Memories of Mom
My parents were unique in every sense of the word and the greatest “gift” they ever gave me was the ability to not take life so serious all the time. They loved to laugh and never gave a hoot about what others thought of them.
Now that they are both gone I must rely on the “memories” they left me and I have to say my head is almost bursting with them so let me share a couple of my more favorite ones with you.
Mom was this 5’5″ mixture of “german” pit bull, blue-blooded queen and Ringling Brothers center circle clown. She was a “party” in an apron, who was as comfortable in the kitchen as she was a 5 star dining room. She had class, grace and a zest for life that often found her in some pretty interesting situations. That was a good thing because even as a child I learned early that its ok to be myself as long as I didn’t hurt anyone.
My sister-in-laws and I used to look forward to going shopping with Mom because taking her into a store always meant we would eventually head for the “hat” department. My mother loved hats, the only problem was that she had a rather small head so finding one that actually fit her was an almost impossible task, but it didn’t keep any of us from trying. On one such outing we were in the local Sears Store one Saturday afternoon when as usual we made our way to the hats. I remember it being spring time so there was a large selection on display for the soon approaching Easter Holiday. Mom’s eyes lit up like a kid in a toy store when she saw so many selections. We however were just as excited not by the choices here but because we knew what was about to happen. Mom started with the simple ones first. One after another she put them on and as always found that they were just to big. Do you remember “weird Harold” from Fat Albert, mix him with Minnie Pearl and that’s what she looked like in most hats. She would put them on and immediately the top half of her head disappeared from view. By the time we had reached the more “decorative” hats we were usually having stomach cramps from laughing so hard. It wasn’t the hats really as much as it was watching Mom stumble around asking “who turned out the lights” that sent us over the edge. However this particular day “fate” was going to add a bit of extra enjoyment to our outing. Mom had put on a rather fancy hat covered with feathers, sequins and a big ass flower. It kind of reminded me of a peacock in a rose garden. She was standing in front of the mirror trying her best to adjust it so that it didn’t look as if she was being eaten head first by Big Bird. We were beginning to giggle when she got the idea to try folding her ears down from the top hoping that they might serve as a ledge for the hat to sit on. Oh my god…it was Yoda wearing a feather duster and that sent us in to fits of laughter so we really were not paying much attention to who else was shopping at the time. As soon as she turned around that hat did like always and swallowed up her head…then came the familuar…”where are you??? who turned out the lights??? is it dark in here??? as she stuck out her hands and started bumping off racks looking like she was playing an odd game of hide and seek. We were rolling with laughter totally caught up in this fun, when we heard this voice say….Terry…is that you, what ARE you doing? There on the other side of the isle was the parish priest from her church. We froze in place looking like a bunch of kids caught with our hands in the cookie jar. My mom, after a moment of hesitation, reached up, pushed back the front of that hat and smiled at Father Jim who was now looking at her with great interest. After a moment of uncomfortable silence, without missing a beat my mother looked him in the eye and said…”well Father I was trying to find a hat to wear to church on Easter Sunday, don’t you think this one is lovely”? Father Jim hesitated then smiled kindly at each of us clearly looking for help only to find blank stares. After a moment he cleared his throat and replied, “yes it is lovely but I don’t think it suits you, perhaps something a bit smaller would be better”? Undaunted my Mom plucked that hat off her head, and replied…”well Father, they don’t make hats to fit the head God gave me”.
Easter Sunday we arrived in church in our best outfits, and Father Jim stood speechless as my mother approached, said good morning and entered the church wearing a hat covered in ribbons and bows that she had clearly found in the kid’s department…but at least she could see where she was going.
Mom, loved cook-outs and during the summer our house was always filled on the weekends with family and friends. She would make the most incredible things on the grill that you could smell from blocks away. It was during one of these weekend gathering that a friend of my brothers who my parents had unofficially adopted as one of their own this was a common occurence in our house decided to introduce his new wife to the family. She was a rather shy little thing who had come from a quiet family so she was not ready to meet us. Gary had tried to warn here that Mom was a bit of a character but I don’t think even he was ready for this introduction. Mom of course saw this as the perfect opportunity to have a little fun so she put on this old nightgown she had with a pair of big red lips sewn on to the back, blackened out her front teeth, teased her hair, put on an old straw hat and a pair of roller skates and when Gary and his new wife arrived, she skated down the driveway as we all watched to meet them, yelling….honey chil…come hug yo mama! I don’t know who was more shocked Gary or his new wife who was backing up with a look of fear on her face. For the rest of the day that girl just sort of kept one eye on my Mom and one on the door. Thankfully, she learned over the next 20 plus years that when in came to Mom anything was possible and to never expect her to do the ordinary. She ended up being “adopted” into the family.
Mom had a great sense of humor even when she was the butt of the joke. These next two memories would make her blush but she would share them with you anyway.
I was a little kid when we moved into the house in Virginia so I don’t really have a clear memory of this event but I grew up hearing the story so often that it feels as if I do, so I will tell it as I heard it since it always makes me laugh.
Mom hated mice, so one evening she came in from the garage carrying a load of laundry she said to my brother that there was a mouse in the garage and he needed to kill it. Dad had put traps out but that mouse had avoided them so far. My brother went out to the garage looking for the mouse and Mom followed him. There were some lawn seed bags out there that she was sure the mouse had tried to get into so as my brother poked around she stood by the washing machine watching. There was a mouse trap across the garage from her with a tasty bit of cheese that she told my brother to try to chase the mouse into. His poking around didn’t take long to produce a mouse. This tiny little gray thing darted out from behind the bags and dashed across the garage. The problem was he was heading straight for my Mom. She started yelling when she saw him coming but before she could get out of the way, that mouse ran across her foot and my Mom did the only thing she could do at that point….she wet her pants, dousing that poor little mouse in the process who then, turned and made a mad dash straight for the mouse trap. My brother dissolved into hysterics when he realize that the mouse had committed suicide after Momma had piddled on him! She never lived that one down, and whenever someone said they had a problem with a mouse after that, we always volunteered to send Mom to solve the problem.
It was after I had married, had the kids and had move to North Carolina that Mom once again left us all in tears of laughter. Her and Daddy had come for a visit and one evening we had decided to go into town to go to the local mall. On our way home we decided to stop at the Dairy Queen for ice cream with the kids. We all piled out of the car and headed inside. We were all laughing about something one of the kids had said in the car when I heard my Mom say she had to use the lady’s room. My husband was walking behind her up the steps when Mom had a “gas attack”. My husband being a joker himself heard her and said “grandma are you smuggling elephants”? My poor Mom burst out in laughter and wet her pants at the same time and the situation went from bad to worse when the girls realized what had happen. They fell over in laughter as my Dad who was the last to understand was sent rushing back to the van to grab a blanket. I guess he thought she was cold or something because he tried offering her his jacket which just made us all laugh even harder, her included. Once Daddy realized what had happen he dashed off as we tried to shield her from the other people who were coming and going. We never made it into the Dairy Queen that night, and on the way home while she trying to apologize for embarrassing us all one of the kids said….”its ok Grandma just don’t put an elephant in your pocket next time”.
You couldn’t say the word “elephant” from that time on in our house without everyone bursting out in laughter.
Momma, I love you and miss you more than you will ever know. Thanks for being the person you were and teaching me to laugh instead of cry.
Copyright Theresa Allen 2010