Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Happy Birthday. Mommy

I am going to interrupt my tour around Internet communication venues to say Happy Birthday to my mother.  She would have been 92 today.  There's not much to tell you about her that I know and haven't said in the earlier days of this blog.  She is, after all, the reason I began blogging in the first place.  My mother was a complicated lady and she went to her rest leaving many, many unanswered questions about herself and her relationship to me.  One of the basics, of course, is who am I exactly?  Who were my birth parents and what were their circumstances?

She led a pretty full life before I came into it, my dad even more so, already a veteran of two wars, so they determined to settle in and be middle American parents once I was their ward.  As a result, the parents I knew were sort of stodgy, fussy and boring.  They could throw a mean dinner party and the New Year's Day football parties were a lot of fun, but most nights Dad fell asleep in his big easy chair with his whiskey and water by his side, some old western or war movie playing on the TV until I saw that he was really deeply out, when I would change the channel.  Mother would drift off not too long after.  Eventually, Dad would wake up, mad as a wet hen that we had let him fall asleep like that.  Mother would grumble some reply, because we both knew it was a fool's errand to try and keep him awake.  If he sat still long enough, he was inevitably out.  Occasionally Mother would leave him there all night.  That engendered some fireworks, let me tell you.  But, that was the routine most nights, particularly in the long winters.  The parents I didn't know were the people I glimpsed when I yanked out their old albums last night to pick some photos for this blog.

I had seen all these pictures before as a young girl, and there are some incredible ones of Egypt, India and the Himalayas from the air that Dad took.  His travels were exotic, but his mission was dark and deadly.  In later years, those memories kept him from going back to any of those places to see the sites again without the shadow of war and oppression.  I always regretted that for him, I hope he's got a bird's eye view of those awesome sites now.  But, of course, the piece is about Mother, so I kept flipping (I'll share some of the war photos later).  I found several pages of photos from a party for the pilots and their wives/girlfriends.  It looked like a roaring good time, with a heck of a lot of beer consumption.  A lot of beer.  Couple that with the slide I found just shortly after Mom's death where a group of women were passed out in their basement, all in formal evening wear, in what I can only imagine was a drunken, exhausted stupor after too much partying, and I realized my parents were young once.  Tada!  They were not only young, but relatively carefree.  I think for that particular generation, carefree is probably not the right word, but they were determined to take joy and fun where they could find it and embrace it.  Maybe that's more like it.

By the time I came along, Mother was preoccupied with seeming proper.  That was a big deal to her - somewhat ironic because at the same time she was hoarding away, which made the house always seem a bit shoddy.  She came from a working class background, but in Montana the economic classes mixed together based on age and world views, so they had friends with more high brow backgrounds.  I think Mother became preoccupied with keeping up with the Joneses, and I lost seeing any of the fun loving girl she had - clearly - been.  As I pondered that, flipping past pages of her at parties, in bathing suits (never, not once, did I witness that in real life), with her family, with my dad, this is the mom I really miss, I think.  The Ruth I never knew.

I mean, I am sentimental of the moments she nursed me through a nasty bout of chickenpox and the measles at the same time, and I remember fondly the hours we would spend playing a card game called Spite and Malice.  I remember our matching spring coats that she made for us to wear on Easter.  I still have hers.  It will move to Pennsylvania with me.  I remember all the years, after she moved here, that she would come over every Sunday during football season, bringing bags of treats and snacks with her - and beer.  She discovered Corona once she moved here.  She loved it.  Our ritual was - mine still is - that we couldn't have a beer until we scored a touchdown.  We'd anxiously await our first touchdown of the day and then reward ourselves with an ice cold Corona with lime.  Our season opener, I will toast my mother with a Corona, hopefully early in the game (Dennis and Byron, are you listening?!).  Already preseason without her is odd.  The regular season will seem extremely off and sort of lonely, even though she stopped being able to come over every week a few years back.  But, I really miss ever seeing the skinny young girl in the cute little sun dresses, her tan radiating up from the old black and white photos.  Who was that person?  She looked so fun.

I hope when she and my dad found one another in wherever it is that we go after this, they were these people, with the exception being that instead of all their cares and worries being ahead of them, they are now behind them:

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