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Wednesday, 10 May 2017 17:01

Mommy and Me

With Mother's Day fast approaching, I find myself remembering some of the things I loved most about my mother. From the moment I was born until I became a teen, my mother doted on me. Perhaps because she was only sixteen when gave birth to me, she treated me like her baby doll. She dressed me in fancy clothes and shoes (which she really could not afford) and strolled me up and down the streets of Jamestown. She taught me to ballet when I was three. I can see her smiling face as she slowly dropped the needle on the record, and began swirling around the living room to the sound of "Melody of Love".  Soon she would grab my little hands and patiently teach me each step of the dance. Whenever I performed in public, my mother would coach from behind the stage curtain.

My mother taught me to sing "Mr. Sandman" when I was in Kindergarten. She dressed me in a Japanese Kimono and entered me in the school talent show. I remember a group of three older girls who were also clad in Kimonos and singing the same song.  To resolve the problem of having two separate performances of the same number, the teacher in charge decided we would all perform it together. My mother insisted I get the lead, and because I was the youngest, I stole the show. Mom was beaming as she sat in the audience. I don't believe those other girls ever spoke to me again.

Every year before the start of school, Mom would take me shopping in some of the finest stores in Jamestown and buy me clothes we really could not afford. Although my wardrobe was limited, everything she purchased was top of the line. She was always a fashion conscious woman who truly believed people judged you by how you were dressed.

 When I wrote the play about Stephen Foster in fifth grade, my mother submitted it to "I've Got a Secret", a television show in the fifties where the panel tried to guess what the 'secret guest' had accomplished. They sent a very nice rejection letter stating that while my accomplishment had been good, it was not what they were looking for. I am still proud of the fact that she took the initiative to do that.

Every year she hosted a beautiful birthday party for me. When I was younger, it included most of our relatives, but as I grew older, the invited guests were my school friends. In 1973, when I turned twenty-four, she threw a surprise party for me at Rhea's Corners in Clarion. I have always wished she had done more of these things for my younger sisters. They were the ones who needed her undivided attention.

As I grew older, she taught me how to cook and make pies. I can remember her instructions to always use ice water when making pie dough and to handle it gently or it would get tough. To this day, my friends are impressed with my homemade piecrust! I enjoyed helping her cook and clean the house, until as a teen, it became more of my responsibility than hers. As my beloved mother started to slip from the pedestal I had placed her on, I realized she was drifting away. I was losing her to things that were out of my control, and obviously her control as well.

Eventually, we switched roles, and I became the mother to my four younger sisters.  She had been my teacher, and now it was up to me to teach them.  As an adult, I have learned to accept that she was emotionally changing, and unable to shower the same love and attention on them as she had on me. 

For many years, I was angry with my mother for abandoning my sisters. It was only through writing my memoir, "The Road Back to Hell", that I was able to understand the psychological issues my mother had been dealing with most of her life. When I read her handwritten diary from 1973, it became very clear to me that the mother I had loved and adored still existed. She was just buried beneath complexities of her life. The writing process enabled me to rediscover her, and forgive her.

This Mother's Day, I am going to honor my mother by closing my eyes and picturing a blonde- haired, blue-eyed girl of three as she proudly walks down the street holding hands with her parents; or as she walks through the door of the Phoenix Bar & Grill ready to dance and sing with her Mom and Dad.

I hope each of you can look back and recall the happiest days you ever spent with your mother. Please share some of your memories with me by commenting on my blog.

Happy Mother's Day!

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