In a few hours it will be the 5th anniversary of my Mom's death. I was just going through some documents on my computer and found something called Mom2 and being curious, opened it up. It was the rough copy of the eulogy that my sister Karen gave at Mom's memorial service. She was chosen for this "honor" since she had a better chance of holding it together than I did! And she did a wonderful job, Mom would have been proud of her. Reading this over made me smile with remembering and cry due to missing her so much. Here it is...
"I was a teenager when a group of women held a roast to mark my mother’s ascendancy as the first woman President of the local United Way. One of the women, unknown to me now, told me something about my mom being perfect. Perfect. Well, yeah, I could she how this woman might think so, even if she was exaggerating just a bit. But her comment intimidated me enough that I could not get up and deliver my one joke about boys I dated being scrutinized about their donating habits – completely untrue, by the way.
But this woman saw my mom as perfect because for a woman in that time, she had it all. She was pretty and powerfully smart. She dressed very well, had a handsome and sweet husband who adored her, co-owned a successful business, lived in a beautiful home she designed herself, and had two children that had not been arrested. She was opening doors for women all around her – she was always the leader and had a lot of “firsts”.
But perfect? Well, no.
My mother could not sing. She sang all the time, of course, but she couldn’t find the right key or keep from going flat for the life of her. But she loved to sing, and she did it anyway. She would sing silly songs, road songs, and camp songs with my dad. He actually has a very nice singing voice, but he’d always sing along in the same style as my mom. Loud and joyful. Every birthday, my mom and dad would call around breakfast and bellow out the Happy Birthday song. It is our most precious birthday ritual, and we will miss her voice terribly.
Mom traveled the world, and often told me how lucky she felt for having the opportunity to do so. When money was tight but love was plentiful, our family started camping. Many of my absolutely favorite childhood memories came from our family trips and travels. When money was less tight, Mom and Dad traveled not quite to every continent, but close.
So she traveled the world, but she could not find her way across town. She had the worst sense of direction of anyone I have ever known. If Mom said to go right, you knew you should go left. Dad equipped her with the best maps and directions. She did not let her total lack of direction stop her from going places, but she always had to leave extra time for getting lost. She was ahead of her time – the perfect customer for Mapquest and GPS systems before they were around.
She was a gourmet cook. She followed Julia Child’s career, and we spent many a childhood dinner trying the newest creation. She read Gourmet magazine and cookbooks for fun. For us girls, she made the cutest little salads that looked like mice using pears with clove eyes. She was inventive, healthy, and rarely made the same thing twice except the family favorites. But she was patient with Bon who wanted one meal a year, Thanksgiving dinner to be the same, year after year after year.
One of my favorite gifts to give my mom when I was little was fresh watercress. She taught me how to identify it, and she knew how much I loved what we called fiddling creeks. The thing about watercress is that it grows in cold water. Really, really cold water. So I would bring it to her with frozen little fingers and she’d accept it as if it were the most precious morsel on earth, which perhaps it was.
She also canned foods, making jams and pickles and provisions for winter storms. She called it “keeping the wolf from the door”, and it worked. Who knew wolfs were adverse to pickled peaches?
Mom had a birthday a couple of weeks after I moved to Maryland. As her present, I boxed up a huge quantity of steamed Maryland Blue Crabs on ice, then hightailed it the 12 hour drive back to Michigan to surprise her. We covered the table with newspaper in the shore tradition, got our little wooden mallets together, and started whacking crabs. At the end of the feast, my dad had a respectable mound of shells in front of him. My sister had no shells in front of her because they were looking at her so I had to pick her crabs, which made my pile was pretty big. Then there was my petite Mom, sitting behind an ENORMOUS pile of shells, licking her fingers.
But was she a perfect cook?