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My Mom – A Life Remembered

My mom used to tell us that when she passes, she didn't want us to spend lots of money on a big fancy funeral with lots of flowers, a fancy casket and people being sad. “Take that money and have a big party and celebrate! I'll be partying with you!”

Depending on your belief system, you may or may not give much credence to psychic ability. Mom gave a lot of credence to it and we have many friends in our circle who have that gift. The two consistent things they all said when she disappeared were that they saw her in water, and that wherever she was, she was happy. For two years I've been pondering those two things and now I understand. She was indeed in water, and she is indeed happy.

I don't understand why she became bi-polar so late in life. I've heard many theories, I've done my own research and I still have no definitive answers. I do know that bi-polar disorder is a horrible, destructive disease. It was horrible for her. It was horrible for the people who loved her. But I also know that her illness in no way reflected the extraordinary human being that she was and it's not what I want her to be remembered for.

What things do I remember about her?

She was a joyful person, full of life who laughed a lot, sometimes so hard she'd have tears coming out of her eyes. She was the kind of person people flocked to because she had so much heart, so much compassion - and she was so much fun.

She had this uncanny ability to raise one eyebrow while lowering the other. A trait that doesn't seem to have been passed on to any of us. Maybe it skips a generation...

And her skunk stripe – the blond streak she had just above her forehead. She had that from the time she was in college into her early-thirties. We used to tease her mercilessly about it. I remember how disappointed we were when she got rid of it because she'd had enough of our teasing.

I remember birthday parties – with angel food cake and light whipped cream for frosting. What kid likes angel food cake with light whipped cream frosting? We didn't. But it was so much better for you than chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Mom was a health food freak before it was fashionable to be a health food freak.

The homemade ice cream though – that was some of the best stuff in the world. For our birthday she'd make us home made vanilla ice cream. We used to beg her to make it for us the rest of the year, but it was only a birthday treat.

She was the kind of mom that every person wished they had growing up. And while I really wasn't too keen on the hairbrush, which by the way she wielded very effectively, as an adult, I look back now and realize just how very fortunate I was to have the parents I have and to have had the childhood I had. Her family and the people she loved meant everything to her.

Even after she became ill she looked so beautiful for all of our weddings. The biggest tribute to her life is her children who have the most wonderful memories of a fabulous life. We all hope our children remember their childhoods as fondly as we remember ours.

We'd have family picnics every summer holiday – Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, and I remember playing some pretty competitive games of croquet, bocce and jarts and on 4th of July lighting off sparklers and roman candles. She loved roman candles.

I remember trips to the beach every summer. We'd get up early in the morning to go walk along the beaches looking for sea glass and arrow heads. We'd swim out to “Turtle's back” during the day and at night, we'd go back down to the beach and sit on the bench for a while to “tuck in the ocean” before we went to bed.

We had the neighborhood house. Everyone called her “Mom”. In the summertime it was swimming in the pool. In the wintertime it was sledding down the front yard with mom out there perfecting the sled run for us after each time we went down. In high school, it was the gathering place for all teenage events. I remember late nights when we'd have a dozen friends over playing Ouija or “Light-as-a-finger-stiff-as-aboard” and mom would come out in her nightgown to say good night to everyone as she toddled off to bed.

I remember hiking the blue trail every afternoon after school. We'd hike out to the lone pine, sit down and eat macoun apples that we always took with us, and hike back. There was this 3-trunked tree at the top of the ravine that we'd leave our walking sticks in. We'd pick them up on the way out, and put them back in the tree on the way back. Sometimes, on the way, we'd stop at coon rock. I have to say that in high school, it didn't seem nearly as gargantuan as it did when we were kids and she and Gramma took us there to climb.

Over spring vacation every year when I was in high school Mom and I would go to a different park every day. We'd spread out a big blanket, sit down and have lunch, then sit there to read our books for a while. And then we'd go for a hike before heading home.

Mom loved the holidays – all of them. For Valentine's we'd have pink pancakes for breakfast, green ones on St Patrick's Day. At Easter we'd always color eggs and she made a cake that looked like a lamb, covered with coconut with jelly bean eyes.

Halloween was one of her favorites. We spent weeks getting our costumes ready, most of which mom made or put together. We always had “orange noodles” - otherwise known as Kraft macaroni and cheese. There were ghosts on all the windows made using glass wax and a cardboard haunted house she'd had since she was young. That thing has so much tape holding it together that by the time we were in high school it was probably as much cellophane tape as cardboard. Kids and parents came from all over the area for Mom and Dad's candied apples.

Her favorite holiday was Christmas. I remember making Christmas wreaths from princess pine and pines cones, making our own beaded ornaments, cookie baking parties and ginger people, and crowding around our little tiny organ and singing Christmas carols while Aunt Doris played. I've been trying to remember if she was “4 calling birds” or “6 geese a laying”. When we were older, we'd stay up with her on Christmas Eve to toast in Christmas and stay up til midnight on Christmas Day to toast it out.

She played her Christmas albums from what seemed like Labor Day to Memorial Day, stacking them up on the turntable of our big console stereo so it would play one, then pull the needle arm back, drop another album down and play the next one. Occasionally we had a few too many on the stack, or the stack wouldn't sit just right and a bunch of them would drop. I think you were only supposed to stack 3 at at a time at the most, but of course we'd pile on 5 or 6 just to see if we could.

And I remember singing. She had such a beautiful singing voice. I remember her trying to teach me how to harmonize. She was such a very patient woman. We used to sing all sorts of Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul and Mary and other folks tunes that she taught us - Tom Dooley, “Ana-cucha-katcha-gamma-tossa-merra-tossa-noca-sama-kama-wacky Brown, and Jess's favorite “There's a hole in the bucket dear liza dear liza...”

There are so many memories I have about my mom, and so many more that all of you have of her. But what I most want her to be remembered for is how much she loved, how much she laughed, and how much she celebrated life. Today, our day to remember her, that's exactly what I intend to do.