Today would have been my mother’s birthday. The Ides of March. (Mom died New Year’s Day.) Today I’m going to my brother’s house and we will reminisce and have dinner with family including my mom’s little sister who is 13 years younger than mom.
My mom often told me that she raised her little sister.
My cousin wrote me a loving sympathy letter that included a funny story I had never heard before about Mom, my aunt (my cousin’s mom) and red squares.
My aunt had a friend over and my mom, as the older sister, had them in a competition to earn red cloth squares. I’m not sure what ages they were, but Mom had them busy doing chores. They would earn a red cloth square for finishing their chore first.
I talked to my aunt about it and she said whoever earned the most red squares won the grand prize. She said she wanted the grand prize more than anything!
She won — and the grand prize turned out to be a bigger red cloth square.
Mom was a strong Christian and I have memories of her giving us a Bible verse each morning. She typed hundreds of them on 3 1/2 by 2″ cards.
She was big on chores and that’s one thing I despised the most coming home from school. We’d come home to an empty house, as latch key kids when Mom was earning her degree in Music at the University of Washington. She already had a degree in Home-Ec Education. Mom would leave a legal-sized yellow sheet of college-ruled paper with both sides filled with chores to be done before she got home. She had an ineligible scrawl that was hard to read.
I realize now, she not only wanted dinner cooked, the dishes done, the house vacuumed, the garage swept (you get the idea) — she was keeping my brother and I out of trouble. She was keeping us busy.
Tomorrow we spread her ashes at our riverfront property.
Here’s a photo of her in her teens or early twenties at the river.
What chores did you have growing up? Did you have your children do chores too?
As I was thinking about my trip to Washington to celebrate my mom’s life, on Saturday my husband and I had a day where we didn’t want to do anything. I remembered my mom had days like that where she let us stay in our pajamas all day. She called them “mung days.”
I don’t know where she got that name for being lazy. I looked up “mung” at Dictionary.com:
something disgusting or offensive, especially filth or muck.
verb (used with object)
to make dirty (often followed by up).
to spoil, ruin, or destroy (often followed by up).
Maybe staying in your PJs all day doing nothing is filthy and disgusting?
I don’t remember the last time my husband and I had a “mung” day. He had a migraine Saturday. I was tired. We had a busy week and we went out with friends Friday night. On Saturday, I did my stretches, crunches, walk, dishes and laundry. Not a total waste of a day. I got out of my pajamas.
My mom on the other hand, had many a “mung” day. As I look back on my childhood, I remember full weeks when she didn’t get out of bed. Yes, she was a wonderful, loving mother. She was the mother I wrote about in the story I posted HERE who was talented and vibrant.
She was diagnosed as manic depressive, which is now called called bipolar. It wasn’t the easiest of childhoods for either my brother or me — because of both Mom and Dad. I’m pretty sure my kids would say the same thing about their childhoods, too.
I found this sign years ago in a gift shop and was immediately attracted to it. People laugh when they see it. I laugh too, but have memories that aren’t that funny.
I wrote a mid-grade novel loosely based on my childhood. I let several of my friends read it. One friend said, “I just want to give you a hug and raise you up all over again.”
I realized I didn’t want to have it published because it would be hurtful to Mom and Dad. So, the manuscript filled with emotions from my childhood sits quietly in a drawer. I may take a look at it again, maybe submit to publishers. Or maybe read it to recall my childhood days.
If you don’t have “mung” days, what do you do instead when you feel like not doing anything?
I wrote this years ago, when I was visiting my mom in assisted living near Seattle. I am reposting this in her memory. We lost her Jan. 1, 2023.
Why is my daughter so annoyed with me?
I understand how she feels. After all, I was once 19 years old. I remember it very clearly.
When I was that age, everything my mom did, I found unbelievably annoying.
I’ll never forget sitting with her in the car, getting ready to shop at Bellevue Square. She had parked the car. She was fumbling through her purse, making sure she had what she needed. She reapplied her lipstick. Dug through her purse for her wallet to look through credit cards. Searched several times to check where she placed the keys.
Would we never leave the car? Would I be stuck all day? I must have said something to her quite snippy or flat-out mean. A few tears rolled down her cheeks. Which made me more upset with her.
Isn’t it a sad feeling, transitioning from a mom who could do no wrong—from changing diapers, to cooking their favorite spaghetti, to taping treasured colorings on the fridge that were made just for you—to being the person of their abject disdain?
It’s a tough new role. Let me tell you.
But, having gone through these feelings myself, I understand. I’m visiting my mom this week in her assisted living center. I talked about it with her, what I’m going through now, and what I felt like when I was 19. Fortunately, she doesn’t remember me ever being a snarky 19-year-old.
For some reason, I’ve gained more patience throughout my life and that has been a blessing. I’ve also learned forgiveness.
Something else I’ve learned through years of parenting — this too shall pass.
It’s called independence and freedom. We want our children to grow and become separate human beings who can stand on their own. They need to separate from us. A good time to do that is during their senior year of high school, or their freshman year of college. They need to. I keep telling myself that.
However, we also want to be treated with respect, and once again—someday—to be cherished.
Have your children been annoyed with you? Do you remember being annoyed with your parents? What were the reasons why?
My New Year started off with a phone call from my brother that our mom was found in her bed unresponsive. Within two hours she passed away after being taken by ambulance to the hospital. This was totally unexpected. She tested positive for COVID five days earlier but was asymptomatic.
I’m going through shock, denial, disbelief and grief all at once.
I wrote this story about her years ago. I sent it to children’s book publishers and actually got an offer from a small publisher. I turned down the offer because I didn’t think it was big enough! I’ve never had another offer in my life to have a book published.
