By Arlene S. Bice
Shortly before Mom passed away in October 1986 she asked me to give her a good hug. “Was I a good mother?” she mumbled, her face pressed against my shoulder. I answered her truthfully. It was what I said over many years. “If I could consider myself half the mother you were, I would be satisfied. I never considered myself half as good as she was as a Mom. I too, made hard choices.
She was a fabulous mother, devoted to us three kids. With my father in the hospital for the last 7 years of his short life (he passed away at age 44 when I was 12) Mom didn’t have to split her time between husband and children. We were her strong, main focus. She sacrificed everything for us. Mom had chances to marry but refused to marry before we were all out on our own. No man would be in the house until then.
She never liked school and quit in 6th grade. Fortunately, her father left her some properties that her smart girlfriend Edie managed to tie up legally so the State or the hospital could not take them from her. She sold them one at a time to use for income. To supplement that income she made jewelry at home at night with my brother Albert to help her. He was 6 years my senior, working in a bank as a day job. When jewelry making closed down, she followed with working in a laundry ironing men’s shirts. Summer temperatures rose about 100% in the laundry. She walked the 1 ½ blocks away and was home when my brother Bob and I returned from school. Later she replaced that job by working as a waitress on weekend nights.
We always had 2 home cooked meals plus the lunch she packed for school. Never did we eat peanut butter and jelly for lunch. In summer, she made 3 meals a day, every day. On Saturdays she took a break and made something simple for dinner, like hot dogs and sauerkraut or chili con carne. In the winter we ate cakes and pies for dessert made from scratch and home-made bread she made to save money.
Life got easier for us in my teen years when Joe entered our lives. He wasn’t allowed to live in the house until they married after I did when I was seventeen.
My wedding was gorgeous. My marriage, not so gorgeous. For years I resented that she pushed me into a marriage I didn’t really want. How foolish I was. I didn’t understand her thinking at the time. All she wanted was for me to be safe and secure in a good marriage. It wasn’t her fault that her choice was not a good one for me.
I always took care of Mom after she was widowed a second time but there a space between us that could have been better if I had the wisdom then, that I gained over the years by coming to know her through her eyes after she passed away. Writing about her brought me closer to knowing the wonderful woman/mother she was all along.