Saturday nights with Mom

Christmas 1979 - Probably the first documented evidence of Mom indulging in my clotheshorse tendencies.I had to go to the drug store tonight to pick up a few things and I got quite distracted on the cosmetics aisle. I probably only spent about 15 minutes looking, but it made me think of my mom. When I was a teenager, my dad worked in one or the other of the family’s businesses as a truck driver, taking two runs a week up to Atlanta to pick up produce. One of the runs was over Saturday night/Sunday. So, many times when my younger brother went on Dad’s run with him, Mom and I would hang out together. I’d help her get her materials ready for Sunday school (she taught the 3 year olds).

By the time we were done getting the arts and crafts stuff finished, it was usually fairly late. Even though we had to get up early the next morning, we’d head over to the 24 hour Albertsons on Apalachee Parkway in Tallahassee. (Publix was our favorite grocery store, but Albertsons had more cosmetics - and they were open longer.) We lived in the west end of town, so getting to Albertsons required a trip to the other side of town - not that Tallyland is all that big! We’d usually pick up a treat for a midnight snack - most often lemon meringue pie - and then head over to the cosmetics. We checked out everything, from eye shadows, to blush, to nail polish and went through all the different brands and then pick up a few things to experiment with.

Hindsight is definitely 20/20, because now I know my mom probably had only marginal interest in our trips to look at make up - she went because she enjoyed spending time with me. Mom was never into girly things like dressing up and make up, doing hair, etc. She liked to feel good about the way she looked, but she put less importance on it than I did.  I tended to be a fairly “typical” teenage girl who was overly absorbed with how I looked, never leaving the house without being made up and “looking good”.  “Looking good” is relative since I doubt I had a good sense of what actually suited me in those days.

Now that Mom is gone, the memories I have of those times with her - going shopping, helping her find clothes and makeup I “approved” of, enjoying our guilty pleasures (mmm…pie) - mean so much more to me now that time has altered my perception of them. Like any mother and daughter, we had difficult times, but we were so fortunate to come through them with greater love and respect for each other. Before she died, my mother was my best friend (next to my husband). I’m so thankful that I developed that closeness with her and maintained it during the years after I moved to Canada.

If I can look back in 20 years and feel that I’ve been even half as good to my child(ren) as my mom was to me and my brothers, then I think I will have done a pretty decent job. She was truly an amazing lady and I miss her more than words can ever adequately express.

*****

This post was based on the prompt “Ode to your mother…write about a special memory you have of your mom in honor of Mother’s Day.” from Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writer’s Workshop.

I originally posted this April 25, 2009. It is the perfect memory for this prompt. 

Creating a connection or morbid gift idea?

My grandmother on my dad's side came to live with my family in late summer of 1995, because it was either that or a nursing home. Some of the family preferred that she go to the nursing home, but my mom and dad were adamant that she should get to live in comfort with family who could be there for her, caring for her and keeping her company 24/7. They both felt strongly, and encouraged myself and my brothers, to make my grandmother feel like a blessing rather than the burden she often claimed to be. For me, it was fantastic. I'd always had a special relationship with Grandma C and loved hearing her stories. This was a good thing, because her memory was failing and she often repeated the same stories multiple times without realizing it.

I used Grandma C's stories this in at least one or two papers that I was working on for my college classes at the time. She was an extremely valuable resource for the history of my hometown as well as the university I was attending. Boy, was she ever proud that I went to her alma mater. She'd tell me stories about sneaking out to meet her beau - the man she was eventually married to, my Grandpa C. Grandma and Grandpa got married in secret, though, because my grandmother wanted to teach. In the 1930s, women weren't allowed to continue teaching after they married. My Grandma C was a REBEL! How cool is that? You can see why having her live with us was no hardship in my opinion. Far from being a burden, we loved having her there.

In November 1996, when I was 19 years old, Grandma C had a "silent" heart attack, they called it. It was picked up through some routine testing several weeks later and the doctors told us that she had approximately six weeks to live. This wasn't unexpected as she was 84 years old and had been experiencing a number of health problems for a couple of years including congestive heart failure and emphysema (she was a smoker). Her emphysema had progressed to the point that she needed oxygen and that was when she was forced to quit smoking for obvious safety reasons.

After the doctors told us their prognosis for my grandmother, my mom and dad got an idea of how we could create some special memories for what we were fairly certain was going to be my grandmother's final Christmas. They asked my brothers and I each to think about something special and practical that Grandma C would use for whatever time she had left. Something that she could enjoy. The idea was that our respective gifts would be "passed on" to us after her death. That the object we decided to gift her would be a way of connecting with her and that special time of being with her as she passed out of this life would always remind us of the person she was and what she meant to us for years after she was gone.

I have no idea what my brothers picked to give her. I can't remember. But the gift I chose was a pink terry cloth bathrobe. Grandma C loved the color pink, but her mother wouldn't let her wear it for some reason. So, my mom, knowing how much she loved pink used to spoil her with pink moo moos, nightgowns - anything she could wear that was comfortable. Grandma C loved the robe. She was an incredibly gracious woman anyway, but you could see the genuine pleasure on her face when she opened my gift to her that Christmas morning. She then proceeded to wear that robe just about every day of the rest of her life. She died January 17th, 1997 - less than one month after that last Christmas.

I'm going to be honest; pink is probably the last color I would willingly choose for a bathrobe, but Grandma's robe is hanging in my bathroom to this day and I won't replace it unless it starts to fall apart. Knowing how much she enjoyed it reminds me of that last year and a half that we had with her.

I still love this idea! It isn't about the object itself so much as it's about the memories that can surround it. I love the thought of nurturing common ground between different generations of family and having something special and tangible to cherish that bond. Obviously, you don't say, "Here, this is for you to give to me when you kick the bucket." That would be insensitive. But is it so awful to give a gift and say that it's something you'd like to be able to pass on to a particular person? Grandma C didn't know what was going to happen with the items each of us gave her, so she enjoyed them openly. The benefit to me has been a practical, daily-use item that reminds me of her - even 13 years after her death.

What do you think? Is it a creative way to make a connection or just a morbid gift idea?