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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mom

If my mother was still living, today would have been her 79th birthday. She died in '95, and truth be told I've never "gotten over it." I don't know if I ever could. I don't know that we're meant to. Last year I wrote a tribute to her virtues, but in reading over it now, I think I may have forgotten to give a picture of what a figure of pure FUN and delight my mother could be.

She grew up in a poor family in the 30s and 40s. Pictures of her from that time period are hard to come by, especially compared to the sheer number of pictures people take today. She's in her mid-teen here, rolled up jeans, posing with a baseball bat. She and her sisters all played softball growing up, in school and on teams. She picked up the love of the game from her immigrant father. For close to 30 years we had full season Padres baseball tickets. Dad and I were both huge fans of the game too -- but mom was the one who was the "go to" who remembered who was traded for whom, and all the statistical details. When each of my parents died, I ensured a ball that was caught at one of the games went in each casket. (Yes, we sat behind home plate, and yes I have a stash of them from over the years. Not a huge number, but more than most people come up with in a lifetime.)

Mom also LOVED to travel and was extremely down to earth and never put on airs. And she didn't have much truck with people who did. She loved to garden and had a green thumb I could only dream of having. [I think I got a recessive "kiss of death thumb" from somewhere, because dad also had a green thumb.] My mom was also very good at "fixing things" in the carpentry department. Also a talent she got from her dad. Her ONE, SOLE advice to me as in matters of love and marriage was "don't EVER fall in love with a salesman, because they can't fix squat." [Dad was a saleman, who couldn't fix squat, as you may have guessed.] But mom had "the golden hands." When I was growing up we'd wait for him to go on a business trip before we'd change out the screen doors. Dad would attempt to "help" and the job would take twice as long.

As for traveling she was always ready to go some where. She loved seeing new places and old favorites. She was my favorite companion to go to Europe with, which we did together a number of times. Also Hawaii was a big family favorite. We were always at our best as a family when on vacation.

My favorite travel story with her was this: We'd decided to take the hovercraft from France to England. [Do they still have that?!] She hated small, fine print, and had asked me to fill out her declaration form for her. I asked her (she'd who'd been a housewife ever since she married my father) "what profession do you want me to put down for you?" She said, "oh, 'housewife' is so dull -- just put down 'socialite.'" I snorted, she laughed and said "Well, I'M SOCIAL, why not?"

Why not indeed? So I duly filled it in on the form. An hour or so later we'd finally gotten to the front of the line at customs and stood before a beaming young British lady who was looking at our forms. I'd quite forgotten my mother's exchange with me (we'd been distracted and amused by two travellers trying to elbow their way by everyone -- rather unsuccessfully, I might add.) But almost out of the blue, the Custom's lady looked at my mother (who was wearing non-descript "mom jeans" and a pull over shirt, and she said: "What's it *like* being a socialite?" We all burst out in gales of laughter.


ArchAngel's Advocate said...

The proper response to the custom lady's query would be "Just like being a social but with fewer caolires"

gemoftheocean said...

ROTFL!!!!! you must be thinking of the "social x-rays" in Tom what's his face's "Bonfire of Vanities!" :-D

Adrienne said...

Nope - you're not supposed to "get over it." My grandma died when I was 9 (I miss her still), and my Mom once told me that not a day goes by that she didn't miss her mother.

My Mom died when I was 36 (I'm 63 now, and not a day goes by that I don't miss her.

gemoftheocean said...

I'm with you, Adrienne. My mom died the month before my 39th birthday. and not a day goes by I don't miss her. I remember not long after she died, I was talking to an older lady who'd lost her mother more than 20 years ago. She said to me "There are times when something happens that's so funny I get the thought 'I GOTTA call mom and tell her....' "and then she remembers.

Well, FWIW, I bet Queen Elizabeth wasn't feeling so hot yesterday either. (Her mom sharing the same b'day as mine.)

Stephen said...

No, no hovercraft now between England and France - just conventional ferries, catamaran ferries (replaced the hovercraft - slightly slower but much more comfortable) and the tunnel (drive-on vehicle shuttle trains or the Eurostar trains from London to Paris and Brussels). You can, though, still take a hovercraft from Portsmout (well, Southsea) to Ryde on the Isle of Wight; in bad weather, that journey might well be the bumpiest seven minutes you'll ever experience.

0s0-Pa said...

At least there are memories there to help us cope with such times. I know that whenever we take a vacation to a spot we used to go to when I was younger, I remember my family members, especially my mom.
-Jack @ Family Vacation Spot

gemoftheocean said...

Stpehn, so help me, I get sea sick when we're tied up at the dock, but not so much when the boat is actually moving. In the 70s my mom and dad owned a small fishing boat.

Typical conversation:

Mom/Dad: Karen, want to come along fishing today?

Karen: Are you guys staying IN the bay, or going off point loma [into the open ocean] or down to the Coronado Islands?

Mom/Dad: Off point loma.

Karen: Have a nice day.

I've never actually thrown up, but came darn near once when I was taking the boat from San Pedro to Santa Catalina (26 miles across the Sea, Santa Catalina is waiting for me) It was kinda rough, but I was up in the bow, getting and much fresh air as possible. And then woman threw right up in her hand. I almost lost my own cookies. I'm okay if the boat is actuallly moving.

Jack, yes, thanks for adding to the thread. I agree, the memories help one cope and usually you tend to block out the bad ones and remember only the good ones. With mom it was mostly good ones except for the perennial mother/daughter "clean up this room" one. But I think it was par for the course.

Stephen said...

The SeaCat catamaran ferries that replaced the hovercraft between Dover and Calais are known by those who work on them as 'vomit comets', because so many passengers apparently *do*. Because the boats have twin hulls, in rough seas they pitch from side to side as well as up and down. I don't get seasick particularly (it helps that I was used to going on ferries from a very young age, we usually went abroad for family holidays but we never flew, it was too expensive), but I find the motion sensation on the SeaCat quite unpleasant.

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