains neutral, praying and advising us to pray, as always. During the school year she gives her all to her students and her writing, is there for us when we call, and checks on us when we don’t. When we show up for church she is there making everybody smile. Most recently she helped me look for a bed and breakfast in her AAA book for mine and Lee’s fifteenth anniversary.
Genetically, she gave me her eyes, her sister’s toes (we don’t know how that happened), and my good marks in language arts.
Mom said she would like me even if I wasn’t her daughter, and I know I would like her even if she wasn’t Mom, but—after thinking through our relationship, I am realizing how I’ve only recently begun to analyze who she is apart from being our mom. It’s funny. I don’t remember her ever complaining that her relationship with me was all give and no take. I think it is because she never wanted to put any expectations or pressures on me to perform that she felt growing up. She said that’s why she never made me take the piano lessons she was forced to take. (She is glad she now knows how to play, and I am now taking my own private lessons.) She said it is why she never made me do all the things feminine women do, or stop me from doing things normally only men do. I think it’s why she and I are both drawn to Nellie Cashman, who followed her own rules in the strength of the grace of Jesus. Mom gave me that.
Thankyou, Mom, and Happy Mother’s Day. :)