Archive for Thursday, May 6, 2004

Old greeting cards speak volumes about moms

May 6, 2004

I decided to call this column Bits and Pieces because it is often written from yellow sticky notes that are left here and there in the house and in the car. Actually, many thoughts come while I'm driving back and forth to Lawrence on the old road. If you ever see me pulled over, you will know that I have stopped to jot a thought down on whatever comes to hand -- sometimes an old bill, a bank deposit slip (I always have lots of those), or even a Kleenex.
With Mother's Day coming up next weekend, I combed through my sticky notes and found lots of thoughts about my own mother and grandmother. Combing through about 20 years of accumulated memorabilia these past few weeks, I found scores of Mother's Day cards given to me by my children from the recent past as well as those created from construction paper and crayons that date back to time eternal.
Reading each card again is like a re-run of the past. Choosing which ones to keep is a problem. Using the criteria that I would keep each card that had a handwritten message was no help. I still couldn't decide, so I dumped them all back into a large plastic storage box that will wait until the next time I feel the urge to purge or shred. Or they may wait for my children to make those decisions.
While going through these cards I found some that were not only from my children but from friends' children and my own mother and grandmother and aunts. Those really touched a nerve and a multitude of memories.
Not all of the cards were Hallmark. My Gramma Parker's cards were often those sent by religious missionaries with the hope of receiving a donation, and mom's were sometimes homemade. My aunt even wrote a message on the back of a wedding napkin.
All of these good-will wishes bring back memories of each of these women who were so important in my life and who formed and molded me until I finally found my own voice and my own way.
One sticky note recalled thoughts about my grandmother, who was truly unique for her generation. Marrying later in life, she had five children and never fit the mold of a housewife, as her interests lay out-of-doors among nature and her garden. My mother, being the oldest, said she always had to bind up the bones and wipe away the blood of her younger siblings, as Gramma always fled to the neighbors during a crisis.
Of Gramma, one of my sticky notes recorded, "She was a free spirit dedicated to nature while Granpa was a handsome, crusty, tobacco-chewing curmudgeon with a soft center much like the cherry chocolates he so loved to receive at Christmas." They were an odd couple, but somehow they endured and lived together for more than 60 years.
My mother was quite unlike my grandmother, although she too was a master gardener. Of her I found a note I had written some time back. "Mom was a complicated person... bright, intellectual, sometimes self-centered, and moody. But as complicated people often are, very interesting."
She viewed life from a different perspective than most. While rummaging through stuff in the basement recently I found a small birthday book of hers in which she had written a dedication to her own dead parents, which says more about her than about them.

In Memorial to Mom and Dad
"And yet they, who are long gone, are in us, as
predisposition, as burden upon our destiny, as
blood pulsates, and as gesture that rises up out
of the depths of time"

There is no acknowledgement of the source of this poem, but it obviously meant a great deal to her to have recorded it in the beginning of that little book in which she recorded birthdays of family and friends.
Mothers are such a big part of our life -- for good or for bad. As I like to say, "They loom large in our circle," and I find myself so often thinking, "Yes, Mom was right about that." What satisfaction that would give her to know that I finally appreciate her wisdom.
A regret I have and one I recall now as this Mother's Day approaches: One Saturday when I was a full-time working person Mom asked me to take her to lunch. By this time she was using a walker and a wheelchair but still had the energy to get out and go. I was upset because I had plans for my precious two-day weekend that did not include a leisurely lunch with my mother.
I did take her, but resentfully, and I still remember the look in her eyes that day. She did not comment, but I knew she read me very well and sensed my resentment. I can't remember what it was I wanted to do that Saturday, but I have never forgotten the look in her eyes and would give a lot to relive that day.
This Mother's Day go out of your way to acknowledge your love and concern for your mom. As my mother-in-law Gramma Laws used to say, "She's the best friend you will ever have."

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