October 25, 2014

I Remember Mama On Her Birthday

I read a saying today that essentially said that it matters not who your ancestors were but what you leave behind.  As a family genealogist, I might slightly dispute that first part, but as this is the anniversary of my mom’s 89th birthday today, I prefer to remember what she left behind.

From earliest days I remember my mother as affectionate and kind without being too smothering. She forgave many who wronged her and we learned through her to be more tolerant of others.

Mom lost her own mother when she was almost six years old. I don’t think she really remembered her mother other than through feelings and not memories. In doing our family research I wonder just what was going on with my Grandma Helen Moline. She and my grandpa Elvin (Al) married when they were quite young, but didn’t have their first child (my aunt Jeane) until 1920. That was around six years they were together without any children.

Was Helen working and not willing to give up her job (she was sometimes employed as a vocalist for funerals), or they just waited to have children until Al’s income was more steady? From 1929 until 1933 my mother and her sisters didn’t have a female roll model in their lives. In 1933 grandpa married his second wife Lillian (Eppy) Epstein and at that point she became the person who would mold my mother into a lady.

Eppy was a stickler for manners and etiquette because she was raised that way, or so I assume. My mother relaxed a bit around home, but out in public we had to have our public manners on display at all times. Nothing wrong with that! No talking with your mouth full; no elbows on the table; no reaching across the table or chewing with your mouth open. She always said it sounded like a cow pulling it’s foot out of the mud.

Mom was a Girl Scout and so when we were living in rural Tumwater she taught us how to light a campfire and keep it going. We roasted potatoes in the fire and snatched branches from the apple trees to roast marshmallows. We would go for walks and she would show us where the hazelnut bushes were in the woods so we could bring home those prickly covered delicacies to dry and have later as a snack. We picked wild blackberries (the small ones, not the Himalayan kind) and sometimes the small red huckleberries for pie or just to munch.

Mom loved to play cards and games, and almost every winter we had a jigsaw puzzle going on the kitchen table. That was great because then we could eat in the living room! The trouble with that was that sometimes my dad would stroll through the kitchen and grab one of the pieces so that at the end we were looking all over the floor for the missing piece. He would finally own up to the theft and we all would have a good laugh at his legerdemain.

We would all read books, and some of my favorites were the Reader’s Digest condensed books. That was where my world was expanded beyond the walls of the house. Mom and I both read Mrs. Mike, a story of a young woman who married a Canadian Mountie and lived in the wilds of Canada.

So many memories of Mom….learning to cook from her, learning how to iron correctly, being curious about the world we lived in. She and dad both taught us about economics and what drove the economy. Dad was a carpenter and his work was quite often seasonal. We had lean times and those of plenty. We appreciated it all and learned life lessons that would stay with us always.

Mom was not only my mother but we were friends. She would reprimand me when I was being intolerant, and praise me when I tried my best to succeed. She was always on my side, but not afraid to tell me when I was being a toad. In fact, that was her nickname for me…”Toad”.

I’ve written 700+ words about Mom and it just barely describes the woman she was. I miss her every day and hope that I too have passed along her lessons to my son, and in turn, he might pass some along to our grandkids.

Sentimental Sunday: Joan Moline Yates 1923- 2001
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