Mother’s Day, 2007
This is my mother, so full of wisdom and grace as all true mothers are. Our house was filled with much laughter and even more love. Although she was taken from us 7 years ago everyday that I wake up I feel her presence and calming spirit near me. No matter how old we become, no matter what successes and failures come our way, there is always, always the constant reassurance that nobody has ever loved us quite like our mothers. Indulge me as I share my beautiful mother with you and hopefully stir your hearts in fond remembrance of your own mothers.
Do you remember the time Pam, Billie Sue and I were in our bedrooms just messing around when David did something really wicked downstairs? We three all leaned over the railing when we heard his running steps and your equally quick walk that told us you were in hot pursuit. Up the stairs he bounded with you on his trail, hairbrush in your hand. “Run, David, Run” we all shouted. “We’ll save you!” At that point, you stopped on the stairs gave us all a look of total disgust and told us we would be sorry when HE, started getting into OUR stuff. With back ramrod straight and lips pursed, you went back downstairs as David grinned a relieved victory and we girls giggled liked loons. It wasn’t too long after that we realized you were right, as you frequently proved through the years, and that pesky, rat brother of ours was into all of our secret treasures.
My mom had a tradition, which I know many families share. When it was your birthday you got to pick your favorite meal and extra special cake and Mom would work her kitchen magic. It did not matter how elaborate or time consuming the dish might be, my Mom always came through. Cheesecake was a favorite of my sister Pam’s and many a birthday we enjoyed its rich, creamy texture made from the heavenly recipe of Ralph Palombi. Some of us liked it with cherries; others preferred strawberries and some liked it plain. All three options were always available.
Billie Sue absolutely hated whip cream so if she requested jello with her cake it was served with the cream on the side.
Dad was a pie eater and Mom often said it took her 40 years to learn how to bake a pie. She was not kidding. The fillings were beyond compare, lemon meringue, chocolate crème, blackberry, apple, and pumpkin; all so yummy. To be honest, the crusts were her Waterloo. She would roll and pat and sometimes throw it away and start all over again. The crusts looked like they had been in a war zone but my dad would bravely soldier on and eat every crumb without comment. Most of the time.
I decided to bake a pie today and took one of Pillsbury’s finest from the freezer. It reminded me of your pie baking. I bet you will never forget the time, many years ago, when the Amish started arriving and Dad thought he was doing you a favor by consulting them about their pie baking techniques. The look that came over your face could have dropped a horse. Totally oblivious, Dad just kept rattling off his Amish pie baking tips. It’s a wonder the man ever got another pie after that. I can laugh about it now, but nobody dared laugh around the dining room table that night. That was the first time I realized my brilliant, engaging father could be TOTALLY clueless about some things, particularly your less than pretty pie crusts. While never perfect, we always knew those pies were baked straight from the heart.
My sister Pam and I were horse crazy. Fortunately we were able to live out our fantasies with a variety of ponies and horses over many years. Duke and Princess, Lady Bug and Moon Glo, Misty and Caesar all bring to mind our beloved palominos and bays, chestnuts and sorrels. We also belonged to 4-H. That particular combination of horses and 4-H naturally led to that week of wonderment known as the Fonda Fair. My dad would be in Syracuse at the State Fair with a string of show cattle so it was up to mom to oversee our Fonda Fair experience. She was deathly afraid of horses, she thought they were too big and mean. One time I asked her to hold Lady Bug’s lead rope. Mom held on to the very end of the line and Lady Bug calmly stood at the other end and was as clearly as unenthusiased about my mother as Mom was with her. I just know had Lady Bug so much as twitched her tail my mother would have dropped that rope and run for her life. Be that as it may, each year when the time came to load up the horses and make our pilgrimage to the fair grounds Mom was right there.
I woke up this morning and my eyes were watering and my nose was running with late August allergies. It was foggy when I looked out the window but the sun was just starting to burn through; definitely Fonda Fair weather. Do you remember how much fun we used to have? You could never understand why we had to leave the house at 5 AM when nobody else got there until 7 or so. And was it really necessary to stay as late at 9 or 10? Of course it was! This was the biggest event of our horse-centered lives. We worked all summer for this week in the spotlight and Pam and I were determined to enjoy each day to the fullest. While we ate a hurried breakfast you would pack a picnic lunch. Egg salad or ground baloney sandwiches were always welcomed along with pickles, sweet of course none of us liked dill, potato chips, cookies and gallons of Kool Aid. It was a kid’s nutritional dream come true. Once Billie Sue and David were rounded up, off we would go winding our way through east Stone Arabia and creeping ever so slowly down through the Sand Flats in the dark and fog. We would spend the entire day and half the night there. When we got home all of us would be covered with sweat and caked with grime and smelling of horse. One at a time we hit the showers, find our pillows and dream our fair filled dreams. It wasn’t until many years later, when our Fonda Fair adventures had ended, that I realized something. If we were not getting to bed before 10 or 11, how late must have you stayed up, Mom? Every night there was laundry to be done, eggs to be boiled, baloney to be ground and Kool Aid to be mixed. I never once heard you complain, but I always heard you cheering and clapping from the rail when it was our turn in the show ring. Thank you for loving us more than you feared the horses.
My mom is no longer with us. She passed away two days after my birthday in July 2000. I miss her as much today as I did on that very sad afternoon. She was our rock, the solid foundation of our youth, the heart of our home. She filled us with laughter and good food. She taught us to be kind to each other and to strangers. She raised us to be hard workers and impressed on us that we must always try to do our best whether it was learning to tie our shoes or attempting to run a library.
Most importantly, my mother taught us to love unconditionally, the total acceptance of another person, seeing them through eyes unclouded by doubt, mistrust or jealousy.
Unconditional love sees with eyes that are focused solely on all that is perfect and beautiful about a person.
Unconditional love is pure and simple and represents everything that is good and sacred in this life.
We learn unconditional love at our mother’s knees and we learn how right it is to pass it on without any expectations of its being returned.
I am who I am because of you. When I have done well in this life it is because I heeded your wisdom and respected your experience.
If things have gone wrong, obviously it was because I didn’t listen real well.
I hope you would be proud of me.
If I am half the mother you were I will have done a good job. With her flair for clothing and regal bearing Davida reminds me of you. She is as stubborn and as opinionated as you ever were. But she too has a wonderful heart and a very fine sense of what is just in this life.
I am kind to little kids, older people and animals.
I can grind baloney and with some help, I can almost bake a pie.
I no longer think my sweet brother is a rat.
When August comes, if I close my eyes real tight and think hard I can smell leather and horses and sweat.
When I love it is with fearlessness and abandon. I know it is not for the faint of heart nor is it always a fairytale nor does it always have to be returned to be splendid. But thanks to you, I know that without love, there is no reason to get up in the morning.
You were my mother, so full of wisdom and grace.
I love you and I am proud to have been your daughter.