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Gifts from My Mother

May 7, 2014

 

Gifts from My Mother:  A Mothers’ Day Tribute

 

By Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

On Sunday, May 11, all types of mothers will be celebrated, honored, and remembered:  saintly mothers and so-so mothers, adoptive mothers and adaptable mothers, mothers who have smiled on many Mothers’ Days, mothers who will be lauded on their first Mothers’ Day, and mothers-to-be.  Then, I think of my mother who was last here on Earth for Mothers’ Day of 2001.  While we all try to give our mothers special gifts on this special day in May, I now ponder the gifts which my mother gave to me—the second of her two daughters.

 

Since my family and I were from Indiana—my dad and I (and much of our extended family) were avid fans of motor racing.  For many Hoosiers and race fans around the world, the month of May is equated with the Indianapolis 500—the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.  My first exciting trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) was at age five.  For decades, the first weekend of qualifications for the Indy 500 coincided with Mothers’ Day.  Knowing what fans my dad and I were of racing, my mother probably too often generously gave us the gift of allowing us to go to the Time Trials at IMS on Mothers’ Day.  I always gave her Mothers’ Day gifts, and we would take her out to eat on another day.  Nevertheless, didn’t she give me an unselfish gift?  Although my mother did not want us to feel guilty then, I now certainly do feel a twinge of guilt recalling how many times we spent Mothers’ Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway—almost always without her.

 

A very different, but important gift which my mother gave me was the gift of reading to me.  Due to my eye condition, she did not just read to me when I was a child:  my mother continued to read to me until Alzheimer’s robbed her of her gift of reading.  Unlike most parents, mine were frequently trying to discourage me from reading print so much—they wanted me to save my eyesight by avoiding eye strain from reading too much.  Consequently, my mother read chapter books to me—a chapter a night.  Some of the book covers I can still picture in my mind:  Little Women, The Bobbsey Twins, Annie Oakley, Fury, Wild Geese Flying.  From 1985-1990, when I was coordinating the Sunday morning radio program Talking Newspaper, my mother read to me numerous articles from three newspapers so that I could select and edit each week the articles to be read by some of the fifty volunteers.  Soon after this experience, I purchased my first Kurzweil reading machine and then a computer with speech software.  Through a variety of means of reading and writing, I eventually found a new path in life and returned to school for a second master’s degree and then returned to full-time teaching.

 

A rare gift my mother gave to me was not letting my diminishing eyesight diminish my career path or opportunities.  How did she feel about having a child who would gradually become blind?  I do not know by what she ever said:  I only know by her actions.  She was always writing to specialists around the United States, and my dad would drive me to the appointments with ophthalmologists.  Only once did she ever somewhat express a comment about my eyes.  as my mother was driving our bright red Ford from Highway 71 to the cut-off road back home, my mother quite calmly stated:  “When you were a baby, you had such big, beautiful brown eyes, I never thought ….”  Her voice trailed off, and those few words were all that she ever said on the subject.  How she really felt about having a daughter who is blind, I will never really know—I think this is a gift for the child and the adult child.  However, without a doubt, the greatest gift my mother gave me was that she let me be—let me be myself, let me dream.  She let me be.  Thanks, Mom.  From Earth to Heaven, Happy Mothers’ Day!

 

May 2, 2014, Friday

 

NOTE:  After the closing words of this week’s blog post, you will find a reprise of the blog which I posted for Mothers’ Day of 2013.

 

To my aunt in Minnesota, my sister in Colorado, my cousin in “Alligator Country,” my cousins in Indiana, my cousins in California and Mexico, friends here and there, my niece across Lake Michigan, my niece near the Rocky Mountains, and all readers of Wordwalk—

Happy Mothers’ Day!

 

Alice and Zoe

 

May 7, 2014, Wednesday

 

 

A Mother for All Seasons (1914-2001)

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

Prelude

 

What happens to Mother’s Day

when I can only visit Mother at the grave?

Since there is no category in Hallmark

labeled “Heavenly Mother,”

I call Sawyers Flowers;

and Chris will place the bouquet for you

because I am too many miles away.

