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Sunday, May 08, 2011

Mom Dresses Like a Ragpicker!!

by Tom King (c) 2011

I have been privileged to know three great mothers in my time. One was, of course, my own Mom. One of my earliest memories of her was of her standing over an ironing board after work, earning a few extra bucks by ironing shirts for businessmen when she ought to have been resting from working all day as a seamstress. I don't think she knew that I knew what she was doing, but I did. I knew she didn't make enough from her other job to pay the bills. And she was doing this while trying to keep her hyperactive son from breaking his own or his sister's neck, plugging himself into his electric train set or crashing through the front window while running around the living room in his undershirt and underwear trying to imitate the basketball players he'd seen on the neighbor's TV. 

I also remember times later on, when she would play baseball in the backyard with my brother, sister and I and a contingent of neighbor kids, patiently throwing pitch after pitch till we finally learned how to swing a bat and connect with the ball. I remember her terrible grief over losing two of us, her joy over our small triumphs in school and in life. Mom didn't hem me in too much. She could be tough, but we learned just how far we could push her before death and destruction would come  raining down on our heads. I was a hyper kid. I lived in the tops of trees, swung from ropes, rolled down hills in barrels and tires. Mom seemed to understand that I needed to get that all out of my system or bust. I learned patience, unconditional love and how to give a child some breathing room from Mom.

My grandmother was the second powerful mother in my life. A tough woman of stern Scots ancestry, she sometimes affected a tough, unforgiving demeanor. She could be critical. She loved gossip. But there was in her a soft mushy interior that few people saw. Grandpa saw it and loved her for it. At a time when I was a skinny kid making $5 a week selling newspapers and peddling more than 45 miles every one of those weeks in all kinds of miserable weather delivering papers, she used to feed me longhorn cheese and tomato sandwiches with a bottle of cold Dr. Pepper on Sundays when I dropped by after finishing my paper route collections. She knew I had to be hungry and suspected I probably hadn't eaten breakfast. There were Thanksgivings, Christmases and Sabbaths when I sat at her table and ate till I couldn't walk and she stood there smiling all the while at me, her heart gladdened that I had enjoyed that little snack she'd made for me.

An older gentleman told me a story a couple of years ago about her. It seems he had worked on the college dairy while attending Southwestern Junior College back in the early 50s when my grandmother was working at the college cafeteria. The dairy boys mostly lived in the village and what they made paid their tuition, but it left little money for food and certainly not a cafeteria meal ticket.  He told me he'd never forget Ms. King. In the evening they'd come by Old North Hall where the Kitchen was on the ground floor and she would smuggle leftovers (and some not-so-leftovers) out the back window to the dairy boys. No one ever said a thing about it. Even if they knew, my grandmother was such a good cook they wouldn't have wanted to risk losing her. She expressed a mother's love with pots and pans and potatoes. From her I learned that love can be expressed with more tangible things than words - like longhorn cheese and tomato sandwiches.

The third mother I have been most influenced by is my own Sweet Baboo. I watched her dote over our babies as they grew up. She protected them as fiercely as a she-bear protects her cubs. She was another mom who expressed love with kitchen utensils. My kids grew up eating like princes and princesses though they always thought it was normal for every meal to taste that good. They never lacked for anything if Sheila could get it. I used to send her to the store to buy herself clothes or shoes or something, when even I had begun to notice that her outfits were starting to get a bit battered. She'd inevitably come back from the store with stuff for the kids or for me and tell me she really didn't need the shoes or jeans or dress or whatever it was I'd given her money for. I sometimes had to just buy stuff for her and burn the receipts so she couldn't take 'em back. If there were 4 pieces of cake left on the plate for the five of us, she'd dish them out to the rest of us and tell us she'd already eaten her piece earlier. Now, Sheila is a stern stickler for the truth and she aboslutely hates lying.  She'd rather die than tell a lie, except for when it came to sharing our often limited resources.  If the woman thought one of us needed something more than she did (and most of the time she had no trouble finding something that one of us needed more), she would tell a whopper in a New York minute!  I always said God kept us poor, when my kids were coming up, to keep them from being spoiled completely rotten. My darling would have given them anything in the world if she'd had it. It was probably good that we didn't have it all the time.  From the mother of my children, I learned unselfishness.

It's funny how we complain about our moms when we are kids. Then we grow up and have kids of our own and there come's that day when we're standing in the store looking down at the holes in our own shoes and realize our kids need new socks or underwear or something and we put back the shoebox we've been holding. Suddenly, we remember scenes from our own childhood and realize our moms lied to us too. We realize in a flood why it was that Mom sometimes looked a little threadbare and tired and maybe didn't dress in the height of fashion.  In that moment, it all becomes clear to you what she was up to all that time, while she was cramping our adolescent lifestyles and making us wear new shoes to school and fussing over our hair and worrying about who we were dating or whether we were dating or what's going on at school. She was distracting us, so we wouldn't notice what all she, herself, was giving up for us. While we were complaining that she looked like a ragpicker, she was selling blood to buy our school books.

Mom's are such lovely creatures - I think the fairest of all God's creation. Today's a good day to tell the Mom (or Moms) in your life how much they mean to you.  Do it now. Don't just sit there trying to pretend you aren't misting up a little. Compose yourself, wipe your eyes and then go call your Mom. Better yet, take her out to lunch and buy her a new pair of shoes or a blouse or an expensive handbag. Just don't buy her a gift card or you're liable to find yourself with a new pair of Dockers and your Mom standing there grinning from ear to ear cause she's pulled a fast one on you..

Like I said, they are lovely creatures, Moms. Fairest in the land.

Tom King - Neglectful son

1 comment:

Robin said...

All I can say is this story is delightful,inspiring,touching and close too the truth for all moms who love and care for their children