I Miss You, Mama!

Mama had a hard life.

Her childhood was spent following the crops; the family joined other itinerants who set up camp along the river banks and made do with very little while they worked. They picked crops to survive. (The “dream” sparkled in her papa’s eyes like sunlight through a prism. Rainbow chasing.)

During her teens, Mama and her best friend worked the hop fields in central Oregon. They were renowned for their fast and efficient picking team, but even more for their unique method of summoning the lineman. They sang out the words “Line Down” in beautiful harmony…. to the delight of the other field crew and to the one who answered their call - my dad. He lowered the next row as he admired their work ethic and …Mama.

What I know of my parent’s courtship can be summed up in one sentence. Mama was engaged to another when dad approached and asked, “May I throw my hat in the ring?”

They married and spent their wedding night in the boss’s guest room. Over the years, Mama enjoyed narrating the story of how the bed was sabotaged with a Two x Four down the center under the sheet. In the morning they returned it, made the bed, and then feigned innocence.

Mama’s early photographs reveal a somber waif. Several of her childhood stories revolved around food, or the lack thereof. One year while she attended school, another child occasionally brought an orange in her lunch. Mama and her sister would wait patiently until the orange was peeled, and then eat the discarded rind.

She also told me about a little boy who came to school barefoot until it snowed and always carried a cold potato wrapped in a pancake for his lunch. It made her appreciate her mother’s homemade bread.

Lack of proper nutrition and dental care were evident in her smile. Dentures in her early 20s changed her face. (Perhaps that is why one of her sons became a dentist?)


Her life didn’t allow for much structured learning and I believe that is why she was adamant right down to the patches in her dresses and aprons that her kids would be educated. I was too young to remember, but my older sister told me how mama sacrificed her only coat one winter. She couldn’t afford to buy a warm coat for my brother, so she cut hers up and sewed one for him to wear to school.

Unfortunately, I do have vivid recall of how Mama once “sacrificed” her underwear when I was thirteen. The worn out elastic band caused her panties to pavement dive while we were walking in downtown Seattle. At the moment they hit her ankles she performed an odd kick step to toss and grab them. She stuffed them into her purse along with my mortified protest.

When my eldest brothers left for college, Mama wrote many beautiful letters to them in rhyme. Yes, you read that correctly. She would write a complete letter as a poem! Writing letters, reading, and completing crossword puzzles were her only holidays for many years. That is why she had a surfeit of words (and their definitions) in her head - more than most of my educated friends.

She raised eight children with garden fresh foods in the summer, and home canned in the winter. All prepared in an old house with a dilapidated kitchen. She didn’t even have an inside toilet until after I was born.

When a driver’s education class was offered to adults in the community, mama signed up at age 49 and learned to drive. She became a better driver than my dad.

As she grew older, she was able to enjoy some of the amenities of life -- a nicer home, a chance to travel for pleasure, afternoons to do nothing but read or watch a favorite television show.

There are so many things that I could tell you about my Mama -- but I think if she could she would tell you that the most important thing in her life was her family. She loved her kids.

She adored her grandchildren. So much that she would have thought every hardship worth it all had she eavesdropped on a conversation at our house two weekends ago between our youngest daughter Amanda and WR, my husband.

(Amanda) Dad. Do you remember when Grandma died I kept her overnight case with two of her blouses in it in my room for a long time. I used to open it and breathe deep – because it smelled just like her.

(WR) I think I remember it, yeah?

(Amanda) I thought about it the other day, and realized that it never came to Portland with me. Do you think it is in storage?

(WR) I can go look.

(Pamela:) I don’t recall seeing it in there.

(WR) I’ll just go take a look.

About 10 minutes later WR walks in the sliding glass door caring a small blue case.

(WR) Is this it?

(Amanda, a smile starting to spread to her eyes) Dad, that’s it! That’s it!

She opened it and began jumping around.

(Amanda) Look, it’s her two blouses!

She stops and sniffs it.

(Amanda) I can still smell her.

(Pamela) Wow, it’s been over 14 years.

(Amanda, with some tears in her eyes) Yeah, and I still miss her.


Fun Monday is all about Moms this week. Visit Jo at Chocolate and Other Things to sign up, or to take a little reading holiday, just like my Mama did.

