You would have loved my Mom. She was a kick. She drove me crazy, and in so many ways, she did not embody the typical Mom persona, but she made the most of what she had to work with.
|My Mom with her siblings, she was the eldest of 6|
My Mom’s name was “Bonnie Jean”. (My name was originally “Leslie jean”, but I nixed the jean as soon as I could.) Bonnie Jean, was always engaged in some activity, in addition to raising us. Not sure where she found the time, but she did. When she developed an interest, in as much as time and her budget would allow, she absorbed herself in her hobby with immense passion and tunnel vision focus. For example, she was a gifted seamstress, and for a while she made all of my clothes, and all of her clothes. Dozens of brightly colored polyester pantsuits for herself and jumpsuits for me. Sometimes we matched. For a year or so she bred and sold Irish Setter dogs and Siamese cats. We always had a puppy or a kitten in the house, every child’s dream! When I was a teenager, she developed an interest in Salt Water fish, and so of course we had a huge fish tank , housing $100 fish, in our kitchen. Our cat would reach her paw right into the tank and have a very expensive lunch and my Mom would take the cat and fling her outside, cussing with tears running down her cheeks. Having teenagers myself, I can see how saltwater fish and the time they take would be a good distraction from the rigors of teen drama. Then there was photography, Refinishing furniture, watercolor painting and the Birds. Never one to do things small, she had an aviary built onto the back of her house. But, I think my personal favorite, and the “hobby” she involved me in the most, were her Roses.
We lived in Lincoln, Nebraska from the time I was 3 until I was almost 10. Both of my parents had their roots in New England, so that move across the country, from Hartford, Connecticut to the little house on the prairie with 3 small children and one more child on the way, must have been incredibly difficult and isolating for my Mom. Away from family, however dysfunctional, and away from all the familiar things of home. I barely remember our first house, except the complete absence of trees, just wide open prairie. It was a brand new house in a brand new subdivision in a brand new idea they called the suburbs.
Next door to that brand new house were the Cook family. And to her dying day, if you asked my Mom who her best friend was, she would answer without pause, “Lois Cook”. They swapped the duties of motherhood, almost as if they lived in the same house. The Cooks had 3 kids, similar ages, and we were all just one big pack of kids, being raised by two young Moms. The six of us, and then the seven, playing hard and napping together. I so vividly remember Mrs. Cook, knocking on the door, and yodeling in “Yoooo-hoooo! anybody home?” It was the life.
There were many wonderful moments, especially through the eyes of a child living in Nebraska, but I think the life there was incredibly isolating and lonely for my Mom. And I think that through her hobbies, she dulled the pain of the repetitive tedious nature of Motherhood, and she gave herself something that was hers. alone. But who has 100 rose bushes and 4 kids?! 100 rose bushes. 100 !The legend has it that when we moved, from one house to another , that my Mom transplanted 100 rose bushes. 100. And she moved them from one house to the next. I can still see them, these winding horseshoe shaped gardens, winding around our yard, yards of roses. They smelled so sweet.
Because raising the 100 rose bushes was not enough, my Mom competed in Rose shows. We would drive to Omaha, my Mom and I, and she would enter her Roses in Rose Shows and she would walk away with an arm full of ribbons and trophies. Once, she entered me in the Junior division. The only trophy I ever received as a child was the trophy I got at the Rose show. My roses were named “Little Darling” and they were placed in a tiny pink porcelain baby carriage. I was 6 years old and so proud of my beautiful roses. But mostly I remember how fun it was to be, just me and my Mom, at the rose show. I loved having her all to myself, even if I had to share her with the roses. I learned recently that “Little Darling” is a miniature rose, and that the hybrid was only introduced in the late 50’s, making my Mom cutting edge in the Rose world. Who knew?
There are so many things I would love to talk to my Mom about, especially now, as I navigate Motherhood myself, and experience so many of the same feelings that she must have felt.
It is humbling to love your children. It makes you realize how much you were loved.