Ma, Mice and Mayhem

pictures from old computer 072Well, with Mother’s Day on the horizon, I thought I would touch on Ma again. When this picture was taken, I was 67 and she was 90 years old. I don’t think either of us thought we would get this far down the road, to tell the truth.

She gave up on trying to make a girl out of me by the time I was five years old. An excellent seamstress, she told me to never mind trying to sew. …and added that she knew I would rather play baseball. When it came to cooking, she took one look at me and told me to go play ball, she didn’t have ingredients to waste. That was the eerie part…Ma could read my mind. She knew I had no use for sewing or cooking when I could be running wild outside either fishing, playing ball or building a tree house. I think she was glad to have me out from under her feet.

There were those times when she came down hard on me. Oh, yeah, the woman did not spare the rod. I knew when I skipped my chores, I was “in for it.”  Many a time I picked a bunch of “Stinking Benjamins” from the path in the woods and brought them for a peace offering. Silently, she put them in a jelly jar on the table without a word of reproach. She knew I was suffering inside, wondering what my punishment would be and that really was punishment enough, knowing I’d let her down.

Oh, there were times when I knew she was totally unfair. One day I played at my cousins’ house way beyond the time to prepare for the parents coming home from work. They came home to absolutely nothing done. Before I knew it, I was running toward home on the path through the woods with a very upset mother behind, weilding her “switch stick.”

But as years went by and we were in high school, it was Ma who worked all day in the mill and drove me to my basketball game, sat and cheered, drove home, went to bed and up before dawn for another day at the mill. When Ma got her drivers’ license, it was the key to Sunday afternoon at the movies, going to baseball games  on the week-end and always seeing I got to my beloved sports games. She said if I wanted to play softball and basketball bad enough to walk from Bryant Pond to Locke Mills and the four miles down the Greenwood Road to home after dark, then the least she could do was drive me to the games.

Ma was the one who gave us the fifty cents we needed for the mandatory Readers Digest subscription.  Having nothing as a child, she tried to give us as much as possible. True, it was not much, but then no family at that time had very much.

There are some moments that live forever. One day Ma was going to bake her famous biscuits. She kept her flour in a large tin with a cover. I sat at the table and suddenly I heard a clang and screech and Ma flew by with the tin in hand and out the door she ran. She stopped at the edge of the woods and turned the tin upside down , turned and came in and plopped the tin in the sink. Mice, she thundered, Mice! There were mice in my flour. How can they get through tin. She clanged the tin, clanged the cover, filled the tin with boiling hot water and proceeded to scrub. I was so stunned, I sat wide-eyed. After a few minutes of scrubbing, she dried the tin, set it upside down on the counter, came to the table, sat down and said, there will be no biscuits tonight. End of story. No need for her to elaborate on what had just taken place.

After Dad died, Ma took an active part in her local union and traveled to many union conventions. At that point in life, I was out and about interviewing  and writing for several newspapers. She knew I had nice clothes to wear for interviews. I came home one night to find her in the bedroom, raiding my clothes for her convention trip. I called her “the thief” for many years after that.

Another moment was years later when she came to visit me in New York. It was August and she loved garage sales. I proceeded to drive her around the village and we happened upon a nice sale with a handsome vacuum cleaner. I had needed one for some time and yes, I was assured it worked beautifully. Home we came. I proudly sat it in the middle of the floor and we both agreed it was handsome indeed! It was self propelled, it said, and that would make it easier on my back. Ma said we should give it a whirl. She plugged it in and that cleaner came alive. It actually started chasing me. Ma started yelling to stop it and I yelled back I didn’t know how. I jumped on the sofa, the vacuum hit the sofa, did a swirl and headed in Ma’s direction. She ran and got behind a kitchen chair. The cleaner went right up to the chair and spun its wheels . In that one lucid moment, we both remembered how to stop it. She reached over and pulled the plug. We looked at each other and collapsed on the sofa laughing.

The vacuum went out on the porch , never to be plugged in again. I kissed my five dollars good bye and grateful we both escaped unscathed.

The picture below is my brother, Rex and I with our Mom at Thanksgiving in Maine. She still had a great sense of humor.

rsm2The last visit I had with my Mom I leaned over and whispered “Remember the great vacuum cleaner caper, Ma?”  She started laughing and I knew it was one of the moments she never forgot either.

I hope everyone has special moments with their Moms this Mother’s Day and all through the year.


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