Sunday, February 25, 2018

Happy Birthday to my Momma

An FYI:  this is a very personal post with nothing to do with home decor, art, or antiques, but I needed to write it.

Mom, stylish, as always

February 25, 2018.  Today, my mother would have been 97 years old.  She would have hated that ("that's too old!" she would have exclaimed, unapologetically).  She's been gone 18 years now.  Most years, the day passes with just a perfunctory nod to the date on the calendar and a quick "Happy birthday, Mom" text to my 2 brothers.  This year though, feels different.  It hit me harder this year than in many years, for reasons known only to the universe. My only guess is that the 3 month old baby (my first child) that I know saved me from experiencing the depths of grief I might otherwise have experienced upon her passing is now 18 years old.  As he prepares to embark on the rest of his journey through this old world as an adult,  heading to college in the fall, I suppose I am beginning to feel that loss as well.
Baby Boy, 2000

Baby Boy 2017

But let's get back to my mother...

Mom and Dad, 1940-something

Lullein, or Lucy, as my dad nicknamed her when they began dating their senior year of high school, lost her own mother as a 1 year old.  She and her older sister spent their young childhood living with their mother's younger sister and her family.  My grandfather did the best he could to visit the girls regularly and he sent them gifts when he could afford it.  After 7 or 8 years, my grandfather remarried, and shortly after, the girls got to come live with their father and his new wife, Una Mae.  Mae never had any children herself, but in her own way, she embraced my mom and her sister and gave them a loving, stable home.  She was a tall, lanky school teacher with a keen mind and a quick wit.  She wasn't super touchy feely, but I know that she loved my mom and my aunt and they loved her right back.  She taught the girls many practical skills, one of which was sewing, I'm pretty sure.

My mom really took to the sewing and it was a huge part of her life.  She loved fashion and she made all of her own clothes.  Once she had kids, she sewed all of our clothes as well.  Now before you think "homemade clothes" and create a picture out of The Waltons in your mind, let me clear something up.  My mom loved Vogue patterns, even though they cost at least twice as much as the patterns from other companies.  She was a perfectionist with her sewing, matching stripes and plaids, using beautiful fabrics, tailoring garments to fit like a glove, and creating outfits that would rival anything Neiman-Marcus had to offer.  She knew which direction the hemlines were heading in any given year and could always tell me what color was going to be THE color of the next season.  She was an introvert by nature, but she had enough pride to always want to look her best, even if she did shy away from truly being the center of attention.  This pride involved being well dressed from head to toe. Now about her collection of shoes...

You see, although my mom loved to sew, I think she would have rather enjoyed buying a few things off the rack.  Problem was, at a petite 5 foot 2 inches and not many "petite" sections in the stores, even if she bought something ready made, she would either spend the money to have it altered (almost never) or bring it home and alter it herself; always another step before she could actually wear the item in question.  When my mom died, I took home a pair of rather new pajamas she had so that I could wear them for myself.  I wore them FOREVER because they reminded me of her and since she had worn them, too, it made me feel close to her. After MANY washings, a shoulder seam on the pajamas popped, and I learned that my mother had actually altered her pajamas 1/4 inch in the shoulders to make them fit perfectly.  WHO DOES THAT??? So, what's a girl to do?  As she told me once, shoes just fit and you can even wear them home from the store if you wish!  So, she really loved shoes because, in addition to being pretty, she could just buy them and then they were good to go.  I guess my love of shoes is something that I came by honestly.  Sadly, my feet bypassed hers in size rather quickly, so all of her beautiful shoes that she had when she passed away went to strangers with smaller feet.  I hope they appreciated them. 😊  So, in acknowledgement of my mother's birthday and our mutual love of shoes today, I decided to go ahead and wear the pair of pink velvet heels (pink being my mom's favorite clothing color).  I love those heels, but haven't worn them much since their purchase.  My day job in a clinical laboratory isn't exactly a high heel kind of gig.  Since I wasn't working, I rocked the heels, in my mom's honor, despite the fact that I only had the most pedestrian of errands to run.

Me, in my pink velvet heels

What else did my mom love?  Margaritas.  But usually only half a margarita, because...well, because she was a lightweight!  I could digress into a discussion of my younger self "helping" her drink her Margarita, but let's leave that for another day.  Suffice it to say, that, in addition to getting myself put together and sporting some of my favorite heels for the day, I had a Margarita for her.  Since she couldn't join me, I did have to drink her half as well as mine!  I think she would have been OK with that, even if I did take the liberty of making mine as I prefer, on the rocks, rather than her favorite frozen version. A toast to the birthday girl!

I should tell you, if you haven't come to the conclusion already, that my mother was my best buddy.  I was a late life baby who brought her joy and kept her young, according to my dad, but she was equally important to me and I followed her everywhere, including the bathroom!  I was with her when she hung the clothes on the line to dry, when she cooked and cleaned, and I sat on the floor of her bedroom and played by her feet while she sewed.  She couldn't have shaken me off if she'd wanted to, but, lucky for me, she didn't want to.  She seemed to enjoy our togetherness as much as I did.  When I got older, we traveled in the summer for weeks at a time in our R.V.  We played a lot of games of Yahtzee, in addition to making craft projects, reading, and sight seeing all over North America with my dad.
Mom and her constant shadow, circa 1967

The family helping me celebrate my 8th birthday.  My eldest brother was taking the photo, so missed getting in the shot. The next month, my very pregnant sister-in-law on the right would give my parents their first granddaughter.
Most of all though, what my mom loved was us. Her family and her home were the most important things in her life and I have no doubt she'd have given her life for ours. She seemed to love her role as a mom with every fiber of her being.  She showed me what unconditional love looked and felt like.  She'd have done anything for her husband, children, or grandchildren.  She worried like crazy about us when things weren't going well and she prayed for our souls when she thought we had strayed from our paths.  She lit up like a firefly when we came to visit once we were grown.  Nowadays, deep in my middle age,  I occasionally think I see a long haired version of her in the mirror when I cast a random glance as I walk by-it's a little disconcerting, actually.  I know I feel her  presence when I look at my own children, in awe that they are actually mine.  I can still remember looking into her eyes as she stood by my bedside when I was in labor with my 18 year old son as though it were yesterday, and it gives me great comfort.  As a child. she was my whole world.  Now, many years later, my world is much larger, but I know that without her, I wouldn't be the person that I am and I feel so blessed to be her daughter.  Mom, today, on the occasion of your 97th birthday, I just want to say, "Happy birthday, Lucy!"  I love you with all of my heart and I miss you more than you would have ever guessed.

Thanks for sticking with me this long, gentle readers.  I needed to share this today.

Until next time,
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