Remembering a mother who was always there - The Buffalo News
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Remembering a mother who was always there

There’s a classic book titled “I Remember Mama.” It was written years ago and eventually made into a TV movie. It was written about a strong Norwegian mother, with love, from her daughter.

My mother was English, and I didn’t call her mama; I called her mother, and I, too, write about her with love.

Mother was petite, a little over 5 feet tall, and had black hair and brown eyes. For my growing-up years, her everyday wardrobe was a plain cotton house dress, with a cardigan sweater if it was cold. Brown cotton stockings and sensible brown shoes. Sunday, she dressed up for church, of course. My dad loved her in red. They were college sweethearts, and he loved her a long time – more than 60 years.

My mother had a routine she followed each week, like most women of her time.

Mondays were always wash days, done in a machine with a wringer. No dryer. Everything was hung on lines in the basement in the winter and in fresh air in good weather. I loved snuggling into sun-dried white cotton socks.

Tuesdays mother ironed and often it took two days. She ironed her cotton dresses and the seven white shirts for my dad. He never had iron-free polo shirts or casual turtlenecks. Old white shirts were saved for any physical labor, the sleeves rolled up. Seven shirts, ironed down to a science, in six minutes each.

I can see mom in the kitchen now, near the radio where she listened to baseball games in the summer while she ironed. She loved the Detroit Tigers, and the iron moved faster when they were winning.

Weekends were for cleaning house, and Saturday afternoons for baking. I can still smell those oatmeal cookies with the plump raisins, warm from the oven.

I mostly remember mom in the kitchen where meals were served promptly at 6 p.m. Hamburger went a long way in those days, but on Sundays there often was a roast in a pan plugged into a wall socket before church, surrounded by potatoes, carrots and onions, making its own gravy and waiting for us when we came home.

Mother was a minister’s wife so she attended the women’s meetings and Bible studies. In the beginning, before the church hired a secretary, I helped her fold the Sunday bulletins on our dining room table.

Mother was a reader. She read to me from the very beginning, real bedtime stories, chanting Mother Goose nursery rhymes. She read to all of us in the car when we traveled any distance.

She read for herself, stories, novels. She read “Gone With the Wind,” almost all in one evening at our summer cottage, by kerosene lamp.

She was a storyteller and belonged to a national story league. She truly came alive while telling stories to many groups, and to us around the campfire on summer evenings.

My mother was very bright. She graduated summa cum laude from college and was the first woman president of her senior class. She taught math and Latin the year before she married my dad. And she was nationally recognized by her storytelling league.

But mostly I remember mother because she was THERE.

She was there in the mornings making hot oatmeal for breakfast, so good with melted brown sugar. She was there at noon when I came home from school for lunch. She was there in the afternoons. She was there at bedtimes, tucking me in when I was little.

I take nothing away from modern mothers with jobs and careers. I was one of them when my children were teenagers.

But I remember mother at home, in her cotton house dress and apron, brown cotton stockings and sensible shoes. With her frying pan and her iron, her dust cloth and her story books. I remember her there.

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