AS SHARED BY MY RETIREE GROUP and
SANDRA LEE SMITH
My original comment to our retiree group one day was that…as mothers and now grandmothers, we sometimes can reflect on things our own mothers gave to us, that we didn’t recognize as priceless gifts at the time.
I have clipped what Sandy has said, about what we took for granted and not giving thought to all the priceless gifts our mothers have given us. Will our children think the same about us many years from now? I see my mom’s wisdom in so many things now that I missed before.
I don’t mind telling you what I think my mother’s most priceless gift to all of us was…she never discouraged us (I have 6 siblings) from trying to do something. When I was in third or fourth grade I began taking piano lessons. I could BARELY read music (much less play) when Paul Whiteman (Paul Whiteman’s Goodyear Review, 1949-952) advertised for youngsters to audition for the TV show and I entered my name. We were notified of the date for tryouts. My mother drove me downtown to the audition – which (in retrospect) had to be excruciating for my mother. (I didn’t even have the piece memorized and had to stop to turn the page). But mom NEVER said a negative word about it. We watched a young girl in black tails tap dance to Lullaby of Broadway; she won and I remember her performing on TV sometime later.
Years later, it occurred to me that my mother could have easily brushed me off and told me I didn’t have a prayer (which I didn’t) – and that it was a waste of time to drive all the way downtown so I could play something somber by Franz Liszt (not very well). But she didn’t. To my knowledge she never discouraged any of us from trying anything. We all grew up knowing if you want something, go for it. It was a priceless gift.
When I told her, one day, that we were thinking of going to California, my mother said to me “If there’s something you want to do, do it now while you are young and CAN do what you want. When you are older you may not have the opportunity.” I never forgot that. I think she was reflecting on her own life and the things she never got to do.
She loved to dance and it wasn’t until my parents were retired and living in Florida that she was able to get into dance skits held by the Four Seasons Estates, where they lived. She also took up ballroom dancing. That, I think was her true passion.
It saddens me to know that I was an adult, with my mother suffering from Alzheimer’s and not knowing who we were…before I realized what priceless gifts she gave to us. There were other gifts but this one that stands out in my mind.
That is so true. Once my mother told me, when we were getting potatoes in the clay cellar and a shaft of sunlight was shining in on a white pebble on the clay floor. “People travel all over the world to see beauty and here we have it in our own clay cellar.” I was about 8 when she told me and she opened my eyes to isolated spots of beauty. It is never about the whole, only about the precise view.
I always heard that Hawaii was paradise and I was very disappointed when I finally went. It was not nearly as lovely scenery wise as an ordinary farmstead in Saskatchewan but it did have some isolated spots, coves and beaches and they were very lovely. When I traveled to Florida I was so disappointed because the beaches were filled with brown wrinkled old people. I was mid 30’s at the time and believed the tourism ads that Florida sent with tall, tanned lovely people running beach balls on the sand.
I’ve been thinking about all the treasures my mother bestowed on me and I believe the number one thing is my sense of optimism. I believe this optimistic point of view to life, while maybe rose-colored at times, gets me through some pretty rough situations. My mom was a very strong, fearless woman confident in everything she set out to do. She rarely fretted about anything that befell her but plowed right through and I think that this has been instilled in me from a very early age.
Another blessing she instilled in me is a sense of humor and the ability to laugh at myself and at pretty well every adverse situation that arises. She was kind of a prim and proper schoolteacher with the correct posture, etiquette and mannerisms but at times, she could be quite the hoot and maybe that’s where my warped sense of humor comes from.
My mother was a planner and an organizer which I am to a degree, perhaps not as much as she was. Before we would travel to some far off place such as Florida or down east, she would do extensive research and make a list of interesting places we should visit and she enjoyed doing this kind of planning and we had some wonderful trips.
Marge Sallee wrote:
My mother, Dorothy Bryan of Denver, CO, passed away last August at the age of 93 and was a worthy role model. I was raised as a latch-key kid in a single-parent family on a shoestring budget. She worked all of her life until she was replaced by computers at the age of 70. We couldn’t afford a car so she took public transportation to her job in downtown Denver, walking a half mile or so to the street car line and later the bus route day in and day out in good weather or bad. She rarely missed work and worked 5 1/2 to 6 days per week, never taking her vacation but getting the extra pay to help with bills. Just watching her example, my sisters and I were instilled with a strong sense of responsibility and a worth ethic that we applied to our own lives. She was strong and tenacious. She overcame so many obstacles to make sure her girls would have a happier life than she had. On a very small budget, she always managed to get those special things we needed or wanted. She believed in us feeling that we could accomplish whatever we put our minds to do. When I wanted to go to college, she knew that was out of her means. She never discouraged me from working for a scholarship. All she said was, “Be sure to take typing and shorthand so you can get a job to support yourself.” Those skills were very helpful in working my way through college, and I have used typing for the rest of my life. My mom gave me the greatest gift of all — love and wings!
Working mothers weren’t the norm in the 1920s but my Mom was a young widow with two children to support. She learned to be an upholstery seamstress. She worked all week and then brought my brother Bill and me to the zoo or the park on weekends. One special memory I had when I was badly burned and in the hospital at age 8, was my Mom coming to see me every day during her lunch hour. She had to spend a nickel each way to ride the street car and she brought me a whole orange. I wanted to share it but she said I needed it to help heal my burns.
I lived with Mom when my first baby was born. My husband was overseas. In the years that followed there were seven more children and my husband left us. My Mom kept working through the years but visited us every weekend, bought new school clothes for the children and made holidays and birthdays special events. My Mom worked all her life. In her seventies she had a power machine to work at home. She lived until she was 91 and she was in a nursing home but she was never alone. Her grandchildren loved her dearly. They took turns visiting, helping her with her meals. Looking back now, though my husband had left us I know I was never alone. Mom was always there for us. I could never have raised eight children without her help. They are my treasures now.
As mother’s day approaches, perhaps we can all reflect a bit on the priceless gifts our mothers gave to us.