Sunday, May 13, 2007

My mother is tough as a pine knot.

Oh, she's not one of those athletic moms who would climb a tree with you or take you kayaking, but Mom has an inner toughness and determination that is a marvel to me.

When Mom was a girl, health problems plagued a sibling and her mother resulting in very tough times for the family financially and emotionally. Mom learned to sew as a girl by making little outfits for the dolls she'd made out of twigs and twine. She was soon sewing her own clothing.

Married young, Mom and dad had my brother a year later and then I moseyed on along 14 months later. My father always speaks fondly of how Mom looked after us when we were small. Mom and Dad didn't start out with a whole lot, so they were finding their way in the world, and she would continue to turn out these little masterpieces for me and brother to wear. Dad always speaks with pride of how we'd have cousins running around snotty and dirty, but HER children would not be grimy. OH yeah, we played at the appropriate times and we did get dirty, but she didn't allow us to look unkempt. She was proud of her babies.

The day after my first birthday, my father had a hand injury that made him violently ill, and he couldn't work for a bit. Uncomplaining, Mom went to work in a shirt factory and did so and held everything together while Dad recovered. Mom was 21. I think of myself at 21, and I think how beneath that mark I fell. Dad was soon back on his feet and Mom stayed home with us pretty much for the next 15 or so years.

Mom and Dad worked hard and were frugal. Mom always managed to turn out clothing for herself that made her look like a fashion plate and did so on a modest budget. I remember her coming to pick me up at 5th grade and hearing a wolf-whistle from the back of the room. Did I mention my mom is beautiful? She is, and not in the fake, plastic, do-nothing way you associate with Dallas. Mom's the real deal with dark wavy hair and lovely, mischievous eyes.

Countless hours spent with her in fabric stores taught me much that informs my own taste in clothing today. I'll never forget the day mom called me over and said "feel this fabric and feel the one next to it." I was amazed, there was a warmth to one cloth while the one next to it felt chilly. She was advising me so I'd develop a hand for cloth. The warm cloth was silk, by the way.

It's funny, though, that Mom always told me she was shy, and I couldn't believe that, because she's a stubborn and very opinionated person. She's usually right, too. My perspective was always that she's very free with her opinions, and woe betide the hapless soul who defied her. But the truth is that a few years ago, thinking back, I realized Mom really is shy, and all her eagerness for her family to be well cared-for perhaps stemmed from a wish to not call attention in a bad way, like the poor example of some others in her family. She was happy simply to bask in the reflected glow of the triumphs of her children and husband, and has never aspired to a career or to personal gain. I once asked her why didn't she sew clothes for people as a profession, and she said she didn't want to fool with difficult-to-please people. Judging by how impeccably sewn her work was, I doubt her customers could have been more demanding than she was of herself.

When I think of the difficulties of mom's childhood and how determined she was to make a different life for her own children, well, what more can be said for a person than that? Her keen intelligence, her wry wit and her quiet determination have made our home one with lots of laughter and warmth. I am and will always be very proud of my Mom.

Happy Mother's Day!


Anonymous said...

Well said... Happy Mothers Day, we love you. A

g bro said...

Your mom sounds wonderful! I really miss my mother (and my mother-in-law, God rest her goofy soul).

"...the fake, plastic, do-nothing way you associate with Dallas..."

Boy, you really nailed a stereotype there! I have always said that Dallas is where women do their big hair and put on pearls to go to the corner convenience store. But I haven't spent time there in umpteen years (Maryann moved back to Houston, Tom & Lisa moved to DC). Last time I was there was for an SPE conference in ... 2000? So I'm sure things are all different now. ;-)

FHB said...

Really. Well said. There's a lot of my mom in there too. Mine was born in the 20s, and grew up with clothes my grandmother made, and then made clothes for my sister. Toughness went with those times. We were raised softer because they didn't want us to have to go through the hard times.

J.R.Shirley said...

Wow. Your mom sounds really admirable.

I'm sure you make her proud.

Meg said...

Lovely post. Ummmm... didn't know you had a brother, also.

phlegmfatale said...

sis - *nodding*

g bro - Yeah, I sometimes think that a dow corning breasty implant should be the international symbol for Dallas, but I suppose it's even more Los Angeles. But Houston has its scary element, too - it's so New Jersey, if you know what I mean. Oh, and in Dallas? The realtors? I can spot them a mile away. I'm going to be the anti-realtor.

fathairybastard - your mom totally rocks - she deserves a medal just for the way her fried chicken looks...

jrshirley - I think I baffle her because I'm the opposite of shy. Thanks!

meg - yup - big bro. Lives in Dallas. Has a 19 year old daughter and older step-sons.