Comments

Amanda said…
(check your email)

I WAS SO HAPPY THAT YOU GUYS HAD THAT CASE! You have no idea.
WT said…
Very nice. I still have the little bag my mum packed when she went to the hospital to die, I can't touch it.
illahee said…
that's a sweet story, thank you for sharing.
Oh what a sweet sweet post, Pam!! Thank you!
Jenni said…
What a beautiful post. Your mama was quite a woman! You should really consider writing a book with all these family stories of yours, Pamela. I can't be the only one outside of your family that would be interested in reading it.
Heather said…
What a lovely story! Cleary, you got some of your writing ability from your Mama!
So touching. My mom also had a difficult life growing up in the coal mines with an abusive father. That difficult life made my mom the person she is and I am sure it was the same way with yours. My mom also had dentures at 18. They have a lot in common.
Tillybud said…
That was such a lovely post - it made me cry. Your mum sounds like an amazing woman. thank you for sharing - and I agree with jenni about the book!
Kaycie said…
Crying here at my desk. What a wonderful testament to your mother's life. My mother had a childhood as well, and went through it alone as she had no brothers or sisters. She was about ten before they had an indoor toilet or running water. It was her job to carry water from the well. Mama is very strong and she attributes it to all that water carrying when she was a girl.
Lil Mouse said…
what'd you have to go and make me cry for? sigh. sniffle!
Kila said…
This was quite moving. I need to have my boys read this, as things are so different these days.

When I think of my mom, I picture her Bible always open on the dining room table, and she would always be working on a Bible Study whenever she had a chance. Bible verses were everywhere--inside cupboard doors, on the bathroom mirror, on the fridge, etc.
Cher said…
Thank you so much for sharing.
Janis said…
What a wonderful tribute to your Mom. She was a survivor during hard times. I love the suitcase/blouse story, how sweet.
Oh...*sniffle* what a beautiful story. Your Mom was a strong lady in every sense of the word. I loved the story about the freefalling undies! Happy FM to you and thank you for sharing your mom with us!
Karmyn R said…
I am all teary eyed now. I remember Amanda missing that case - and worrying that she had lost it in one of her moves.

I'll have to have a sniff and see if I can remember. The sewing basket has long lost any of its scent, but everytime I open it, I am reminded of her.
Sayre said…
That was just beautiful... I'm a little misty.

From all you wrote, it is obvious that you mother LOVED being a mother and would make any sacrifice for her children. You are a lucky woman to have had her.
NicoleB said…
That sounds like my Grandmom.
Sadly I never got her whole story.
I am glad you know your Mom so well and you all love her.
Sad that she's gone now.
The Church Lady said…
Wow - your story brought a tear to my eye. It sounds like she was a real survivor during her childhood. Happy FM!
Mama Bee said…
Pam, what can I say? I'm sitting her wishing for a sniff of grandma myself. So glad you were able to find the little case. And so glad you shared her story. I think I see a lot of your mom in you. She did a good job!
Jan said…
A fabulous tribute. This has been a wonderful topic.
ChrisB said…
Oh Pamela that is a wonderful tribute to your mother. It brought a tear to my eye. You clearly inherited her way with words. How wonderful to find the suitcase.
Dr.John said…
Lost who was in charge so I missed fun Monday this week.
Your Grandma was quite a lady. What a nice tribute.
coffeypot said…
My mom was born in 1906 to a farming family over in New Hope, Georgia. She was number 14 of 16. She would tell us of country life and the family sitting abound the fire-place after supper and playing music - they had no radio. The things she saw, experienced and suffered can only be imagined by today’s kids. But because of her experiences she wanted perfection (so one wouldn’t have to redo something - you know, ‘do it right the first time’) and I guess that’s why I wasn’t her favorite.
storyteller said…
Lovely tribute to your mom. Your memories of her remind me of what I wrote about my Mom a while back and linked to in today's Fun Monday at Small Reflections. I miss her even though she's been gone for 20 years.
Hugs and blessings,
12ontheinside said…
What a gorgeous post, Pamela!
Carla said…
That's a beautiful story. Memories are such treasures.
lisaschaos said…
You made my eyes tear up with that last bit. Your mother sounds like a hard working woman who knew where priorities were. I'm sure you'll miss her forever.
hulagirlatheart said…
Absolutely fascinating. What a beautiful post, and what a wonderful mother. We should all be so lucky as you.
I remember my mom cutting up an old coat in a remake for one of us. And I remember just how my grandma smelled too, I think the scent was called Youth Dew. Thank you for sharing this, it was a beautiful tribute to your mom!
Washer Mom Val said…
Hmmm - I'm a smell person too. Sweet post.
MommyWizdom said…
That's a beautiful story. Your mama was an amazing woman! Thanks so much for sharing that story.

