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my mother's legacy


I often wonder what kind of memories I am making with my daughters.

As you probably know, I am the youngest of six (five girls and one boy who was treated like a Golden Child and was given everything [within my parent's budget]. I don't have huge issues with that even though it may look that way now. I'm cool with it. Really. Get off my back about it, would you? He and I get along fine.)

Anyway, my mother is 80 and it is on my mind that her life here is drawing to a close. I do see her weekly and for that I am ever grateful. When we are together I truly live in the present and enjoy and appreciate our time together. But away from her I think of the inevitable which sends me back in time to review my memories of her.

There are a couple of vignettes that stand out more than the others, but before we get to that I should give you a primer on my mom.

My mother started having children when she was 28 and had me a few months before she turned 41. So I would imagine my distinct memories of her are when she was 50 and older. This would explain why mostly she was a whirling dervish with her nose to the grind stone. She was always on the run attempting to accomplish something (like laundry for eight people) while simply trying to survive.

She worked full-time at Hudson's (the store now known as Macy's) for more than 20 years as a saleswoman. My mother is a born salesperson. She truly could sell ice cubes to Eskimos. She is extremely social and confident yet very much a loner. Those things seem incongruent to me, but Paula has suggested that it is a survival mechanism for my mother, a way to be connected without emotionally involving herself.

Okay, the point here is that my mother basically ran all day until she dropped. And all of this is building up to my Number One Distinct Memory of her.

I have never seen my mother wear a pair of shorts or a bathing suit. Ever. She always wore polyester pantsuits with a silky polyester blend shirt. She still wears those outfits today. So that explains why she never shaved her legs. Occasionally she wore a skirt or dress if we were attending a wedding and it was during those times that she actually shaved her legs.

So one day my sisters and I decided we were going to shave my mom's legs for her. I have no idea why we had a woman's electric razor in the house seeing as my mother had no need for one, but I recall using a shaver that had a yellow/brownish/gold plastic casing. Remember that avocado and gold theme found in most kitchens in the '70s? That's the gold color I'm referring to.

Anyway, we opened up a bunch of newspapers on the floor and my mom laid down, on her stomach, on top of the papers and watched television as we took turns running the shaver over her calves. I remember watching the long hairs drop to the newsprint beneath her legs and just being amazed at the transformation.

Meanwhile, she remained on the floor oblivious to our shrieks of delight and amazement while she propped herself up on her forearms. She was probably watching Match Game while we conducted faux surgery on her leg hair.

The other thing I remember vividly is that she seemed so zoned out as to what we were doing. Her body was there but her mind was elsewhere. As a parent of three children I think I now have an idea of how she felt.

Sometimes I just want a quiet moment in my own head. I don't want to be interrupted by my kid asking, for the hundredth time, why she can't fly when she jumps off the couch and flaps her arms. When the kids talk to each other I can concentrate on my own thoughts and ignore the chatter. But when someone is saying, "Mom, mom, mom?" it interrupts my train of thought. So I imagine my mom was in her own world while the kids were shaving her legs and otherwise occupied.

It still seems bizarre to me that she never shaved her legs.

The other Distinct Memory I have of her is how she used to answer the phone. I've mentioned before that we had a land line rotary phone that was on the wall in the kitchen. It was yellow and it had an extra long cord so you could freely move about in the kitchen while chatting.

As you can imagine, things were somewhat chaotic with six kids in the house. So at any given time my parents were usually yelling at us. So much so, that whenever the phone rang my mother was usually in mid-scream. But somehow when she picked up the phone she had complete and total composure even though her brow was dotted with perspiration from all of the yelling.

Her voice was actually melodious when she answered the phone. Her "hello" had a cadence to it; it was sort of sing-song, soft and friendly. So she would have her conversation, hang up the phone and resume yelling at us. This was before the day of answering machines, so I assume she felt she had to answer the phone or else it would ring 50 times before the other person gave up.

I always thought that was so wild the way she could turn her emotions on and off like a light switch. I can't do that.

So back to the memories my own kids will have of me. I'm not sure what's going to stick in their heads. But one thing I do know for sure.

My kids will remember seeing me in shorts and a bathing suit all summer long.

With tanned, smoothly shaven legs.


Sending out a thank you: I'm sending an extra 1000 strides on the elliptical trainer to yarnsmith who added me as a favorite recently. Thanks yarnsmith!


2007-09-10 at 7:04 a.m.

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