Happy Mother’s Day – to all the Moms out there. Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who are good to us and who treat us like a Mom would. Happy Mother’s Day to those women who have children with paws and fur. And also, Happy Mother’s Day to those Moms who are no longer with us.
My first Mother’s Day was celebrated in May of 1989. Michael had been born the previous September. I was (and still am) so happy to be his mother. He was the easiest baby, which is why Kevin came along so quickly. He was born in 1990. This weekend I was beginning a big photo organization project – let me tell you, these two – they were inseparable! Years passed by raising the two of them. Kevin was also a good baby, but now there were two. We were ready again, and Christopher was born in 1995. Again, looking at all of those pictures this weekend – he had the most devoted, attentive and proud big brothers. All were insanely cute. And prejudiced as I am, they have grown into handsome young men. I am lucky to be their Mom.
My own mother was a wonderful woman who left us far too soon. She was seventy two years old when she passed away in July of 2008. She lost her second battle with breast cancer. She had conquered it once before, having had a mastectomy in April of 1992. This was after having an almost-fatal heart attack in January of 1991. She went through so much. She really did. During the last few years of her life, she was diabetic. She handled it well, even though she didn’t always adhere to proper a proper diabetic diet. After all she went through, a little cheating with food was not a big deal. Faithfully checking her blood sugar every day, she took her insulin when it was needed.
She was an amazing cook. Mom made so many delicious things. I miss everything about those dishes. I have tried to copy some of them, and most have come out really good. Yet, just a little something was missing. I’m thinking it was the love she had that was added. She made delicious Spaghetti and Meatballs. I enjoyed her German Fries, which were potatoes boiled, sliced and then cooked in onions, butter and pepper. She was famous for her Steak and French Fry dinners on a Saturday night. Baking was one of her things too, even though she mostly used mixes – she added that extra little something that made them more than special. From scratch she did make the absolute best butter cookies – for some reason, we mostly just had them at Christmas time. Maybe she kind of knew – that these would be more special if we waited for them, having them to look forward to.
My mother was an amazing housekeeper. She loved keeping her home nice, clean, warm and inviting. There were certain household items, furniture that she wanted – and she would save up money in order to get them. A certain mirror and table come to mind. The woman was very particular about her curtains, and she changed them a few times each year. She must be looking down on me, shaking her head. If she could only see our living room curtains – they are, let’s just say – shredded. That’s what happens when you have three kittens at one time. They just turned a year old in April, so hopefully most of the scratching is behind us.
She gave me and my sister a great love for animals. I was just turning four years old when our landlord at the time offered us one of her cats’ kittens. Mom was surprised I chose the only tabby in a group of white ones. Max lived with us until he was eleven. About a year after he passed, Sam came to us. He was the cutest black cat, with no tail! We were heartbroken when he passed away. She then got Kitty, who was her companion until Mom passed. My sister took care of Kitty until she left the earth to go Mom. My sister now has three cats and a dog. Jeff and I have our Magnificent Seven. And so, the animal love remains.
Mom was a beautiful woman. She always looked pretty, well put together and perfectly done up. Her appearance was very important to her. She had her hair washed and set faithfully every week, and her nails were done regularly at the salon. She always chose the same pretty pink color. Her favorite perfume had a vanilla scent. When I smell a perfume close to what she wore, naturally I think of her. She really did look good up until the end.
Yet, besides all of these things – she was just a good woman. Her life didn’t start out happy. She was born to a single mother, and in those days (1936) you didn’t keep your child if you were unmarried. She was a foster child who was brought into a family that loved and cared for her like she was their own. She left one part of the family at age eleven and went to live with the people known to me as my grandparents. She immediately got a big brother, who she idolized. On her wedding day, as my grandfather was about to walk her down the aisle, he asked her “don’t you think it’s about time you call us Mom and Pop?” And from then on, that’s what they were. No more Aunt Em and Uncle Les.
Mom loved us girls, and we think she secretly wanted a granddaughter. Who am I kidding? We KNOW she wanted girls. No woman alive loved her grandsons more, however. She was amazingly proud of all four of them. The sun rose, shined, set and glowed upon her boys. She was devoted to each of them. I believe that she thought they were her greatest accomplishments. Not that she didn’t love our father, or us – the boys were just different in her eyes. With us, she was finally able to look at someone who shared her blood. She had never had that. I don’t think those of us who haven’t experienced it can truly understand how that feels.
My mother was the greatest woman I have ever known. She was just an ordinary woman. But she was extraordinary to us. Happy Mother’s Day in heaven, Mom. I love you, and I miss you.
My beautiful Mom, Bernice Gemmel 1936-2008