Today is my mother's birthday. Had she lived, she would have been 83 years old. There are a lot of things I don't know about my mother. She died the day I turned 24. I had just found out I was pregnant with my first child, Jennifer. Over the years I have wished many times, especially when my kids were growing, that she was still alive so that I could ask her questions and get her advice. It would have been nice to share that bond of motherhood with her. But I guess that wasn't meant to be. So, as I said, there is a lot of things I don't know about my mom but as I think back on my childhood, I can remember some things:
She was born Mariellen Chandler in Dayton, Ohio.
My grandfather was a traveling salesman (don't know what he sold) and for a lot of my mother's childhood, she was raised mostly by my grandmother.
Her name was supposed to be Marie Ellen but the nurses ran it together, and her first and middle name became one.
She was the 4th born of 5 children, and the youngest girl of three.
Mom wore bright red lipstick, always the same brand and color, and now after all these years, I don't recall the brand or color but I know it was a true, bright red.
She was a brunette, with naturally wavy hair that she always wore short, and used to put curls in her hair with bobby pins wound around little fingerfuls of hair. For a time, probably when I was in junior high, she wore her hair styled like Lucille Ball (but not dyed.) I liked that hairstyle on her the best, but I guess it was hard to keep up because she didn't wear it like that very long.
She used Jergen's Original scent, hand lotion. It has a scent of cherry almond. I, just by chance, came upon the scent one day shortly after David was born (1982.) I had not remembered or thought about it for years, but when I happened upon it, I had such a flood of memories attached, I bought a bottle and have used it ever since. I remember sitting on my mom's bed watching her get ready for church. She would take some lotion and begin to rub it in, look at me, exclaim she had too much and offer to share it with me, taking my hands in hers and then showing me how to rub it in.
Her favorite perfume was Channel #5. She didn't wear it very often so a bottle would last years, but I remember her always having a bottle on her dresser.
Every birthday she would ask for a German Chocolate Cake. When we moved back to California in 1969, she discovered See's Candy. My dad always hand picked her a box of soft caramels and pastel bon-bons.
She never cooked from a recipe. She made the best Spanish Rice, a wonderful Chow Mein, and a tasty meatloaf, which was my dad's favorite. She had a "Red Betty" Crocker cookbook but I don't ever remember seeing her using it except for baking.
She was a good military wife. From 1961, when we left CA for GA, until 1969, when my dad retired, we moved 6 times. With each move she would patiently take care of our school records, find new vets, new stores, new dentists, new friends. Looking back I realize how much work and stress it was, but she made it look easy and adapted with grace.
My mother was a strong woman in an age of homey housewives. She told my sister and I we could be whatever we wanted to be when we grew up. She took care of all the finances in the family and if there was a decision to be made, she usually had the final vote. I don't know what made her so strong. My grandmother was also a strong woman; maybe that's where she got her determination. I found out years after she died that she wanted to be a Pharmacist but even though her older two sisters had gone on to earn degrees in nursing, my grandfather told my mother she didn't have the brains for college and that her best bet was to find a husband to take care of. I know, and anybody that ever met my mom knew, that she was probably smarter than the average person one would meet. She would have excelled in college. But maybe that was not to be her path.
I know my mother loved my father. The sun rose and set on him and even though she loved her family, he was the most important person in her life until the day she died. I must add here that the feeling was mutual. Even though my dad remarried shortly after my mother died, it was only because he was hoping to find that kind of love again. He didn't. I don't think a love like that comes along more than once in any one's life time.
Overall, the things I don't know about my mother are probably not that important. I don't know her favorite food. I don't know what her favorite color was. I don't know much about her childhood. Was she mischievous? Was she a good student? Did she have a best friend? Could she read music? Did she know how to ice skate?
I suppose most of that stuff doesn't matter. I learned by watching her what a good marriage was. I learned that kids need to be held accountable and given guidelines to feel secure. I learned that you don't have to physically punish children. If you raise them right, and instill the correct morals; teach them right from wrong from the very beginning, a lot of love in the beginning works better than a lot of discipline after the fact.
I miss her, even after 33 years. I wish she was here to see how my children grew up. With what I learned by her example I managed to raise them to be good people on the earth. They work and contribute and take care of those they love, and those that need love and friendship. She would have liked my children and would be proud of the legacy she helped create.
Happy Birthday, Mom!