Here’s the story:
A DIFFERENT KIND OF MOTHER
I have a different kind of mother. She’s not like other mothers on our street. She looks like other mothers. But it’s what she does that’s different.
She sings all the time. She sings songs by men named Wagner and Wolf. But she calls them “VAHgner” and “VOUlf.”
When my friends come over they ask “What is that?” We listen. “La la la la la la la la laaaa.”
I shrug my shoulders and say, “That’s my mom.”
My friends laugh. Their mothers never sing unless it’s to the radio.
My mom sings all the time. She sings operas while she drives, cooks, shops, gardens, reads and cleans. I think she sings in her dreams.
My mother never buys a loaf of bread. She bakes it every week and slices it with a big knife. Sometimes she lets me punch down the dough after it rises.
When I take my lunch to school, my sandwich sits crooked and looks like it’s ready to fall. My mother packs me carrot sticks, a hard boiled egg, an orange and an apple. There’s too much food and not one chip or pretzel like the other kids get. I like to order hot lunch.
My mother thinks hunting through the woods for mushrooms is fun. She took classes to learn about mushrooms so she knows which are good to eat and which ones are poisonous. I hate it when she asks my friends to go picking with her. But they love to go tramping through the dense green forest, climbing over fallen logs covered with moss. She points out the faerie rings where the mushrooms grow.
My mother grows vegetables in her garden, she won’t buy them at the store. But does she grow peas and carrots like the other mothers on our street? No. She’s proud of her eggplant, asparagus, spaghetti squash and rhubarb.
When my friends come over to play, my mother asks them to weed the garden.
“Nobody wants to weed. We want to play,” I tell her.
Then I turn around and the kids are lined up on both sides of her, pulling weeds as she tells them about the vitamins in vegetables.
My mother doesn’t read ordinary books by popular authors. She likes to read e.e. cummings with letters scattered over the page. I don’t know what the poems say. But my mother gathers up the letters and makes sense out of them.
Digging for clams up to her elbows in mud is how my mother catches dinner. She knows about razor clams that we dig in the surf and butter clams, littlenecks and cockles we find in the gritty gravel. She calls the ones we break with our shovels “clums.”
She picks oysters off the beach, shucks the top shell of and eats them raw right then and there. She eats the roe out of sea urchins and said, “It tastes like caviar!”
She’s the friendliest person on the street. She bakes wild blackberry pies for elderly neighbors and talks tomatoes with anyone who will listen.
She invites the neighborhood kids in, even if I don’t want her to. She doesn’t care when kids build a fort in our backyard or makes tents in the living room with old sheets. She lets us draw chalk pictures on the driveway and dig for China in the backyard.
At night when she tucks me in, I listen to her sing a lullaby with her beautiful voice.
When she kisses me good night, I love that my mother is a different kind of mother.
It’s a busy week or two. We returned from a trip to Mexico. I wrote about that HERE.
My son and his girlfriend are visiting from the Bay Area. We are gong to visit Taliesin West later today. It will be a first for all of us. That’s the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright. We’ll be going on a self-guided tour. A coincidence is that a friend of mine from playgroup days in Palm Springs is a director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. What a small world! I found out from a friend in Palm Springs that our mutual friend had moved to Arizona a month or two before us. I wrote about coincidences recently HERE.
Next week, I fly to Seattle to visit my 90-year-old mom. I meant to visit for her birthday last March, but we were in the throws of Omicron. Both my daughter and husband got it. What weird days those were. I was taking care of my daughter — without being near her. We would wave at each other through her apartment window. I’d go to the laundromat and grocery store for her and leave things on her front steps.
When my husband had COVID, I moved into our Casita. It has a kitchen, so I cooked him chicken soup with lots of garlic and onions. I’d leave it outside the front door and text him. I was close if he needed me, but I wasn’t in physical contact.
I now have an aversion to flying. We have taken trips by car, which I’m comfortable with, but I haven’t wanted to get on an airplane. I can’t stand the wait at the airport, the crowds, being on the plane. COVID ruined flying for me.
Did COVID change your feelings about flying, too? Or did it affect you in other ways? Did you or your family get it?
Disneyland 14 years ago. I remember a great mother-daughter day.
I was texting a friend whose life is pretty much on the same track as mine. We both have our youngest off to school–at the same university–and our oldest ones almost finished. We met at the University’s orientation last summer with our incoming freshman and went to many programs together. We realized we had met earlier in the spring at a high school swim meet.
A beach day with my daughter.
My point is that our lives are eerily parallel. We both visited our youngest children this past weekend. We stayed in the same hotel and ran into each other a few times. My husband and I went to watch our daughter swim in two meets. They were there to spend time with their daughter and to celebrate a birthday.
I mentioned to this friend that I didn’t think I’d miss my daughter so much when it was time to leave. But, in reality it was worse this trip than on earlier ones. She said she felt the same way. I knew I’d be upset in August after we moved my daughter into the dorms and had to say good-bye. I wrote about that here. But, this was a close second in sadness. I had this awful lonely, empty heart. I sat in the airport with my husband feeling sorry for myself. I should have been feeling happy. My daughter is doing well in school, loves her team and has many friends.
Sailing in Santa Barbara with my daughter and friends.
Please someone, tell me that it will get better!
In about three weeks, I’m traveling to my daughter’s conference meet. It’s close by to my mom. I will enjoy and embrace sitting by my mom’s side in her assisted living facility. Despite the sour smell, the closed windows and her refusal to open the blinds. I’ll happily sit with her and watch all the reruns of Golden Girls that her heart desires. I hope I can make her day a little brighter. Just the way my daughter makes mine.