Last year, I didn't call or send a gift or Mother's Day card, because I doubted she'd know who it was from. In her final decade she slipped gradually into the darkness of Alzheimer's and I could only keep in my memory the woman she was, with all her funny quirks and fears and admirable traits, her stylishness, her perpetual hunger for self-improvement, her admiration for TV evangelists and adoration for cats.
She was the youngest of eight, child of a hardworking farmer and a mother so tired of children she had little of herself left to give the last baby. Mom went to school in town and came home every day to tend sheep. She grew up painfully shy, and yet she had her moments. I still have a photo of her as a princess in a school play, surrounded by her prince and courtiers. At nineteen she had her own little cafe in the family tradition of self-employment. Then one day my dad came in for a cup of coffee...
She made doll clothes for our dolls and designed lookalike outfits for us. When I was ten she went back to school, learned shorthand and typing, and worked as a secretary. She sang along with the radio while she ironed and I played on the floor under the ironing board; decades later the lyrics to all those old songs are embedded in my brain. With my stepfather's band, she sang at my junior prom in an evening gown she made herself.
She made the best lemon meringue pie I ever had, even though she didn't like to cook.
Whenever I accomplish something I'm proud of, in the back of my mind I hear her applause. I see her features when I look at my reflection, but I no longer resent the resemblance as I did for years. Now I'm grateful she gave me good genes.
Happy Mother's Day, Mama.