bouquet from MartyMother’s Day bouquet from Marty Gay

Mom Is Not My Real Name, says a button magnet once attached to my refrigerator. Often when I saw that saying, I thought of my own mom. Still do today.

Lots of people called her “mom.” But her given name was Beatrice or Bea, who early in her life, tried to express her creative spirit in paintings. She wanted to attend the Art Institute in Chicago for training. But her father would have none of that! Girls didn’t need to be doing such silly things and it probably was a “sinful” undertaking. Besides, all hands were needed on the farm.

Mom’s creativity was channeled in other ways, appearing in such practical skills as cooking, baking, sewing, quilting, embroidering, and “saving for a rainy day.”  Saving was a passion with mom, and today’s environmentalists can seldom top her efforts. She saved egg shells to be buried in the garden to enrich the soil. Egg cartons were saved for someone to reuse. Slivers of soap could be melted down, reformed, and reused.  Glass jars and bottles were saved for preserving: tomatoes, pickles, peaches, apricots, grape juice, tomato juice, jellies.

Anyone need a rubber band? You were bound to find one on the broom closet door knob. Mom saved hundreds of scraps of cloth that might be used for a quilt or for patching clothes. Thin or ripped bed sheets were patched with flour or sugar sack material. One infamous sheet that I recall had at least six such patches. Worn blankets were sewn together to create a new-used bed covering.

Every bit of paper (including envelopes) with a blank side was saved for writing on again. Greeting cards, birth and death announcements, shower and wedding invitations, letters, and countless other written communications were saved to reread dozens of times. Mementos and photographs from all types of events were never thrown away. Neither were paper bags, string, pencil stubs, and countless other everyday items that someone might be able to reuse someday.

On Sundays and holidays, sharing meals was a special event. Guests also came for such occasions as showers, graduations, birthdays, and quilting bees. In my mind, I can still see the quilting frame with its white cloth and colorful pieces of  material stretched nearly across the living room for days on end, as the ladies carefully worked their teeny-tiny stitches—and they’d better be teeny-tiny stitches or a quilter might find herself shunned by the other skillful needle-and-thimble contortionists. My brother and I played with blocks and other toys under that quilted “big top”—a cozy retreat.

I think of Mom with snapshots:

  • hemming skirts and dresses and fitting my brother with pants and suits she made on her trusty Singer;
  • pouring boiling water over lemons and honey to soothe our sore throats;
  • showing me how to iron men’s shirts the “professional” and “efficient” way; i
  • insisting that Saturday was not for lolling around in bed—there were household chores to do;
  • cajoling, prodding everyone to get ready for church on Sunday morning.
  • Mom dressing for some event, always meticulous with her hair, hat, stylish dress and shoes—and gloves. Don’t forget the gloves, a pair for every occasion.
  • Mom fussing, planning, organizing, and preparing for weddings, births, funerals, charity events, family gatherings….

Mom was one of her names. So was Beatrice, Bea, Aunt BB, Sister Bea…

Mom died at the age of 97.

Peace to thee, the preacher said.


Author: Kathlyn Gay

Author of 120 nonfiction books for young adults and adults, including encyclopedias and other reference titles

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