I thought of my mother Saturday morning when I was sitting on the top step of the staircase in my living room, trying to pull on some stubborn socks.
My mother always insisted that I wear long stockings, no matter if I was wearing knickers as a kid or long pants when I grew to a big boy. She said that long stockings would keep me from catching cold.
Those long stocking days are generations past, but when I have trouble with any kind of socks, I think of my mom. On this Mother’s Day, I shall try and find some knee-high socks to wear.
HAVING A MOTHER like I had was the best thing that ever happened to me — outside of marrying Helen. My mom’s name was Edna, a wrinkly-handed bundle of kindness, a quiet girl from the west end of Davenport who never went beyond eighth grade. Out of school, she was hustled off to work at Independent Baking Co., across the street from where she lived on Rockingham Road. Her irksome chore, along with a few other young girls, was to carefully pack soda crackers — red hot right out of the ovens — into retail-sales boxes, about 8 inches long.
Packaging hot crackers for a few years wrinkled her tender young fingers. The wrinkles never left her hands, but that never bothered her. She loved to hold the hands of her three kids, Ruth, Helen and Billy, who were fascinated by how she deftly sewed flowers onto linens. We still use the pillowcases that she carefully embroidered with morning glories and poppies. Her embroidered dish towels are carefully folded in a kitchen drawer.
MY MOTHER lived a quiet, uncomplaining, gentle life in a big frame house with a clothes line and a back porch for kids to jump off of. She loved to sit on the porch, watching the kids play but warning, “No too loud; don’t disturb the neighbors.”
I can’t say she was a strict do-good moralist. She just simply told me, her only son, to “Always be a good boy” and "Don’t go near roughnecks."
I never heard her complain, even when she wanted to drive my dad’s first car, a boxy Essex. He told her that women were too nervous to drive a motor car, so she never drove. She sat in the back seat during our weekly Sunday afternoon rides. She didn’t believe in trips and the longest she ever nervously traveled was by train to the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1933.
Yet today, I can hear her admonitions to me … to always be polite, to open doors for elders, always eat your vegetables and never curse or say naughty words. At 92, I still never go beyond a “hell.”
My mother was all things, especially kind. She always called me Billy. Once in a while someone will call me that. When they do, I think of my mother. As our kids grew, they began calling her “Gram.” She rather liked that nickname.
She lived to be 95.