Birthdays and Memories of Mom
“Motherhood: All love begins and ends here.”
My mother’s birthday and my birthday are one day apart and they both occur this week. And of course, Mother’s Day isn’t far behind. So, my mom is on my mind more than usual.
The story goes that when my mom was in labor with me at 11:15 pm, her doctor asked her if she wanted my arrival to be delayed so that we could share a birthday. My usually calm mother said, “Are you kidding? Hell, no!”
Mom could be spirited like that. But most of the time, she was a kind, patient presence that was always loving and reassuring. She passed away in November 2015 and I miss her deeply, still with emotion so raw that it can stop me in my tracks. As I face a second birthday week without her, I want to document some memories of my mother that I know will become even sweeter with time.
“Home again, home again, jiggidy-jig!” To this day, I repeat this phrase upon pulling into my driveway, after a road trip. I wonder when Mom first heard this phrase. For some reason, the words are comforting – maybe because I can hear her saying them – light-hearted, yet reminding us both that home is where we always returned.
“Hell’s Bells!” Never in my life have I heard anyone else utter these words. What in the world do they mean? Mom would make the exclamation whenever she wanted to curse but of course, didn’t. Even though Mom was born in New York City, she spent her entire adulthood in that bastion of southern charm, Richmond, Virginia. Okay, I have to google the phrase. OMG –Hell’s Bells is a 1929 Disney-animated film! According to Wikipedia, the plot involves Satan and the demons gathering for a wild party. After the demons play music, Satan has them “milk” burning flames out of a dragon cow and he drinks it. He then feeds one of his little demons to his three-headed hound Cerberus. The other one runs away and eventually kicks Satan off a cliff where he is consumed by flames.
What a surprise – a scary movie spawned one of my mom’s favorite phrases! I’m speculating that the phrase, Hell’s Bells, became popular while Mom, who was born in 1929, was a child. Maybe she even saw the movie during her childhood years in the immigrant tenements of New York City.
Mom was a successful career woman, long before it was acceptable or common. She wasn’t a feminist but she loved her work. She tirelessly worked her way up to Director of Health Care Services in a large continuing care retirement community and her co-workers became her best friends. I admired her success, her professionalism, and her dedication. I started my career in the same line of work, trying to emulate my mother. While I ultimately realized that my talents led in a different direction, Mom was my role model until she retired. Her long-time boss and a good friend gave the main eulogy at her funeral – I know Mom was pleased!
My parents had a loving relationship – at least until my dad, who was famously an intimidating guy, began hurling insults at her in his advancing dementia. In the last couple of years of his life, Mom would call me every night, alternately despondent and angry, as she tried to cope with their new reality. Neither one of them every really accepted their own aging.
“Aging isn’t for sissies; that’s for sure.” After Dad died, we convinced Mom to move into a retirement community, close to my home. Unfortunately, her escalating physical problems, including dementia, prevented her from enjoying her last days. Once, I remember bragging about her career to the staff where she lived. After all, she was an expert in geriatrics! She later asked me not to do that anymore because she didn’t want to be embarrassed by her failing memory if they asked her any questions. It broke my heart to witness her distress.
I will celebrate my birthday this week in low-key fashion, at my favorite local restaurant, with my husband. The next day, I will raise a toast to my mother – a southern lady, an accomplished woman, my mentor and my best friend. I miss you, Mom!
Nature — the Gentlest Mother is
Impatient of no Child —
The feeblest — or the waywardest —
Her Admonition mild —
In Forest — and the Hill —
By Traveller — be heard —
Restraining Rampant Squirrel —
Or too impetuous Bird —
How fair Her Conversation —
A Summer Afternoon —
Her Household — Her Assembly —
And when the Sun go down —
Her Voice among the Aisles
Incite the timid prayer
Of the minutest Cricket —
The most unworthy Flower —
When all the Children sleep —
She turns as long away
As will suffice to light Her lamps —
Then bending from the Sky —
With infinite Affection —
And infiniter Care —
Her Golden finger on Her lip —
Wills Silence — Everywhere —