I REMEMBER MAMA*

my mother was one of eight children;

she was second from the youngest

and never seemed to have any pleasant

memories of her own childhood

She was forever bitter that her

own mother held her back one year

so that she and her younger sister

could share the same books and

that she had to leave school after

8th grade to go to work at the

Jergens factory in Cincinnati.

My mother’s memories of

the Great Depression

influenced her entire life

and she could never

throw away a piece of aluminum foil or

wax paper

or a piece of string

or a rubber band

or an empty jar

or a used envelope

(which could be used again

to make grocery lists).

By the time my mother

was sixteen

she met my father,

and when she was seventeen.

they were married.

My earliest memories of my mother

is that she was young and pretty

and she wore starched house-dresses

that she made herself.

She made twin dresses for my

sister Becky and me.

My mother loved music

and she loved to dance.

The little Crosley radio on top of

the refrigerator

was always on, playing music

or daytime soap operas.

My mother always had

part-time jobs

despite having five children

(and later on, two more)

My sister Becky recalled

that our mother was the first

to work outside the home–

and yet, our house was

always spotless.

My mother was a dynamo

of energy.

I suspect now that

she was hyperactive;

She ironed clothes

while we children sat

at the kitchen table

doing our homework

and listening to

the Lone ranger,

Fibber McGee and Molly,

My Friend, Irma,

Baby Snooks,

Jack Benny

and all the nighttime Soaps.

For our birthdays my mother

made our birthday cakes

and we had birthday parties;

Once a year, she took all of

us and sometimes our friends

to Coney Island…

what I remember most

about my mother

is that she never discouraged

us from trying to do something

she never told us we didn’t have

a chance

and so we all grew up believing we

could conquer the world.

After my father died in 1984,

My brother, Jim,  asked Mom what

she would like to do;

she replied “I want to learn

how to dance” – and so she did.

Mom began taking dancing

lessons and fulfilled her dream

of dancing and participating in

shows put on by the club

in her retirement park.

By the time my mother

was seventy, her memory

began to fail, but it was

a long time before she

was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

She lived to be eighty-three,

in a nursing home

Where no one danced

and she no longer remembered

any of the songs she used to sing.

*”I remember Mama” was the name of a 1948 film

 

Sandra Lee smith/February 2009

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