A few early childhood memories (of Mom)
I’m nearing the half-century mark, and I am very fortunate and happy to say my mother is still with me. In light of Mother’s day (a few weeks ago), I wanted to share a few early memories I have of my Mom, that are special to me.
Being a mother means that your heart is no longer yours; it wanders wherever your children do. ~Author Unknown
I am the youngest of four and the baby of the family. I like to think I had a special little bond that my older brothers and sister didn’t have. I know growing up, there wasn’t any favoritism, but I can’t recall ever seeing the others off by themselves with mom……ever. Although, what would I know. It may just well have been that they were busy with their friends while I sat at home, and she might just had been accommodating the poor little lonely kid!
We lived on a “non working” farm. We had lots of chickens and roosters, numerous cats, 2 family dogs (Rusty and Shane), a horse (Buck) and a mean pony, (appropriately named) “Sassy”. I hated that pony. Well, I guess I was more ‘afraid’ of him than anything. He chased me a lot and bit me one time. From then on I hated to be in the fields even remotely close to him. I loved Buck. He was beautiful. He nudged me all the time to pet him. He was super friendly. Except for the egg bearing chickens, and a few nasty roosters, the rest were all pets.
I remember Mom planting vegetable gardens over the years, and I always enjoyed eating carrots and leafy lettuce fresh out of the ground. I cannot recall ever washing them before I ate them. We didn’t plant corn, because the neighbor farmer had fields of corn. We helped ourselves to it! Our garden was pretty far from the house, and if memory serves me correctly, there wasn’t a water spicket nearby, so mom had to lug lots watering cans one by one to the garden everyday. Without a doubt, us kids helped too; especially me. I was moms shadow. I followed mom wherever she went.
The garden sat between a huge white barn, that became an “off limits” two story garage. Eventually, at some point, all us kids snuck in there. At the other end of the garden, was a small shack, in which my sister and I made our play house. We kept our girly toys and things there and played house with each other and our friends. Eventually, our older brothers crashed the place and turned it into their fort. So, when I wasn’t pulling carrots or listening to mom singing while she worked in the garden, I was in the play house decorating with found treasures from the other barns, or that we picked up from the abandoned railroad tracks on our property. I remember Mom sewed us some. curtains for the windows to dress the place up. I remember having tea parties and making mud pies with old tin pans that mom had given us, always remembering to “add the cup of love” into every pie!
After my brothers “took over” our playhouse, we moved into one of the corncribs. Tucked way into the back end. We had a lot of cat visitors in our new place. I still snuck into my brothers fort whenever mom was in the garden, and while they were at school.
We had a small electric organ in our dining room. It had a dark wood color and the matching bench had a bright red fabric seat. After turning the little brown knob on, on the organ, it had to heat up for a few minutes. Once it was ready, to make the notes last, you had to pump the peddle with your foot. I would always sit on the organ bench alongside mom and listen to her play. She taught me how to play Mary had a little lamb, and My Country tis of thee, and chop sticks! Mom sang to me. I loved hearing her voice. She sounded like a country singer. One song that really stood out was one that I thought she made up about her Daddy (who lived pretty far away in Newfoundland, Canada). It was called “How far is Heaven”. Later in life, I learned it was an old Kitty Wells song. One of moms favorite country and western singers.
Through the years, I often found myself singing that song, only I never really knew the exact words. I made them up. With the great technology we have now, it is stuck on my playlist on my smartphone. With no disrespect to the late Miss Wells, I still think mom sang the song so sweetly. I wish I could have her record herself singing it, but knowing her own father is in heaven now, I think it would make her sad.
My father used to be away a lot. Being a child, I always assumed it was for his work. He was Chief of Police for our small town. Turned out, all his late nights were spent cheating on my mother. (Rotten s.o.b.) I never really cared when he was gone, other than knowing it made my mom sad. I didn’t care, because it meant, I could have late nights with mom. I always snuck down in the middle of the night and mom would make me warm milk and toast which she cut up into little tiny pieces. She made herself tea, and I would also occasionally take sips of it. Looking back, I think that may have been when I developed my strong love for hot tea! Back then, she drank Salada tea, with the little quotes or sayings on the tags. I often thought how cool that was. Smart tea. Such words of wisdom. Later on, she switched to Red Rose tea, which to this day, is my favorite. Sitting alongside mom at the kitchen table in the wee hours made me feel like a princess. Sitting on her lap when I could tell she was upset, made me feel like I was comforting her…..I may have been small, but I deep down knew something was troubling her. I think she needed me to sneak downstairs every night. A few times Dad surprised us and came home before I could run upstairs. He got mad and I think jealous that I had such quality time with my mom. He would make up stories that I was found on our porch in a roasting pan, and that they “adopted” me. What a horrible person would try to have their little child believe they were left in a pan or that they were adopted when they weren’t.
