As we think about our mothers, I believe we remember them at a specific point in time in our lives, which then fixes them at a specific age in their own life. As I remember my mom, I’ve got her fixed in her early 40’s, which places her forever in the early 1970’s, and me in my pre-teens. Mom certainly enjoyed many different phases in her life, having lived more than 86 years, beginning in 1929. But, she will forever be 42-years-old to me, living in 1971, complete with its unfortunate fashion choices and active political landscape.
My memories of Mom include her being a Den Leader for my Cub Scout pack, and dragging me and my brothers and sister to sort clothes at the church in the summer for the fall rummage sale. She was also a regular at our Little League baseball games, and concerts and theatrical performances. We were also likely the last family in North America to fly bedsheets from a clothesline in the backyard, even though there was a perfectly serviceable dryer in the basement. The sheets on the line created a significant obstacle during our whiffle ball games. As if things weren’t difficult enough navigating around the rose garden.
During that period, my parents entertained at home quite a bit, and we kids were recruited to act as waiters, delivering cocktails and emptying ashtrays – remember smoking at cocktail parties? It was a nice glimpse into the adult world for us, and entertaining at times to see our friends’ parents a bit tipsy.
My mom was also a big sports fan. Some may question her fan loyalties, as evidenced by the picture at the top of this column – I mean, everybody knows that baseball fan support in Chicago is clearly determined by geography: if you live north of Madison Street, you’re a Cubs fan, and if you live south of Madison, you’re a White Sox fan. As far as I can recall, when Mom lived in Chicago, she never lived south of Madison Street. But, I digress. She loved watching tennis, and golf. And, I remember watching roller derby with her. You can argue whether or not roller derby is truly a sport – as I recall, it was mostly soap opera, with a little bit of skating and punching tossed in.
But Mom’s favorite sport was probably college basketball. She had to root for the Jayhawks (easy to do right now, as they are currently ranked No. 1 in the nation) as 75% of her children are graduates of the University of Kansas. And, she certainly lived most recently in the right place, very close to Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina. She rooted quite vigorously for both UNC and Duke, except when they played each other, at which time she landed squarely in the corner of the Tarheels. You may have noticed that her funeral announcement was printed on Carolina blue card stock.
I don’t know enough about Mom’s life B.C. (i.e. “Before Children”), except that she grew up in Chicago, where her father owned a retail store, learned to play the flute, lived for a time in San Mateo, California, graduated from Northwestern University, taught elementary school briefly, and married my dad in 1952. I can recall some things about Mom’s life after we children moved on. Mom helped out a bit with our two sons when they were very young in Chicago, and she and my dad lived in Southern California for a while, before retiring back in the Chicago area. Then, they headed to Chapel Hill, and ultimately, met their great-grandson, Wyatt, a couple of years ago.
As I said, my mom will always be 42-years-old to me; that’s where my memories of her are housed. I love you, Mom.