Sunday, May 8, 2011

Musings on Mothers

"Dixies" from my daughters
for Mother's Day
Today being Mother's Day, I am, naturally, thinking of my Mom, who passed away suddenly in 2007. As well, the day brings thoughts of what it means to be a mom, as I am to my two daughters.

Some people have sublime relationships with their mothers. Others have mothers who are a nightmare. I think the majority of us have relationships that are somewhere in the middle between the two extremes.

My mother and I were very different. I was (am) the quintessential tomboy, and my mom was very much a girlie-girl. She loved flowers and pretty clothes and everything feminine. I, on the other hand, was the kid who brought home every stray dog in the neighborhood, who filled the fountain in the back yard with tadpoles, who was, when I wasn't reading, a pretty athletic kid - sandlot baseball with the neighborhood boys, riding my bike for hours on end, or bombing through the woods on horseback with my friend Rachel.

Mom and I loved each other, no question there. I adored her, and my aunt tells me she called me her "treasure." But I think who I was baffled her sometimes. I flatly refused to "come out" at the local debutant ball. I didn't like shopping (which was as food and drink to her), I could have cared less about shoes (we often joked my mom was the Imelda Marcos of Ohio.) I know when we moved to Kentucky to have our own farm, she was altogether bemused at the idea of her 40-something daughter leaving a comfortable suburban life to go be "a farmer."

But for all our differences, we shared many common interests. We both love to collect things. One of my earliest memories was trailing along behind Mom at the beach as she searched for good shells and frosted glass. She had an eye for the treasure among the trash (at the beach as well as antique stores), and could pick out something fabulous even after other people had been through the area before her. From her I learned to train my eye in pattern recognition (or from her I gained the skill, not sure which.) Even now, as she did, I can walk down the beach behind other collectors and still find treasures others have passed by.

Orchids from my husband
for Mother's Day.
I get my artistic bent from my mother as well. She majored in Art History in college, and although she never made a working career of it, she was the consummate artistic scholar. She had enough information in her head to write probably ten books; on silver, porcelain and pottery, jewelry, ephemera, early American furniture, American and English painters and illustrators, authors and books (particularly children's books), vintage linens and early American quilts, the list goes on. When she died, aside from mourning her (as of course we did!) I also mourned the incredible store of knowledge that was lost. I wish she had taped some of the lectures she gave for the various societies she was a part of. I wish she'd written at least one book, so I could hold it in my hand and know it was a small part of her depth and breadth of expertise. Alas, all we have to go on is the things she left behind, not the least of which are definitive collections in several areas.

My mother also had a very green thumb (unlike me.) Her house was always filled with plants and flowers, a plethora of Christmas cactus, orchids, and always cut flowers from her garden. She had a collection of tiny antique bottles she kept on the kitchen window, into which she'd stick the blossom of the day, even if it were just a wildflower from the woods outside. Many years before her death, I purchased a number of such little bottles, which sit on my kitchen windowsill now, and into which I put tiny flowers too.

One of the plants left
from all those years ago.
When I was about twelve, my mother and I planted a bunch of cactus and succulent seeds together. My bedroom in the old house had a huge window that filled the eastern wall, with a lovely wide sill, and mom wanted to take advantage of the light. Plus, cactus were about my speed, not being the most attentive waterer. Of all those plants, several still exist. A couple are still at Dad's house, and one lives here. It's terribly overgrown and needs to be repotted, but it has several "daughters" that I am going to send off with my own girls when they get places of their own, to continue the thread binding us all together, mother, daughters, grandmother.

This past summer my younger daughter mowed a path through the south pasture to a clearing on a rise which we waggishly call "the helicopter pad" (not that we have one, but if we did, it would be the perfect place to land it.) I like to walk out there with the dogs to get their ya-yas out at least once a day. Some days, as we walk through the grass, I will see a perfect little daisy poking up out of the newly mowed area. When I was very little, I called daisies "Dixies", which amused my mother no end. So when I see such a one, I know it's my mom looking down and smiling, and sending me a Dixie to say hello.

Happy Mother's Day Mom. We miss you so...

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