Friday, January 11, 2013

Mother's Day

By Laura Spinella


**This is an updated rerun of last year's post on the occasion of my mother's 84th birthday! She is happily celebrating with two of her grandchildren while I nurse a nasty pinched nerve. It's kept my blogging/sitting/typing skill set to the bare minimum. So my apologies for the repeat, but I'm sure Mother doesn't mind! Happy Birthday! 

There are certain things you can’t imagine in life, like how you might prefer summer to winter, and big holy crap things like a published book. The premise of this blog, I think, falls somewhere in between. Today is Mother’s 84th birthday. Last year we marveled over her Friday the 13th birthday, Downton Abbey-like manners, and sharp wit. This year we celebrate the same, less the black cat calendar date and with the addition of my book two later this year. Don't tell, it's a surprise, but we'll be uploading ISABEL'S RHAPSODY onto her birthday present come November. By then I guarantee Mother will have mastered the 21st century instrument of the printed word.

And by the way, it is Mother. Let’s get the terminology correct. Every year I look at rows of greeting cards marked Mom, and wonder, "Who would I send that to?" The card is a struggle on a lot of levels. We’re not an outwardly demonstrative group. I know lots of writers who’d use a card or blog to gush at length. They’d post gooey Facebook notes about how much Mom means and mark it with endless emoticons. While I’ve been known to tug at the heartstrings when it comes to my characters, it’s just not the way we do it at my house. Think more the decorum you’d display for the Queen. So, I thought, instead, I’d share a little with you about Mother (also never preceded by a possessive pronoun) who lives in Pennsylvania with my father. He’ll be 87 next month; he calls her Tootsie.

Mother’s name is Clarabel, which never struck me as odd, but you can bet spell check just marked it with a big red line. She was born prematurely, and for all the fuss and care taken with preemies today, let it be known that they stuck her in a coal stove. Eighty-four years later, and she’s happy to tell you the story. Her father was an interesting self-made man who, during the Great Depression, built houses and roads in Pennsylvania. Driving down any of those winding macadam-covered paths, she’ll say, “Your grandfather built this.” She attended a one-room school house that still stands next to a chapel. A painting of it hangs in her dining room. She is the middle daughter, of a middle daughter, of a middle daughter. My sister, Christine, got to be the next middle daughter, her daughter, Keryn, wise enough to be a middle daughter too, keeping that genealogical marker going. Mother’s mother was named Nora, which rhymes with Laura, and I like to think was subconsciously intentional on Mother’s part. Interestingly, this came full circle with the titling of ISABEL'S RHAPSODY. Mother remarked, "Well, that's almost like Clarabel's Rhapsody, isn't it?" Mmm, perhaps.  But I doubt Mother was on my mind as I worked a steamy Chapter Twelve! 

She didn’t go to college, and I think this has always bothered her. But post WWII wasn’t an era in which women and higher education were encouraged. On the other hand, do not confuse this with any mark of intelligence or drive. Mother attended Central Communications and Airlines Academy in Kansas City, MO, going on to become one of the first women in management at TWA. To do this, she had to move to New York City, quite an adventure for an 18-year old girl from rural Pennsylvania. There she met my father, whose job wasn’t nearly as important. (No worries, he makes his mark a little later in life. Perhaps his birthday falls on my next blog date.) Men significantly outnumbered women in the workplace, and Mother had her pick of suitors. She even brushed elbows with Howard Hughes who immediately washed his. As for my parents, the story goes that Mother had a date to meet a guy named Charlie Hiney under a clock in Times Square. My father showed up early and told him to get lost. My sisters and I are grateful for this intervention and a guaranteed childhood of torment!

The next thirty plus years take place on Long Island, where tradition was at the heart of most everything. Mother sewed like a five-star seamstress.  She could make doll clothes and real clothes and costumes and slipcovers. I’m not sure how this skill befell her, but I bet I had the best-dressed Barbies on the East Coast. I know I had the most incredible Halloween costumes. When I was eight, she broke her leg while ice-skating.  Mother never missed a beat, wearing a thigh-high cast from February to July. The Sound of Music is her favorite movie, and if you’re not of a Fox News, conservative mindset… Well, it would be my best advice you keep that information to yourself. I do.