I went on walks with my mom around the property, picking raspberries and black berries. Mom also planted wild rhubarb (Burdock) in a flower garden near the house, and we would share the bitter stalk while flower picking. I remember there was an old cow skull in the center of that flower bed, that always gave me the creeps. In the twelve room house, there was only one bathroom. Mom told me if I ever had to go number two, and someone was in the bathroom, I could use the wild rhubarb leaves as natures toilet paper. I used her little trick a couple of times. Brushing past that creepy, boney, cows head and dashing into the tall overgrown fields to do my business. We had paths made in the cornfields, and also in the tall grass fields so no one could ever see. To this day, I’m not really sure if any of the others went to the bathroom outside. Hey, don’t judge……it was the early 70’s. Even princesses gotta poop, even if it has to be without a throne! =)
I think I was in 3rd grade when mom took a job at a laundromat. She had to walk several miles to get to work. (Back in the day, many years ago, when I was a small lass lol). Sometimes I would go with her. We would have to walk a railroad bed along the way and behind the old Acme was where some unused trains were parked, off the tracks. They looked abandoned. We always felt like we were being followed. Turned out, we were. He was a rather tall, gangly looking man who wore all green clothing. We called him “The Green man”. (Yeah, we came up with good names didn’t we? Lol) In retrospect, I can’t believe how dangerous it could have been. That guy knew where my mom worked. He knew our paths we took. He was always behind us when we walked, or sometimes waiting up ahead. It was creepy. Mom pushed me in the huge canvas laundry carts all the time, when I went to work with her. I watched her greet customers all day long and tag and bag their clothes, and work the cash register. I really admired my mom. I saw her as being a pretty, strong and very smart lady. I looked up to her. She not only took care of us four kids, cleaned our whole house, cooked three meals a day, always had time for me and my brothers and sister….but, She also took care of three foster kids. Whenever my Dad brought home patrolmen that worked for him…which he did often (and without warning). She would drop everything and prepare a meal for everyone and/or coffee and desserts etc.
Off the kitchen, we had a washroom. It had a big farm sink and a washing machine. And also an always broken machine next to it. Under the window was a small table that held the house phone. (Remember the phone number 6591 for a later post). Do you believe in those days we got by with only one phone? We didn’t have an answering machine. We had a notepad and a pencil next to the phone for messages. We kept our shoes and coats in the washroom too. Before dinner we always “washed” up in the washroom. We also filled jugs with water in the big sink. After the clothes were washed in the machine, I would follow mom outside, where she would hang the clothes on the clothesline. (We had two). I helped mom, by handing her the clothespins. I loved those clothespins. They were all wood. I hated when occasionally, I would pick up one with a metal clip. I didn’t like those. (I still don’t! But worse yet, are the cheap plastic ones now, with the metal clip). Mom had a nice homemade clothespin bag that she kept on the line, and two long wooden posts that she rose the clotheslines up off the ground with. At one end of the post there was a small slit where the clothesline would sit between. I remember doing the laundry with mom all the time. I remember helping to take the clothes off the line too. I watched her closely, and she taught me how to fold clothes. They always smelled so fresh, clean and crisp.
Sometimes I would go to my parents bedroom. Only when my Dad wasn’t at home. He wouldn’t allow anyone in his room. Mom always let me in. I would sit on the edge of their bed, when mom would be picking out her clothes for the day, or if she was putting my dads clothes in his dresser or closet. We would have little talks. I would look forward to it when she brought her jewelry box over and we would look through it together. Even later in life, we still do this whenever I get the chance to visit her (she lives in Florida). Mom still has the same jewelry box. A black box with a colorful Chinese (floral) type design on it. Inside it has a two-door tray with tassels for the handles and an open section underneath. I’m pretty sure it played music. A Doctor Chivago type melody. (If memory serves me).
After watching my mom pick out her clothes, I would wait patiently outside the bathroom, for her to bathe. Once she opened the bathroom, and was dressed, I would sit on the toilet and watch her in the bathroom mirror. I was captivated by her, the way she put on her makeup. I can remember she used Maybelline mascara in a bright red tray with a tiny brush. She would wet the brush and rub it across the caked mascara tray and then comb it up and down her top and bottom lashes. That little tray seemed to last forever. Orange or coral toned lipsticks were her usual lip colors. On her eyes she wore purple or blue with a light frost just below her brows. Back in the day, a kerchief was always worn around her neck. My mom never felt comfortable with low cut shirts or blouses, and the kerchiefs made her feel more secure I guess….in addition to hiding her red neck when she would get hot flashes. I don’t think I have ever seen my mother in a pair of jeans….ever. She has always lived in polyester pants or shorts or shin length dresses. I can picture her in the garden many years ago, wearing a floppy hat…. good times!
I remember going with my mom all the time to a little thrift store in town. It was run by our church. I can’t remember the name of it, but as a kid, I really, really loved going there. I know that just has to be the reason I love antiquing and thrift store shopping so much. Mom influenced me in so many ways. A funny memory of one of our jaunts to that thrift store when I was a little older…..We parked in the parking lot away from the store. Did some shopping and lunch etc. and we got back into the car, and mom put the car in drive, and drove right over the parking meter. You know the kind, they were about 4 feet tall, and you had to put a quarter, nickle or dime in and it allowed you to park for so many minutes. This thing was huge. It was buried in the ground by about 3 feet of cement, but mom took it completely out of the ground. One of those moments when you just look at each other in disbelief and start cracking up! It was hysterical!!!
Memories from my childhood are few and far between, but those that I have almost always include my mom. Whether she knows it or not, my mom has had a huge impact on me, and the kind of mother I am today. My childhood with mom in my early years is a memory I hold very dearly in my heart. She is truly an inspiration to me.
While going through photos for this story, I came across a photo of Mom on her bicycle. As I looked closely to her picture, I realized, that I ride a bicycle that is almost identical to hers. Same color, style, and even a basket with flowers! I bought mine when I was on vacation in Carolina beach with my husband about 15 yrs ago. I fell in love with it the moment I saw it…..it never dawned on me before, but now I know why!
For Mom, ILY
A mother’s happiness is like a beacon, lighting up the future but reflected also on the past in the guise of fond memories. ~Honoré de Balzac