In honor of what would have been Mom's 82nd birthday, I asked one of her dearest high school friends if we could meet for lunch. Aunt Pat always impressed me whenever we would see her because she was current on happenings and in great shape due to being an avid walker. Instead, Aunt Pat offered an invitation for me to come to her home which I did and we sat and chatted a bit about Mom. When WWII broke out, Mom was sent to boarding school and while there her father re-enlisted in the Sea-bees and her mom left the state she lived in to go after work. Shortly after mom finished high school her parents divorced and her own mother was gone for 44 years and returned only after her second husband passed away.
As we chatted my suspicions were confirmed however, that Mom was relatively homeless through her high school years. Aunt Pat recalled just how often mom seemed to stay here, there and everywhere that she could bunk in. At times she was at her sister's for more than a few nights and also stayed at some acquaintances of my grandmother's as a mother's helper. But more often than not, Mom was fending for herself.
Somehow her tuition expenses were met because she went to a parochial school but she truly didn't have much family support in her circle. Aunt Pat said she suspected some family turmoil but never knew for certain because Mom never said. She guessed it to be alcohol. Aunt Pat said she had never met anyone like my mom during those years who seemed to always be asking one friend or another if she could come and sleep at their house for a few days. I'm sure I remember my mom saying to no one in particular that she'd never had a birthday party as a child. She also never really talked about any holidays, or holiday traditions and the few pictures we have of mom as a child were taken when she was farmed out to an aunt's farm in Port Huron, Michigan.
So today, to honor Mom for the woman she single-handedly became, we shared some lunch and some laughs and admired how she managed to get through her own childhood relatively unscathed and launched into a 53 year love affair with my father, which produced ten children, nine who survive. We talked about mom's personality which depicts a child of alcoholism. Some detachment, some caustic conversations and trying to control everyone's life at times (since her's was out of control that's often what happens).
How do you learn to become a parent of nine children and manage them without husbandly support? Oh, my dad was around of course, but he worked many jobs to pay for a roof over our heads, put food on the table and parochial school for each of us whether it was some, part or all years of our education. You learn by trial and error and never, ever give up and that's what mom did with us. She never gave up, though I'm sure she'd have liked to throw in the towel more than once and run for the hills. The only problem was we could probably all have chased her down and dragged her back.
Mostly mom just did what the day demanded. She seemed to enjoy baking more than cooking and it wasn't unusual to come home to the fragrant aroma of baking bread or freshly made donuts. At Christmastime our relatives and friends couldn't wait to get their hands on one of Mom's coffee cakes. She was an excellent seamstress, a good cook and a great baker. Mom loved to read and as Aunt Pat reminded me, her conversations had substance. She just loved each of us the best way she knew how.and loved us more than we will ever know, of this I'm certain.
Each passing year I miss my mother all the more. The last few years of her life I was able to be with her day in and day out. A privilege that will never come this way again.
Have a scoop of ice-cream in honor of Donna Jean. Or if you are hankering for one of Mom's favorites, German Chocolate Cake, dig in!