My parents have traveled over the years. She’s enjoyed places like Italy, Israel and Austria. She’s not a resort type of person, though they did take a cruise last winter. She'd kvetched about the excursions, not the destinations or cost—well, maybe the cost—but mostly Mother was perturbed by the age restrictions. Apparently, cruise lines were not that excited about folks over 75 participating in their day trips. When she told me this I laughed under my breath, thinking: Good luck to whoever is running that show. Apparently, they hadn’t met Mother.

While that merely scratches the surface of Mother, I’ll leave it there, wishing her a happy 84th birthday and many more!

Love,

Laura Jean

Laura Spinella is the author of the award winning novel, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, and the upcoming novel, ISABEL'S RHAPSODY. Visit her at www.lauraspinella.net   

17 comments:

  1. Laura! I lovelovelove this post! Your mother is priceless! You need to print this out and give it to her with whatever "Dearest Mother" birthday card you pick out (and save it for your kids, too). This is the perfect Friday the 13th Happy Birthday to Mother blog, I'd say! (My mom's b-day is January 21, and she almost married a guy from her high school who ended up running an airlines. She did not sew my doll clothes, but my grandmother--another five-star seamstress--did. Okay, not exactly parallel lives but close. ;->)

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  2. Happy birthday to Mother, Laura! She sounds like a pistol. (I've always wanted to use that term to describe someone but no one has lived up to the word. Until now.) What a lovely tribute. Maggie

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  3. Happy Birthday Mother!! :) Yesterday would have been my Grandma's 84th b-day (but she died 20 years ago) but still!! and my middle name is Jean too!!! :) LOL!
    Shannon Johnson!

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  4. Happy Birthday, Mother! She sounds like a amazing, interesting woman, (kind of like her daughter, I'd say!) who has led an interesting, full life. How wonderful!

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  5. Happy Birthday, Clarabel.

    Laura, I would tell you to treasure her while you can (I lost my mom - she was always Mom - almost six years ago) but I think you already do.

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  6. Happy Birthday, Mrs. Wilson! (that's the decorum this Southern girl must keep), and many more! Love, Melisa

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  7. Happy Birthday !!! From the middle child - see Laura I can to do this-P.S. Your present is in the closet of the guest bedroom - Love, Christine

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  8. I'm not that far behind you mom in age, and I know that inside she feels just like the young woman in the photos.

    Marilyn

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  9. Wow, she must be some kind of wonderful! Happy birthday, Mother, and enjoy your cruise. I wish I had some of her energy. Thank you, Laura, for this.

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  10. I LOVE this post. Thank you for sharing an amazing life story and Happy Birthday, Mother!

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  11. P.S. The photos are great! Thanks for sharing those!

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  12. Thank you for all the wonderful comments! Mother wanted to thank you all herself, but we couldn't quite get her computer to cooperate, (she did manage a FB post) so I said I would pass along her thanks! You all made her day!

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  13. Laura your Mother sounds like quite a lady! I wish her Happy Birthday and a wonderful cruise.

    Rhonda
    aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David
    http://www.evelyndavid.com

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  14. Fascinating story! Yes, my family is full of "Mothers" also - lol! I don't understand this mom thing - everywhere you go today, it's all about "Mom." We don't have any of those.

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  15. What a wonderful tribute to an amazing lady. My Mom (actually Momma, note preferred spelling) was also a strong, independent, very funny lady. Aren't we blessed to have such women as our role models?

    Happy Birthday to your Mother -- and hope you recover from the pinched nerve FAST!

    Marian, the Northern half of Evelyn David

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  16. Thanks, Marian!! There probably isn't another post worthy of a repeat, but I thought this one was! Thanks for reading!

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  17. Happy Birthday to Clarabel (I got the red line too). And Laura, you were a very blessed child. But, it is quite obvious you know that. I hope you get feeling perkier very soon.

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