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Beautiful Mother
3:31 p.m. - 2002-08-03

I have been thinking about my mother a lot recently and remembering good things from the past. We were always very proud of her because she was so pretty. We didn't get to see her all dolled up very much, due to the strenuous life of raising six children, but one time when I was small we went to my uncle's wedding. Special dresses were made for the girls, all the same, of a shantung-type fabric with a satin-pleated sash in a pretty turquoisey blue. I still have one of the little dresses hanging in my closet. This was in the 1950's. My mother made herself a wool jersey dress in brown with soft yellow inserts. She also had a little hat to wear with it. I remember looking up at her and thinking how nice she looked. My dad has a picture somewhere of us standing out in front of the house in our finery. Even my littlest sister had a little dress to match us.

I can remember a lot about that wedding, which took place in Fresno. We were taken to the house of my uncle's future inlaws and were told to nap while the grownups did whatever grownups do. Their house was huge, a big old-fashioned house with big trees, a wide porch and many big bedrooms. So many bedrooms, in fact, that we got to pick which one we wanted to nap in. I picked the room with the pink tufted bedspread. In memory's eyes, the bed was humongous but was probably only a double.

I don't remember the actual ceremony but I remember part of the reception and the little fancy sandwiches that were passed around on trays. Beautiful but strange tasting little sandwiches. Then we were taken back to the motel so that the adults could party on at the reception. A babysitter was hired - a first for us. She was a teenager. We were told we could stay up until 8:30, but as soon as the parents left, we were put to bed and told to stay there. We were furious, but such were the times that we actually obeyed. Complaining about it later to the parents met with no sympathy.

We thought of my mother as much more hip than other mothers. She would participate in water fights and had a wonderful sense of humor. On one of her birthdays my brother got her a Batman sweatshirt, which she wore all the time, mostly with this old wool pleated plaid skirt. That was her schlepping around the house outfit. Grownups were very proper at that time and to have a mother who would wear a Batman sweatshirt was very cool.

One time, our front lawn was infested with dandylions and in an effort to get rid of them, my mother offered to pay us 5 cents for every one we dug up. She didn't realize how many there were or how energetic we would be, but after the first batch were counted, the price was lowered to 1 cent. At the time we felt gypped, but it is funny now.

She could really cook too. In addition to the regular things we ate in lean times, she liked to try new things. Unfortunately we were kids and not appreciative. One time she made veal parmesan, and we yukked and scraped all the topping off. This must have been discouraging. At least she did not have to watch us eat, because the kids ate in the kitchen and the parents ate in the living room, which isn't as bad as it sounds since they were only a few feet away and could see us over the counter of the room divider. We had games we would play at the dinner table; the backwards word game, hinky pink, I'm thinking of, and just general giggling and carrying on. Every once in awhile my dad would yell at us from the other room to shut up and eat.

On our birthdays we got to choose the menu, and it could be anything. Some would choose hot dogs and hamburgers (big ticket items we hardly ever got to eat), but after my mom started getting those Time-Life foods of the world cookbooks, we tried many things. This was when we were older and not so picky. Once she made Chinese food, not to be repeated, she said, because making Chinese food for 8 people is a lot of work unless you are trained to chop like they do, but mostly we were taken with the fabulous desserts shown. We had Rigo Janczi, a hungarian pastry, black forest cherry cake, Paris Brest (filled with whiped cream and custard) and other delights. My favorite birthday dinner was pork roast, mashed potatoes and brussells sprouts (which I always loved), with peach cobbler for dessert. My mom had a large rectangular pan that cobbler was made in. It got old and the handles fell off, but it was still used for years. One dinner guest, an aunt, once expressed astonishment at the size of the cobbler-"It just kept on coming out of that oven!"

Being used to ordinary food (well, ordinary to us) most of the time, we would eat to bursting at these festive occasions. I remember after one Fourth of July party with the Aunts and Uncles being so full that I literally could not move. I propped myself up in the butterfly chair and tried to breathe shallowly, all the while still trying to shovel in a dessert of vanilla ice cream swirled with strawberry jam.

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