I think of my mother often during September. It’s her birthday month. In our family, we never celebrated birthdays to the extent that people do today. Yes, there were cards and usually a cake or a favorite meal but there were rarely gifts except for the youngest kids.
My mother died a few months after her 75th birthday. She was already ill and I feared it may be her last so I tried to make it special – the “Tess Way.”
We had not one but three birthday cakes. All were her favorites – banana cake, coconut cake and her famous chocolate cake recipe. We needed three because for her the best gift was family and this family is cake-eating family.
It was nothing formal. No meal was involved just an invitation to stop in to wish her a happy birthday and get a piece of cake. Everyone did. The best part was that the timing was staggered with people stopping by from mid-afternoon to early evening. That gave her a chance to talk to people one-on-one. She loved it.
She just loved catching up on what everyone was doing. The extended family was huge and someone was always doing something interesting. Stella, my oldest cousin would catch her up on her 5 siblings and all their kids. She loved when Stella stopped by.
Stella was my mother’s older sister’s oldest daughter and they were only 10 years apart. They grew up together so when they got together they were thick as thieves. I loved to hear the stories. They giggled like teenagers. They would be appalled at indignities committed and amazed at the changing world.
Their world did not have microwaves or dishwashers. Banks had tellers and no drive-through lanes. Neither did fast food restaurants. Oh wait! There weren’t many fast food restaurants back then. People ate at home.
This was before Al Gore invented the internet. Phones were tethered to the wall and TVs had a big ass end that never fit anywhere.
As with any extended family, there were some characters. My mother always said my Uncle Steve (her brother) was a hoarder. In fact when he died there were over 50 old broken-down TV sets in his barn (among other “treasures”). He was saving them for parts which he never needed.
When my mother died she had twenty pounds of sugar stashed away in the attic along with extra toilet paper. For people who grew up during the depression and then went through the rationing during World War II, what else would you expect?
She had extra nightgowns still in cellophane and unopened underwear. I don’t know why but perhaps she hit a sale.
Can you imagine what people would say about you when cleaning out your things after you die? (Note to self – be sure there is nothing scandalous in the drawers)
My mother was quite a character. She wasn’t June Cleaver although she wore pearls to church. She was outspoken about her opinions and somewhat intolerant as her generation could occasionally be (Archie Bunker?). In some ways she was a renaissance woman.
There was never anyone more kind or loving.
Happy belated birthday Mom!