Wherever my mother lives, there are flowers. Our homes in North Carolina and California were surrounded by flowers, roses in particular. Flowers have always, and always will, make me think of my mother.
[Be sure to read my mother's journal, just posted today at I Live on a Farm on the Johnson's Farm page.]
Several years ago I made a Mother's Day card for my mother. On the front I used a photograph of some California poppies in a pretty little blue vase. I shot the photo while I was up in Santa Rosa at the beach house my previous in-laws rent every spring and fall. My mother-in-law has a beautiful collection of blue vases and bottles which she brings to the beach house whenever she goes there, using them to decorate the place.
I used a filter in Photoshop to make the photo look a bit like a watercolor painting, and printed it out on the front of the card. I looked all through my computer yesterday to try to find the artwork, but I couldn't. It must be on the hard drive of a previous computer. Oh well, I still have the photograph ... somewhere.
Inside the card, I printed this message:
"Mother's Day was invented in anticipation of you."
Mom, do you remember that card?
To my readers: If you would like to send an eCard to your Mom (or a friend) similar to the one I made my mother, here is a link to a free eCard I made for that purpose.
I have a lovely and wonderful mother, and I wish I could be with her this weekend to give her a big hug--maybe take a nice long walk together.
Before she moved to Colorado, we were only living a few minutes away from each other in the foothills north of Los Angeles. We used to get together several evenings a week to go on fitness walks. As we walked along in her neighborhood we would say hello to various neighbors who seemed to look forward to seeing us come around again other nights. Sometimes we would stop and chat with this one or that, then get back to our walk.
It was a beautiful time between us, and we had opportunities to speak about many things we might never have had the time for if it weren't for those walks. The few times I have been to see her in Colorado since she moved there, if the weather is nice we get out and walk together. It is very sweet.
My mother is an interesting woman. She was born on the kitchen table in a farmhouse in North Carolina when the world was much more innocent than it is today. She was the second twin in an identical twin birth, and the last of thirteen babies my grandmother bore on that farm.
My mother lived through the Depression in the farm house built by my grandfather and some of my mother's brothers. It started out as a log home, with an out-house.
Picture that in your mind and then think about the fact that my mother was one of the first employees at Earthlink. She used to set up the phone centers in local areas that provided local area access to Earthlink customers in Southern California. She was working right along side some rather punky looking tech geeks, and doing her part to contribute to the technology we are all relying on right now to write our blogs and stay in touch and expand the world we live in.
She is in her 70's and she still has lovely, soft brown hair--naturally that way, no color treatment or enhancement. She says she has some gray hairs in there somewhere, but I can never see them. I have more gray hairs than my mother probably ever will. How does she do that?
She is gracious and proud, quiet, and gentle. I cannot ever remember her being angry with me. If she was, she hid it well. I do remember getting in trouble when I was a kid, but that's different than having her actually angry with me about anything. There were a couple of times when I was in my 20's and freaked out about something or other and raised my voice at her, but I don't recall it ever being the other way around.
She taught us to sing in the evenings as entertainment. Those were lovely days and times. Dad bought Mom an electric organ and she would play it and sing sweet old songs, and we would all stand beside and around her and sing with her. It was a joyful and gentle way of being.
When I was eight or nine years old and got my EZ-Bake Oven for Christmas, Mom taught me how to use it. She quickly graduated me to using her oven and the Jiffy cake mixes, etc. She encouraged me to explore my love of baking and continues to share recipes with me even to this day.
She is a master seamstress. She might not say that herself, but I have seen it. Most of my childhood clothing was made by her, even my little wool coat and the larger wool coat handed down to me by my sister when she out grew it. Our dresses and those wool coats were finely made and tailored, and if I had known enough to look at their details back then, I am sure they would have been much finer than anything purchased at a store.
One of my favorites was a white corduroy jumper with little red flowers printed on it. She also made a matching red shirt to go with it. My sister and I both had that outfit. Oh, I remember so richly when she was making it, how I admired the beautiful fabric and thrilled at each progressive step as the dress came closer and closer to being mine. Funny how certain pieces of clothing when you are a child hold a promise of magic and when you finally wear the special garment you do feel magical within it. The feeling of magic in the memory of it all stays with you for a lifetime.
Another favorite item was a little piece called a grasshopper. It was a skirt on top and shorts underneath. Man, oh man ... the feeling I had when I went to school in my grasshopper. I knew there were shorts underneath, but to everyone else I was wearing a skirt. The shorts suited the tomboy in me, the skirt created a magical illusion. And my mother had made my little grasshopper for me, which made it extraordinary and special and something no one else would have.
When I was twelve I started learning to sew, and when I was a teenager I started making many of my own clothes. There was a time when I decided to sew myself a velveteen jacket. The collar had a special notched detail I was looking so forward to working. However, when I got to that part of the jacket everything went wrong. I lacked the skill needed to pull off such a complicated detail, and I cried in frustration and loss. Mom came to the rescue. She sat patiently listening to me as I lamented about the problem I was having turning the corner and trimming and notching and so forth to get the thing to turn out right.
