In Memoriam: Stories My Mother Told Me

“One lives in the hope of becoming a memory.”
― Antonio Porchia

The photo above is one of my Mother that I love at least in part because of the story she told me about it. She was 8 or 9 years old and her mother had her wearing “sausage” curls, meaning her hair must have been very long but it was curled into long “tube” like curls. I have seen pictures of her hair like that but I couldn’t find now any in the photos I have. Anyway, her mother sent her alone to the hairdresser to then go on alone to the photographer on her bike (??!!!). She told me that she hated those long curls and she told the hairdresser when she got there that her mother wanted her hair to be cut short. Then she went on to the photographer with her new hairdo. I love that mischievous look on her face. Apparently, my grandmother was not pleased and there was some heavy punishment for her fun but that picture tells a great story.

My mother went to college to be a pharmacist in the big city and went back home after only one semester. She got a “D” in a class, I think it was Chemistry but she told me that she was mostly lonely and used her grades as an excuse. I have an absolute picture in my mind of her telling me this story – me standing in the doorway to her room and her sitting on her bed with her head hanging down. She did finish a degree later when we were still small. I remember the summer we had an au pair – even though we didn’t call her that at the time – while my mother finished her degree and became a teacher.

I don’t think she ever told me how she met my Dad. He was four years older so it probably wasn’t at school. She did tell me about the night they got engaged. They were going to the winter dance and went out to dinner together first where he popped the question and then went back to tell her parents who were going to be chaperones at the dance. Her parents pitched a fit. My grandmother went upstairs to her room. Her parents ended up not going to the dance. My father was apparently not at the social level her parents thought she should marry into. That never changed. A month after my Dad died – my parents had been married for something like 33 years, my mother’s mother told her daughter that “now she can marry someone of her own social standing”. Funny enough, my grandmother always insisted that my Dad had liked her. He was a quiet man. He didn’t talk much but I don’t believe her ever really liked her.

This picture I found really hits me. My Mother is the dark-haired “girl” with the white headband. She looks so young, so pretty. Who was she? What were her dreams? My impression of her is wrapped up in our fights and my prejudices about how she “was”. Probably none of it is true. I will always remember the smell of cookies baking. The trouble she went to make currant jelly that none of us could stand to eat. The efforts she made to cook nice meals (never much of a success in my opinion but what do I know). The image of her stitching in a corner of the sofa watching TV with one leg tucked up under and her whisky-voice laugh. She died six years ago and sometimes it feels like yesterday. I miss you Mom.

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  1. That was lovely, Sarah. I’m sitting with my mom right now while she naps. We moved her into assisted living last weekend because dementia has robbed her of her independence. I think about what she was like before this ailment began and the adventure her life has been & I know I miss who she was already. ?❤️- Carol

    1. Thank you Carol. My best wishes for you and your mom. That is a hard road and I wish you strength. – Sarah

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