Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Remembering Mama

Remembering Mama

As I was preparing his bath one night, my grandson Michael came running in, gave me a big hug and said, “Mama, you are the best mama in the whole world.” I would like to believe that—who wouldn’t—but I have to disagree because my grandmother was the best mama in the whole world. She’s gone now, but never forgotten.

Mama (we pronounced it Momma) was quite a lady, in every sense of the word. She always dressed, walked and talked like a lady—so much so we secretly called her ‘the duchess’. She taught me a lot about ‘ladylike’ behaviour, some of which I didn’t heed at the time because I believed, like most teenagers, that I knew it all. I have since learned those ‘old-fashioned’ ideas still hold true today.

Most clearly, I remember how it felt to be held in her arms when we would come for a visit. Mama gave the greatest hugs. Not only that, she smelled wonderful, too. She was always so glad to see us, she would make each one of us feel as if we were the most special person in her life. All of her grandchildren were special to her, each one in their own way. You really had it made though if you were a girl. She had three sons she loved dearly but Mama always regretted not having a daughter.

Don’t misunderstand. The male grandchildren didn’t miss out. She had more patience than Job with the boys’ antics, like the time my brother took her only clock apart and then put it back together with three pieces left over.

We could do no wrong, you see. But, on the off chance that one did do something to annoy her, Mama had her own revenge. All her most prized possessions were reputed to have a person’s name on the back, to be given to them at the time of her death. If you made her angry she simply threatened to take your name off. (I checked once to see if my name had come off something I coveted. It hadn’t. It had never been there in the first place.) That became the family joke. “Watch out! Mama will take your name off of….

My grandmother was much older in years than I am now, when I came along, and I find myself wondering how she had the energy to deal with our noise and games. Used to living alone (she was widowed in the late ‘30’s) we must have driven her crazy with our antics.

One of the things my sisters and I liked to do was pretend we operated the elevator in the department store where my grandmother worked. Mama’s house had been converted into three apartments to give her some extra income so her inside door was quite heavy. This became the back wall of the elevator. This was before elevators had back doors. We then took the door from the basement and opened it to meet the opened door for the closet. This gave us our enclosed elevator. All right, so it was a triangular elevator, but we didn’t care. One of us would be the elevator operator and the other children there at the time would be the store customers. The fight was usually over who would be the operator, and believe me we would fight, quite vocally, over the job. Once that was settled the doors would close. When they opened again it would be ‘First Floor—Ladies Underwear, Shoes and Dress Goods.” The doors would close and then, “Second Floor—Ladies Wear, Children’s Wear,” (and usually in deference to my Grandmother because Millinery (her department) was on an in-between floor not serviced by the elevator) “—Ladies Millinery”. I wonder if she told the store’s owners about this game because they eventually did move ladies hats to the second floor.

My mom and dad blessed my grandmother with five grandchildren, four girls and one poor solitary boy. Can you understand why he sat quietly and took clocks apart? The noise we girls made, squealing as only little girls can, probably drove him to it.

However did Mama stand the invasion? We would all come running into the house, get our hugs and kisses and proceed to help my father go through the cupboards looking for the candies she hid. We banged her cupboards, ran up and down (and sometimes fell down) her stairs, tried on her hats, shoes and jewellry, all while hollering to each other about the treasures we found.

We loved to go through Mama’s attic. It was a real cornucopia of delights. We never got tired of looking through boxes in dark corners of the back closet. The only thing I didn’t like doing up there was sleeping. My oldest sister loved to give us the ‘screaming meemies’ by telling us ghost stories that usually included the attic closet as a setting.

Have you noticed how certain smells can trigger a memory? I cannot smell fresh lemon without it reminding me of the smell of my grandmother’s kitchen. Roses remind me of Mama’s favorite perfume. She used it in her bath, her soap and as a cologne. Maybe that is why I love roses so much.

Most of all I remember Mama for all the love she gave us, unconditionally. Nothing was too good, nor was anyone good enough for her family. Sitting in the porch rocking chair with her as a little girl was one of my favourite things. My sisters and I would fight for possession of the seat beside her, the losers being relegated to the wide arms. We would rock quietly (the only time we were quiet I think) until a neighbour came along. Then my grandmother would sit up very straight (ladies do, you know) and with the dignity of a duchess, introduce us, proudly stating that her family had come to visit.

So you see, I cannot claim to be ‘the world’s greatest mama’ because I still have a lot to learn. I’m trying, though, Mama. I’m really trying.

Friday, June 23, 2006


virgin cherry bomb

This is a poem I wrote as part of a Writer's workshop. The order was to write a poem and I was not big on poetry that wasn't written by Robert Frost so I had my doubts. Since I was very big into geneology at the time this was what I wrote. My brother put it on the family home page and a week later someone stole it and put it on theirs. Anyhow here it is.

Oh woe is me, alas alack
I tried to trace my family back.
From generation to generation
Our family lacked imagination.
Conrads we had, one, two and three
Now maybe four, who knows, not me.
But as the list grows and grows
We realize there were more like those.
Friedrichs, Wilhelms, Johannes too.
Sorting them out is hard to do.
Even birthdates cannot be confirmed
When names were changed, quite often, we learned.
What were they thinking in ages past....
To make their names forever last?
Just when I think I know the score...
I find another. What a chore.
Oh how easier it would be
To make the search begin with me.