YOU EVER KNOW THAT YOU'RE MY HERO?
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 (shes 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 goats
milk, to which she credits her good teeth.
At 5 she was walking the 2 miles to school
(presumably barefoot in the snowIm 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.
(Shes always loved ironinggo 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).
She was always the cosmopolitan one
in her familyalways the best groomed, the most city-fied of the brood. She alwaysand to this dayknew 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.
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 clotheseven 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 pieand 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.
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 interestingmanys the night in my youth when the party crowd
would roll up the rug to dance, which she loves to do.
(Thats 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 fathers 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.
When I was in high
school, she got herself a job. My
fathers 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 couldnt 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 shes 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 gardenthe kind you see in gardening magazines. She and plants speak the same language. They look at me and cower, knowing that Ill
probably kill them. They look at her and
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 husbands 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.
With her sister, Barb, and the dog, Maxie
She is an amazing woman. She gives tirelessly of herself, to relatives and
to strangers alike. Shes a vicious game
playergin rummy, cribbage, poker, solitaire. I
swear she cheats. She insists shes just
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.