MommyWizdom
Junebug said…
Precious, precious memories!
Gattina said…
What a beautiful tribute to your mother ! And what a difference between mine and yours !
Sarah said…
I am really enjoying sharing peoples memories of their mothers this Fun Monday. Thanks for sharing yours. :)
Hootin' Anni said…
We lost our power yesterday due to construction in the neighborhood so this is the first chance I have to visit with you. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment. It's always nice to have you stop by and keep me company.

I so enjoyed reading this post about your mother. I can't imagine what your mom did in the hops fields tho...I've seen it grow across the state when we traveled through there...it grows SO HIGH!!!

And the photo is just absolutely wonderful. She is a beauty!!!
Lottie said…
That was beautiful and thanks for sharing your heart:)
foam said…
what a beautiful mother you had ..
inside and out ..
Susie said…
Loved reading the story of your amazing Mom! You must have inherited her gift of writing :)
How wonderful that you still had that case for your daughter. I know she'll treasure it.
xo
min said…
Im laughing through my tears.
I love 'the walls of Jerico' in the bed!!
I think I've done the underwear kick a couple of times myself!
Peter said…
A beautiful post Pamela, our folks sure had a tougher time of it than we do nowadays, BTW that 2x4 is known as a 4x2 in Australia... and a pain in the wedding bed.
Alison said…
this a wonderful post, it brought tears to my eyes. the important things are lost in this generation, I am afraid. times were harder, but simpler back then.
Hayden said…
what a beautiful story, and yep, I'm all teary too!
wendy said…
WOW! The orange peel. I can't even imagine.

wow.

I LOVED that story. What a tear jerker and what an amazing woman.
Shelby said…
Pamela, this is such a beautiful remembrance and writing of your precious mother. Thank you so much for sharing it. I enjoyed it so much.

Makes me think of my grandmother. I inherited her chiffrobe (like an armoir) five years ago. In it still hang 3 of her coats.

I cannot remove them.
MarmiteToasty said…
Sitting here reading with tears rolling down my cheeks.....

beautiful...

x
I'm stunned, Pamela. And reminded how well you bring people to life through your words. Beautiful, heartfelt, a lovely portrait of an amazing woman.

Gosh...I wish I had been tuned into FM; your portrait also makes me want to write about Mama :/.

I m i s s you...and obviously, I'm missing your wonderful posts. Off to read more...think I'll binge on dust a bit :).

(p.s. Saw Peter's comment and that about did me in, too.)
nikki said…
I would have cried reading this even if I wasn't hormonal. My newborn daughter is named after my grandma and sometimes my voice still catches when I say it. It's hard to believe grandma has been gone for a year.......
This is an absolutely wonderful story about your Mama. We really do have alot in common. My Mama was raised by a dreamer too -- a tough life, that she worked very hard to make sure her children didn't experience too.

Thank you for sharing such a touching story, especially the ending about your daughter.
I love this tribute to your mom. Like yours, my mom got dentures in her early twenties and I never thought much about why she hadn't smiled as much earlier. It is amazing how our mothers just made things work with whatever resources they had. The story at the end reminded me of my own grandmother and her blue overnight bag. When I drive by her old house in Spokane, I just want to stop because I am convinced I will smell her Jergins hand lotion, dried dill, and Cashmere Bouquet soap.
Desert Songbird said…
What an incredible tribute to your mother, Pamela. It comes just days before the anniversary of losing my mother. I can't believe it's been 24 years since my mother passed away.
muddywaters said…
I've bookmarked this post, so I can revisit it. I appreciated the little details you included about your mother. This post inspires me to do more writing about my family.

Thanks for taking the time to do this post.

In Tim O'Brien's great book, The Things They Carried, he writes a towards end: "Stories can save us. . .In a story, which is kind of dreaming, the dead sometimes smile and sit up and return to the world."

Your post is a testament to that.
Merle said…
Dear Pamela ~~ What a lovely tribute to your dear Mother and what a tough life she had. I am so glad you had the case for your daughter, who must have loved her Grandma so much,
Thank you so much for your condolences for the loss of my friend. Gwen had a fir bit of ill health, so did not blog too often. Glad you liked the bear story.
Take care, Love, Merle.
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