Sunday, December 10, 2006
Eighty-One Candles for the First and Brightest Light of My Life
My mother was born December 10, 1926, in New Castle, Indiana. Her family wasn't wealthy, but she does remember having one of the first phonographs and cars of anyone they new. In fact, the first song she can remember is "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean," a favorite phonograph song.
When the Great Depression hit, her family moved south and lived precariously. She dreamed of the day she would return to Indiana because in her young mind, Indiana was a place without hardship or want. They returned to Indiana, but when my mother was fourteen, her father, Bradley Gartett, passed away. He was merely forty when he died of cancer. He left my blind grandmother, mother, and several other children behind. It is mind-boggling to think my own grandfather was born in 1900. One of Mother's last memories of him is of his reading the newspaper and being very agitated that the Nazis were bullying Czechoslovakia. One of her favorite memories is recalling how he would buy her and her sister, Maxine, pastel anklets at Christmastime. Unlike most hands-off fathers back then, he understood how little girls wanted their socks and shoes to be "just so," and he was infinitely patient with her regarding the turning down of the anklet.
After my mom met my dad, they never dated anyone else. They were married, and he went to war. He came home; they had three boys and flourished in a blue collar, church-going, ball-gaming, Leave it To Beaver kind of life.
I came way later, in 1962. She's holding me in that picture above. Now I hold her at different times, in order to steady her or give her a hug.
She and Dad (soon to be 85) came to my house today for a birthday day dinner. She looked so lovely, and I told her as sincerely as I could, but she doesn't accept compliments very well. (Nevertheless, they mean a lot to her.) When she was young, she was absolutely beautiful (see my post on Veterans' Day this year), and any of her peers that I met later in life made a point of telling me that she could have gone to Hollywood--the highest compliment for the generation enamoured with the glamour of the 1940s. And although she has always loathed being tall (5'9" and 3/4"--never would say 5'10") she is stately and graceful, with great posture even at 81.
I'm so lucky to have my mom and dad still with me. I was so blessed to have them at our table today, along with all three of our kids, including our college student and her boyfriend.
One last story: The boyfriend's name is Shad, (which I love), but my mom was avoiding saying his name because she knew she wasn't hearing it correctly. "Is it Chad?" she asked. "No," I said, as he and Katie sat there smiling because we were talking about them as if they weren't actually there. "His name is Shad, like Shadrach in the Bible, only he's just 'Shad.'" "Oh." says my mom, thinking this over. And for some reason, out of the blue, she says, "Does anyone ever call you 'Baaaad Shad?'" For a millisecond, we all sat there confused, but then Katie (and Shad) laughed hysterically at her joke, and then we all did. There's just something funny about an 81 year-old lady saying, "Baaaad Shad," like a rapper. You never know what she's going to say.
Well, here is an 81 candle salute to the first and brightest light of my life, my mother. Now look at that last picture and just try to tell me she isn't the THE most gorgeous 81 year-old woman you've ever seen!
Love you, Mom! Happy Birthday!