Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart. At our house being a kid took heart also. Before I get started I want it known… my Mother was a saint. Well, maybe more like angelic. No, that’s not it either. Mom was…Mom! She never starved us or made us run around naked and there was always a roof over our head. Although in my room, at night I could hear the mice in the walls and the rain on the roof.
Our old homestead, farm-house was NOT state of the art but it was HOME! And home is where, if you are paying attention, one learns the basics to get through life. Such as…
Cooking Skills… I remember Mom forever being on a diet to fit into some special dress for a special occasion. Her basic diet food of choice was usually salad. Mom had lettuce chopping down to an art. By the time she got done, chunks of vegetables were at half-inch size or smaller… to the point that chewing was optional. The old house had a pull-out cutting board about three feet long with a worn dip in the middle the size of a soup bowl. We were also quick to learn that if we didn’t eat everything on the table at dinner time it would show up in her Saturday Soup… whether it belonged there or not. There was always a little anxiety associated with this meal.
Her teaching of Personal responsibility came with chilling consequences. Shoes were never to be left around the house. I had three pair… one for school, one for play and one for church, and they were not interchangeable. When climbing the stairs for bed, the shoes went too. If not they would be found the next morning on the back porch… extremely cold and often damp. If you were smart you learned quickly. I slipped my feet into cold damp shoes multiple times.
I learned some interesting Cleaning Methods by watching Mom. There were two chores that were always mine. The one I hated most? …dusting the enormous case of bowling trophies my Dad and brothers drug home. Never did understand why I got that job. And… washing and drying the dinner dishes. The old kitchen had a bank of three windows above the counter with the sink and out those windows was the most spectacular view of Mount Rainier. Dishes were a Mom and me joint venture… a time together.
And those mice I heard at night occasionally made it down the walls, to the kitchen and into the vegetable drawer under the refrigerator. I still have a vivid memory of Mom opening that drawer and finding one gnawing on a potato. Calmly she walked to the closet under the stairs, drug out the old canister vacuum, plugged it in and fired it up. With one quick motion she sucked that mouse right out of existence. I can still hear the sound of the vacuum revving until the final thunk of completion… there was no light at the end of that tunnel. This explains the story she would tell of setting the vacuum cleaner in front of the Christmas tree to keep me away… uhhh yeah, I knew the power of that thing. Not sure if this was pure evil or genius parenting?
Mom got up first each morning, went to the basement to put coal in the furnace to warm the house for us. She got her first electric range in the 60’s, never owned a clothes dryer or a dishwasher. She was generous to a fault.
Was she quirky? Maybe. Loved? definitely! I’d wrap my arms around her and tell her one more time… if I could.
Happy Mother’s Day… to all you quirky, loveable mothers.