Wednesday, June 22, 2005

In Lieu of Flowers

Mom and Her Sousaphone
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
Here’s a photo of my mom taken many years before I was born. I’m not quite sure why she’s blatting away on a Sousaphone. She played clarinet, flute, saxophone, and could fake along on the upright bass and the piano, but I never heard her mention any brass instruments, let alone the grandaddy of them all. I will have to ask my dad about the story behind this photo.

I can’t ask my mom. She died 10 years ago today. A devotee of wheat germ and yogurt other foods of that ilk, she always claimed that she was going to live to be 100. She assured us she was fully prepared to spend decades as a “widdy woman,” presuming that my dad—frequently guilty of polishing off 1/2 gallons of Neapolitan ice cream in one sitting—would kick the bean long before she would. As it happens, my dad is still going strong at age 82 and eating more bad food than ever. The irony.

To hear my mom tell it, she and my dad got married without giving much thought to whether they would have kids. Then one day more than 10 years into their marriage, the priest at their Episcopal Church called them into the vestry (or whatever sort of ecclesiastical cubbyhole priests occupy) and said, “How ‘bout it? When are you two going to have kids?” Here they were pushing 40 and no kids. That sort of thing just wasn’t done (not done?) in the small Central Illinois town where they lived. So my Mom threw away her diaphragm and had her first kid at the age of 39 and her last when she was almost 50. (I have to say I still find it appalling that they allowed a priest to make such a life-changing decision for them.)

Ten to twenty years older than all the other moms with little kids, my mom threw herself into motherhood with gusto, determined to do everything exactly right. She became a disciple of Adele Davis, which meant that sugar and white flour were right out and blackstrap molasses and soy flour were in. We didn’t like it. Not one little bit. We wanted Wonder Sponge Bread and bologna and Doritos and Chips Ahoy cookies just like everyone else. Nor could we watch much TV (AKA "the plug-in drug"), which it was labeled a “time waster” and likely to give us bad dreams. Even Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, Sesame Street, and The Waltons were rationed out. I often wonder if we’d been allowed to watch Gilligan’s Island and Three’s Company willy-nilly if we’d have become the readers we are today.

My siblings and I were certain we had the weirdest, most off-kilter mom in the whole country. But in hindsight I give her an A+. Yeah, maybe she was a little extreme in her restrictions, e.g., a Chips Ahoy cookie or two would have gone a long way toward making us feel more normal, but it’s not like the lack of Nabisco scarred me for life or anything. And I couldn’t agree with her more—now—about TV being a HUGE time waster.

There’s lots and lots and lots more I could say about my mom--about who she was before she had kids and who she became after most of us left the nest. And most importantly about how she always loved us and supported us 100%. I will say more at some point. One of the reasons I started blogging was to record some reminiscences before my sieve-like memory develops even bigger holes—but this will have to do for now.


Post a Comment

<< Home