Not a Hallmark, but a credit card

is the only interaction—

not much satisfaction,

just a sigh and sign of cherished memories.

 

Part I:  Season of Liberation

 

On my piano rests a magenta vase

on which are gold letters that spell “Mother.”

In 1933, when few young women traveled alone,

you and Anna went to the Chicago World’s Fair;

and you bought the vase for your mother.

Now, I keep it as a reminder of you—unusual you

who also went to Niagara Falls with your friend—

liberated women before the word became popular.

 

Part II:  Season of Baking

 

At the Italian bakery and grocery store where you grew up,

you—the youngest of six children—were given

the bookkeeping duties which became one of your loves—

as the season of taxes was your favorite season of all.

Unlike most women of your generation,

when you married—late—

you did not know how to cook nor bake;

so, Dad taught you how.

By the time I was your younger daughter,

I thought all mothers made perfect lemon meringue and chocolate pies,

tasty cherry and Betty Crocker-worthy pumpkin pies.

Eventually, I learned that only Mrs. Josephine Perona

and you (my mother) made these unawarded blue-ribbon pies.

You were famous for your pineapple square pastries, date bars, and polenta dolce—

always part of the holiday baking—

always part of the waking

of my scented memories.

 

Part III:  Season of Post Office

 

Always busy with working at your post office,

helping at the store and restaurant,

participating in your clubs and organizations—

thank God—you did not have time nor the inclination

to be a hovering “Helicopter Mom”

so that one little, dark-eyed girl

who gradually and quietly became blind

could grow up to be an independent woman—

as liberated as you—

you who did not hover, but, instead,

kept writing and writing letters to eye specialists

across the United States.

You carried so silently the task

of rearing a special child:

all the while, you just kept writing.

Somewhere in a file folder,

I have all those reports and letters.

In the little drawer of my lighthouse music box,

I have your “Postmaster of the Year” pin;

and I remember so clearly

the time you hid me in the pile of mail bags

at your beloved Blanford Post Office.

 

Part IV:  Season of Snow

 

On the back of my raspberry rocker

is a pink crocheted shell afghan

(one of many) you made for me

when you retired.

I can wrap myself in that afghan

and bring forth photos in my mind

of you (in royal blue)

dancing with my dad at Perona’s Hall,

of you (in a yellow linen suit)

smiling broadly at my graduation,

of you (in the mint green, long dress)

smiling radiantly at your older daughter’s wedding.

Then, shockingly, I am haunted by a video

that runs too often in my mind—

a film of you—

touched by the unkind hand of Alzheimer’s—

wandering in circles in the snow—

in your night gown, robe, and slippers—

aimlessly trying to find help

for my extraordinary Dad who had a cerebral hemorrhage.

Then, your different and sometimes difficult life

went on for three years in the other state of Colorado

where your older daughter graciously cared for you.

As you slipped away,

you forgot this and that,

here and there;

yet You forever remembered your patriotism

and the words and tunes of old songs.

The last time I saw you,

my big and boisterous yellow lab Heather

ever so gently lay her head

beside you on your final bed.

At your funeral,

your musically-gifted grandson Eric

played on his violin, once again,

so beautifully for you

the “Ashokan Farewell.”

 

 

(written May 4, 2013, Saturday evening)

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

Many blessings,

Alice and Zoe

 

May 7, 2013, Tuesday

 

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4 Comments
  1. What a wonderful tribute to such a dear lady. Your memories of her will grace your presence for all eternity. A true gift if there ever was one. Thanks so much for another inspiring post. dp http://www.dplyons.wordpress.com

  2. What a lovely tribute to your mother, Alice! Your memories of Aunt Mary are so very eloquently written. Thanks for the beautiful blog, which is your forever gift to us.

  3. Our parents truly lived by the expression “It’s better to give than to receive.” Not only did they give us immeasurable gifts, but they also gave generously and lovingly to all other family members and to their many friends. Thank you for the Mother’s Day memories, Alice.
    Love, Mary

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