At some point I turned to her tearfully and solemnly. I apologized to her and said that I didn't think I had it in me to be a seamstress and that I was so sorry to disappoint her.
It all seemed so serious to me, and I did feel that I was letting her down by being inept at something she could so with such grace and skill. She reassured me there was no disappointment, and she helped me get the notched collar right on my jacket.
I never did learn to be anywhere near the seamstress that my mother is. She is a true artist, I am just someone who can sew if I have to. I don't own a sewing machine to this day; she still has the one she used to make all of our clothes.
I remember one funny story about that sewing machine. Mom used to bring in sewing for a place called The Button Shoppe in Charlotte, North Carolina to make extra money. The projects she worked on for the shop were very interesting at times. Once she sewed a beautiful royal blue, sequined cape for a wrestler. Sometimes she sewed hospital gowns by the dozens (I believe). Dad made her a large wooden sewing table with a drop down hole in it for the sewing machine. The table was in one corner of their bedroom and that is where she would work.
One day when she was hard at work at the sewing table, I stepped to her door to say something to her, but she didn't hear me because of the sound of the sewing machine. I was fairly mischievous, so I got the idea in my mind to see how close I could get to her before she would notice me. I crept closer and closer calling her name, but she never noticed me.
I got all the way up to her, and still she didn't know I was there, so engrossed was she in her work. So, I knelt down and crawled up under the table to see if she would notice me then.
Hmm. There I sat for a while wondering what I should do. I didn't want to startle her by crawling out all of a sudden. I waited a good long time, caught in my own mischievous trap. Finally, after a long time of considering my situation, I waited until the sewing machine wasn't running and I quietly and gently made myself known so I wouldn't startle her. We both got a good laugh out of it, and it is a pleasant silly memory to this day.
She is a woman of high morals and values, but she could be a bit naughty too. I remember her helping my older brothers cut the insides out of some old books so they could smuggle bubble gum into school to sell to other kids. Bubble gum was banned, and they were being rebel bubble gum bootleggers with help from Mom.
My mother's food was and still is something to look forward to. She had a family of seven to feed, and always did it so well. Southern fried chicken and vegetables, pinto beans and cornbread with ham and coleslaw, spaghetti night, hamburgers with chips on Saturday night, Sunday's pot roast with vegetables and gravy and biscuits ... perfect lemon meringue pie with a graham cracker crust.
Once when we were little, she served us chocolate pudding and cornbread for dinner. The experience was electric for some reason ... chocolate pudding for dinner, and with corn bread. How unusual; what a treat! I was certain no other children on the street had a mother who would treat them to such a luxury out of the blue.
Years later I found out from her the reason we ate that meal. We were a bit short on grocery money, and what she had on hand was the ingredients to make chocolate pudding and cornbread. To her, it was an embarrassing situation but I have to say, the way she handled it, we children felt it was a sublime treat. I never would have guessed it was a solution to a problem.
That's what Mom's can do. They can take an extraordinary problem or situation and put things together in such a way that a child feels everything is right in the world.
I caused plenty of problems for my mother growing up, but I never once doubted if or how much she loved me. I told my husband once when we were getting to know each other that my life has been a river of change. As I write this article, I realize Mom's love and regard has been one of the few true constants in my life. She is a buoy I can always find no matter the raging of the sea.
Of all of the many things I appreciate from both of my parents, perhaps what I appreciate most is the fact that they never put any pressure on any of us to be anything other than who and what we are. With tolerance, love, and guidance they allowed each of us to reach out into life and see what was there and how we fit into it. We were not perfect children by any means, but they gave us the opportunity to grow into ourselves without undue pressure that might of pressed us in unnatural directions.
Mom reads my blog, and I must say it is a special treat when she posts a comment. Certainly you have seen her mark here at times.
She is a special, magical creature. I think she is a national treasure.
Every flower I see reminds me of my mother, and always will. She's just that kind of lady.
If I were to pick a flower that reminds me most of my mother, I think I might pick the dandelion. I see her in all flowers, but perhaps the dandelion is most like her. It is tough, resilient, and perfect. It is bright and sunny and fills this world I am living in with special warmth no other flower brings.
Mom, I still do believe Mother's Day was invented in anticipation of you.
Happy Mother's Day.
The photograph of a watercolor painting above is a painting I did of my mother back in 1995 from a slide my father shot of her while she was preparing a picnic on a beach in the Virgin Islands.
Just one more thing ... I put up two more post-card sized paintings on my One Painting a Day blog that I would love for you to see. One is of more pears on the stone window sill, and the other is of a vintage button. I am very happy with both paintings and would love for you to see them.