Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day

My late Mama was born in 1903 and lived to see soo many changes in the world. She decided early on that she wanted a career...someday get married but not because she needed someone to take care of her.

She decided on nursing, not that there were that many options back then. She did her nurses' schooling in Columbus, Ohio at Grant Hospital (where I was later born). Things were a lot different then. Nurses were single, and lived in housing at the hospital. Food and uniforms were provided, as well as a small amount of money. Enough, she said, to enable all of them to have a really good time on their days off.

But, there are always greener fields. So, she and a group of friends came up with a plan. They would decide where they wanted to live..California was a real crowd pleaser, as well as other cities in Ohio. They would draw straws and whoever got the short one would move to the area; get a job; check out the situation and then report back. If it seemed a good idea, they would all go. And this was back in the 20s and 30s...not exactly the norm of the time, or so I'm told. So they worked all over the place and got to enjoy the diversity.

It wasn't all working tho. A couple of them decided they wanted to go to the Chicago's World Fair so off they went. Along the way, they picked up a hitchiker also heading to Chicago. As they got closer, he said they could just let him off at the bus station and he could take a bus to his home there. Oh but no...they weren't in any hurry and they'd be happy to take him home if he would just give the directions. Mama said he didn't appear to "have much" so imagine their surprise when they ended up at a very elegant home. The parents were delighted to have their baby boy back home safely from his "adventure" and grateful for their part of it so they were royally housed and entertained and had a marvelous time.

Later, Mama decided she wanted to see Hawaii so she signed up for a stint as a civilian nurse working for the military. Boarding a luxurious ship (the menu was as big as a picture book...how I wish she hadn't tossed it. But glad I got to see it) with her belongings in this wonderful steamer trunk, off she went. It took several days to get there and she said the entertainment on the ship was amazing. She loved Hawaii and had a great time exploring. She did mention in passing "so many nice young men"...ahem :-). She and her coworkers were rather astounded by the fact that gunnery practice was happening on a Sunday morning. That was usually a quiet time, allowing all to either go to worship or get over their hangovers. Ummm can you say Pearl Harbor? Time in the tropics was at an end and eventually she was sent back to California crowded in a troop ship. Quite the difference but glad to still be around.

Once back in California, she met my dad...a patient in a tb sanitarium. He was supposed to die. They moved them as their disease progressed and he was in the last stop ward. They had a pot going...everyday they would put some money in it, and the last one to be alive would win the pot. A doctor doing research came looking for guinea pigs to try out a new med on. They all signed up. The drug...streptomycin and they all went home to live many more years.

Mama said for some strange reason Daddy wanted to move to Texas (he was from Oklahoma) and they ended up in Amarillo and at the age of 41, Mama got pregnant. She told Daddy that there was no way in hell she was going to have a baby in "that godforsaken place". She wanted Green and back they went to Ohio.

Still wartime, and Daddy got a job at Curtiss Wright, an aircraft company and life on Catherine Street bloomed.

Mama crocheted, and she said she never in her life crocheted so many baby layettes. It seemed that Daddy (who like me could make friends with a door knob) thought each pregnant coworker needed something "beautiful from my girl".

After my grandfather died, we moved to his "farm" in a little village called Summerford which was (I think) about 20 miles or so outside Columbus. It was really more like a large acreage but for me, now 5 and adventurous the greatest huge place in the world. We had corn and soybeans (I think on a share basis cause I know we didn't have any big implements. We had chickens and hogs and two cows. We had cats and kittens and dogs. It was amazing! And I discovered how much more my mom could do. Clean chickens, doctor cows, even bring in little piglets born in a blizzard so they could warm up wrapped in my doll blankets in boxes near the heat vents.

She sewed beautifully making Dietrich type suits for her out of Daddy's suits that showed too much wear at the sleeves. And, once they were no longer suitable for her, she made me marvelous coats. She could turn floweredy feed sacks into adorable summer clothes. She made afghans, and potholders and she made doilies out of this wonderfully shiny nylon (?) thread.

She cooked and baked and churned butter and sold eggs. The $$ from these pursuits went into a little pouch made of a remnant of upholstery fabric.

"Remember Susie, a woman needs some money of her own that she doesn't have to account for"

She did all these old-timey sorts of things but she loved new and modern...polyester? Bring it on..no ironing. Blankets instead of quilts? Oh yeah baby...they look much better without all those little wrinkles. Mid-century modern? Let's replace this old stuff ASAP. Looks a lot cleaner.

She believed in paying with cash and only buying the best when it came to cars and sewing machines and such. They didn't happen often, but oh when they did.

She believed in "use it up..wear it out..make it do..or do without" At one time, after my father died, we lived in a rent house with rather ugly but clean carpet. So every spring, she hooked up this spray attachement to our sweeper and with the help of a few boxes of Rit dye, dyed the carpet. One year green...one year blue...one year brown. Old sheets became crisp white curtains..and a great improvement from those thin ones that had to be washed and then dried on curtain stretchers...ouch!

She taught me so many things and was in turn amazed at the daughter who could strike up a conversation with a total stranger. She let me read True Crime magazines although she maybe rethought that after she found me standing in front of my dresser trying to strangle myself so I could see if your tongue really did turn blue (hey...I was curious). She let me be good friends with the bootlegger's son. And my friend that ended up in reform school...she wrote to him and staged a great Coming Home party.

She was independent, and strong and curious and could squeeze a penny until it screamed (unfortunately, I didn't inherit that talent).

I miss you Mama.

5 comments:

Ann said...

What a great story, and what a terrific woman--far ahead of her time.

Thank you for sharing your story, I found myself a little misty eyed by the end.

Mothers can be a great influence in the lives of our children. I see some of my traits passed onto my children, and marvel at the great people they have become.

Those things don't happen by accident you know?

Happy Mother's Day!

Ann

Paul said...

Susan, thank you so much for remembering your Mom so eloquently on this Mothers' Day, and sharing her with us! What an incredible woman! And what an incredible daughter! Have a GREAT day!

Paul

Susan said...

Ann, if your children have only have a few of your traits, they will continue to be incredible people that make a big impact on the world.

Heh...and make a lot of people LOL long and often!

Susan said...

Thanks Paul. She was a pretty cool person although I won't go so far to say we never butted heads :-).

And btw, I'm so glad you have your own blog now. I used to click on the "visit Paul" link when you commented to Dave and end up right back at his site. Being way new to the blogging world I thought maybe he was a split personality. hahaha

~FParis said...

Wonderful reading Murph! Your mom was *sumpin' else* for sure! Thank you for sharing (((((friend)))))

May is a very sad month for me, as well, and I miss my mama too!