Friday, October 28, 2011
And here is my sainted Mother when she was a Senior in high school.
I look at this picture and I can see a lot of myself in it. Our teeth were identical; the same smile lines. We both have the blue/gray eyes that change from one color to the other depending on what we are wearing and our mood. My cheek bones are higher than hers. We both had auburn hair. In later years her's was completely silver. Mine is still salt and pepper.
Mother worked hard all of her life. I never knew a time when her hands were not busy. I guess the first recollections I have of mom and dad were when we lived on the Alemore place in Nickerson. It must have been located about a mile Southeast of town. I had not started school yet. We lived in a 2 bedroom shack with a kitchen and front room. I call it a shack because it was not painted, not insulated, no electric, the water was in a pump out the back door. Sister Josephine was in charge of us little kids while mom worked in town cleaning houses for the rich ladies.
Now I am sorry to tell you this, because I know her kids read this sometimes, but my sister Joanne, as we called her, was very mean. I recall once when my brother Jake and I walked up to Bull Creek and caught the biggest bull frog you ever seen. I put it in my dress tail and ran home to show her so she would give me a box to put it in. Well when I opened my dress tail that damn frog leaped out right in the front room. She went ballistic and started beating me with the broom. "You catch that damn thing and get it out of here! Hurry up! Hurry up before it pees on my clean floor!"
Well, I do not work well under pressure and crawling around under beds trying to catch that jumping frog was definitely not something I was good at. But she solved the problem by whacking it with the broom and then beating it to death there in the middle of the bedroom. And guess who had the honor of cleaning up that mess? Thirty minutes later my beloved frog was in the field out back and the floor was once more spotless. She did not know that Jake and I buried the frog and I cried. Seems like I spent most of my childhood in tears over one silly thing or another. Jake was always my friend.
Up the road from us was the Rumble's house. They were an old couple who always waved at me when I went by and sometimes I stopped. He taught me the words to Buttons and Bows and when I sang it alone the first time he gave me a shiny dime! Back in those days a dime was a lot of money. I lost it and that was that. Across the road lived the Barthold sisters who were school teachers. They had a forest behind their house and Jake and I used to crawl through the underbrush when they were in the back yard having tea and spy on them. Damn! That was exciting!
Back in those days we had phones and we were all on party lines. The way you used the phone was pick up the earpiece and then crank the handle on the side for what ever the person you were calling's ring was. That is if they were on your party line. Other wise you cranked a long ring and got the operator, Mrs. Humphrey. We were fond of picking up the ear piece and cranking in someone's ear who was talking on the phone. Got a lot of lickings over that little trick.
My dad liked to drink in his younger days. One year he was going to the fair in Hutch and mom made him take all of us. Well, as soon as we hit the fairgrounds he found the beer tent. He lined the three of us up on a bench ( little kids had to stay home) and told us to stay there for a little bit. Hours later he bought us each an ice cream cone before he went back in to have "just one more and then we will go home." As I recall that ice cream it seems like it was probably pineapple sherbert. It was not good. I was hot and tired and kept falling asleep, but we were all three scared to move cause where could we go? Let me tell you, see that sweet little woman up there? She damned near ripped that man's head off his body when we arrived home and she found out we had spent the whole day on a bench while he drank. I actually think that was the end of his drinking days!
Our stay at the Ailmore house ended when a tornado (but they called it a cyclone for some reason) hit and blew everything away except the house and the big cottonwood tree at the end of the drive. But what does any of this have to do with my mother? I will tell you. That period of our lives was spent in abject poverty. That was the period of time when I learned, although I would not realize it for many years, what a real woman must do to survive with her children. My mother had a will of iron and a spine of steel. She went without so us kids could eat. She worked all day and mended our clothes at night. She foraged and canned food for the winter. She could wring the neck on a chicken and have it plucked and in the pot with out ever losing the ethereal quality that shone from her eyes.
There is a passage in the Bible that tells about my mother. It is the one that says "Her husband shall call her blessed and her children shall adore her. She shall rise up early in the morning." That was my mother. If I could be a fraction of the woman she and my grandmother were I would die a happy woman.
I recall the very last time I saw my mother. I had gone for my usual 5 day visit and when I left she was having some problems. I remember looking into her eyes and seeing the my soul reflected back at me. I recall thinking "I will never see my mother alive again." And I was right. I talked to her every Sunday at noon. I always called her at that time so she would not be confused about whether I had called or not. We would talk for about an hour about everything under the sun. I rarely told her my problems, and she was always fine.
As I begin to face my mortality it is the memory of those blue/grey eyes that makes death almost a welcome relief. It is her down to earth common sense that has helped me over the hills and through the valleys of life. I could fill a book with things my mother taught me, and never cover all the lessons. So, I say this to you....If you have a mother cherish her. If you don't then learn to cherish life, because some where some one gave life to you. God did not put us on this earth to just take what it gives, he put us here to prepare it for those who follow behind us. I hope I am doing that in some small way. As I transition from Louella Bartholomew to Lou Mercer and back to Louella Bartholomew, I have remembered all you taught me.
And so, Good night, dear Momma, you did a wonderful job and I will be there one of these days, so watch for me!