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Carol Preisler: Hardworking mom set a great example

I’d like to tell you about Jennie. She was a waitress at Deco restaurants for 25 years. Ultimately she became a manager and took pride in serving at Mr. Deck’s Bishop Committee dinners.

Like many women of her time, she was a housewife supplementing the family income, while showing us independence. Personally, I think standing on her feet all day in a restaurant was (almost) better than being home with five little girls!

My mother was a sweet character. She loved people and had a soft spot for those who needed an ear. Sometimes she would take me to work with her, where I met her regulars. I loved it. We would take two buses to the restaurant. It was always dark outside, and I remember it being cold.

I’d spend the day sitting in a booth and was never bored. I filled little white cups with jelly and was anxious to please. The time flew by and we’d be headed home on two buses once again. At other times she would bring us home grilled hot dogs.

One of my fondest memories is of sitting at our kitchen table, radio on, doing homework, while Mom ironed her uniforms. They were a deep burgundy color and had been washed in our wringer, starched, dried, then sprinkled with the sprinkler bottle and set in the refrigerator. The absolutely fresh smell of steam as the iron glided across the fabric was simply exhilarating.

The “dress” was flawless as were the hankies she also starched and ironed. They had big crocheted edges in all colors and she arranged them in the uniform pocket in such a way as to create a flower. A fashionable pin was placed in the middle. Her white shoes were always polished and ready, drying on the bathroom windowsill.

Jennie loved the movies, and would take us downtown on the bus. In 1960, we went to see a movie starring Ingrid Bergman. However, “The Virgin Spring” did not star Ingrid. The movie had been written by Ingmar Bergman and thus her misunderstanding. It was not PG by any means.

I recall my mother gasping and covering my eyes while my sister Ann and I giggled. I had absolutely no idea what was going on, but found complete joy in knowing my mother had made a huge mistake. I will never know why we didn’t leave, but Jennie admonished us never to tell a soul. When we arrived home I began re-enacting a particular scene, which I obviously did not understand. My sister and I rolled on the floor with laughter, as Mom gasped again.

Eventually Mom retired. She remarried several years after my Dad passed away and moved to San Diego. I missed her every day. The little farm girl had a full life. She suffered from Parkinson’s and passed away.

The last time Jennie spoke to me was in a dream. It was 1997. She was wearing her waitress uniform, healthy, with pink cheeks, and chubby. She told me she would be with me on Christmas Eve at 4 o’clock. One week later I received a flyer in my mailbox. It had a nativity scene on it and stated that my neighbors would be placing luminary bags in front of each home, to be lit at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

It has been many years since that night, but I still light luminary bags every Christmas Eve at 4 p.m. It keeps my mother close to me for a brief moment, just like it used to be all those evenings ago in the kitchen.