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11 May 2003

No one to look at her would believe she is 83.  No one who tries to follow her around throughout her week would believe she is 83.  She still has all her own teeth, has more brown than grey in her hair (she’s never colored it), and she does more in a week than I do in a month.

 My mother was born in 1919 in the town of Galt, now unrecognizable as the farm community it was then.  The family moved to a small ranch on the outskirts of town.  She was the 7th of 10 children and reportedly was sick for an extended period time and fed on goat’s milk, to which she credits her good teeth.

 At 5 she was walking the 2 miles to school (presumably barefoot in the snow—I’m not sure about that part <g> ).   She loved to play with paper dolls, cutting figures out of the Sears Roebuck catalog and creating fantasy worlds for herself while sitting at the top of a long flight of stairs going up into the attic of the small home.

 They moved into town while she was still in grammar school and in her senior year in high school, her parents moved to San Francisco.  She preferred to graduate with the class she had gone all through school with and so a couple in town allowed her to live with them and she did ironing and housework to pay for her keep.    (She’s always loved ironing—go figure).

 After graduation, she joined her parents and some of her siblings in San Francisco, where she began working as a bookkeeper for a book store and, in due course, she met and married my father (even his own mother warned her about his temper).

mom1.jpg (15854 bytes) She was always the “cosmopolitan” one in her family—always the best groomed, the most “city-fied” of the brood.  She always—and to this day—knew how to dress, and always looked striking in whatever she wore.

 There were difficulties in beginning a family, but eventually, 3 years after the marriage, I came along.  Watching how she has been with her grandchildren, and with other children, I just know I must have been the most loved child ever to have  been born.  I certainly was the best dressed.

 mom2.jpg (12279 bytes)My sister Karen followed 4-1/2 years later and our family was now complete.  We did all the usual things and I remember what a terrific mother she was to us.  I remember stories we read together, games we played together, puzzles we worked together.  She baked cookies for afterschool snacks, pinned paper bags to the side of our bed when we were sick, so we could drop used tissues in them, brought me hot milk with butter floating in it in the middle of the night if we had a cough.  She made our clothes—even took a tailoring class so she could make tailored outfits.   She was in the PTA and helped with Scouts and did all those Mom things.

 She was a great cook.  Not so much an adventurous cook like I am, or an inventive one like Tom, but nobody can cook a potroast, make a potato salad, or a turkey stuffing the way she can.  I remember fondly watching her sit and peel apples for apple pie—and loved the little cinnamon rolls she would make out of the excess pie dough to give to us.   She also learned from a Mexican neighbor how to make “authentic” enchiladas, a task that took three days (which included time for the home-made chorizo to age).  Her enchiladas were all the rage of many a dinner party.  They were served in a leaf of romaine lettuce and sprinkled liberally with Parmesan cheese.

 mom- 3.jpg (15649 bytes)She was also the hostess I aspire to be and never will be.  She gave (and still gives) wonderful parties, the house always in perfect order, a big smile always on her face, the perfect food, always making people feel comfortable, always keeping things interesting—many’s the night in my youth when the party crowd would roll up the rug to dance, which she loves to do.   (That’s something she learned in her own parents’ living room, when the town would crowd into the teeny space, the fiddlers would haul out their instruments and play, and people would dance into the wee hours of the morning.)

 She and Karen and I were a small army of 3, coping with my father’s mercurial temper, his periods of silence, and all the anxiety that went along with trying to keep peace in the family.   I rarely saw her cry, though she certainly had enough reason to.

 mom- 4.jpg (11759 bytes)When I was in high school, she got herself a job.  My father’s erratic schedule (he worked on a train and his days on and days off were never the same two weeks in a row) made it impossible to get a full time job because she felt there should be someone at home when we returned from school.  But she marched into the Bank of America, offered her services, said that she could only work 3 days a week and it would be a different 3 days each week and she couldn’t tell them until the previous week what the schedule would be like the following week.  Amazingly, she impressed them enough that they hired her.  She went from part time secretary to full time executive during her long history with the bank, and now that she’s retired, she is active with the retirees club (along with several other social groups).

 After 35 years, she finally found the strength to leave a marriage that had long since died and she finally found happiness with her second husband, with whom she shared a wonderful life for 18 years.  He was a general contractor and together they built a home (she learned how to crawl out onto frames to hammer pieces of wood), and she planted a marvelous garden—the kind you see in gardening magazines.  She and plants speak the same language.  They look at me and cower, knowing that I’ll probably kill them.  They look at her and bloom furiously.

 Because so many in her family fell to various forms of cancer, she became active in Hospice of Marin for which she worked tirelessly in their thrift shop.  Hospice helped her through her husband’s cancer death and she continues to devote her time there.  She also belongs to several other organizations, and has been president or secretary for most.  She goes to more fashion shows, luncheons and dinners in a month than I go to in a year.

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With her sister, Barb, and the dog, Maxie

 She is an amazing woman.  She gives tirelessly of herself, to relatives and to strangers alike.  She’s a vicious game player—gin rummy, cribbage, poker, solitaire.  I swear she cheats.  She insists she’s just skilled.

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 She still looks like she walked out of the pages of a fashion magazine most of the time.  She has her hair done every week, her nails are always polished, her house is always spotless.  I must be a throwback to some former generation.

 She is my friend and my closest confidante.  She is my mother and I love her.

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Quote of the Day

No matter how old a mother is, she watches her middle-aged children for signs of improvement.

~  Florida Scott-Maxwelld

Yesterday's Photo

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Mother's Day, 1943

One Year Ago
Is There a Full Moon?
(moon madness)

Two Years Ago
Oh to be in England
(...we entry)

Three Years Ago
The Tooth, the Whole Tooth
(My deep, dark secret)

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Pounds Lost:  67.6
(this figure is approximate)

On the Odometer

Blue Angel Total 932.6
2003 YTD Cumulative:  433.2

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