Earlier this week, my sister Kathy called me, “Am I correct in thinking that Mom used to send us little kid Valentine’s like the ones school children use?”
“Yes, she did,” I replied.
This is our second Valentine’s Day without our mom.
Maybe as a school teacher our mom found these Valentine’s cards the most appealing, or more likely, they were left over from when we were children and she was too frugal to buy new ones until the old ones were gone.
A few days later Kathy called again, “I ordered flowers from Oak Mountain florist for the First Baptist Church for Mom’s birthday.”
Thank goodness, her lovely and generous act has not entered my mind. Yes, I knew that our mom’s birthday was this coming Saturday, and yes, I had ordered flowers on the anniversary of her death, but her upcoming birthday had not resonated with me in any meaningful way. Instead I’ve been focused on my husband Jimmy’s birthday the day before, which is also our son Robert’s opening night for a middle school play.
After a few minutes wondering why, I realized instead of focusing on the major milestones, I have transitioned to thinking about our mom in more daily ways.
When our 15-year-old daughter Maggie studies her math at the kitchen island, it reminds me of my mother, who was a math teacher. In high school, I had the habit of reading novels during math class, instead of paying attention. The novels were so much more interesting, transporting me to places other than Carrollton, Georgia, where I lived. The list of novels read included over 100 novels of the Louis L’Amour western series. Yes, they shared the same basic plot and same basic characters; but still they were more interesting than Carrollton. My teacher ignored my reading. My guess is she was just happy that I was sitting in the back, being quiet and not bothering anyone.
The night before a test, I would ask my mother to explain the problems to me, which she would. Once she had gone over the material, she would ask me to do problems to make sure I knew the material. Instead, I would go back to reading; but her time teaching me the material would allow me to earn A’s on my tests.
My mother is in my thoughts when our 13-year-old son, Robert, and I read at night before going to bed. She loved to read and encouraged me to read. (Remember I never got into trouble for reading during math class, not even from her, a math teacher). She read to both Maggie and Robert when they were small. They sat next to her on the sofa, taking turns turning the pages for her as she read.
My mother is in my thoughts when I see a notepad of paper on which to write a grocery list. For me today, these are hot-pink sticky notes. Why paper, you might ask.
When Kathy and I were cleaning out her house, we came across two related items in two different areas. In the kitchen, near the telephone (which had a cord that was at least 15 feet long so we could talk and walk), was a stack of previously used paper that mom was using as scrap paper to write down grocery lists and telephone notes. In her desk were stacks of unwrapped, unused notepaper. My guess is that she didn’t want to use all her “nice” paper, and she didn’t want to buy any more.
Frugal was part of who she was.
In the mornings, when we have breakfast, I think of her. She stayed with us often, helping out with our children sometimes; we helped her after her chemotherapy treatments.
On days when she felt well, she would make everyone a hot breakfast. “How do you want your eggs?” she’d ask my husband Jimmy. Not content to simply cook eggs for him, she wanted to cook them the way he wanted them, that particular day. Regardless of how he requested them, she made them with love — because she loved him so very much.
She spoiled him, but then she spoiled us all.
Transitioning from big remembrances of my mother to everyday moments has brought great joy to me. It’s in the small acts of everyday activities that I feel her presence and love.
As for my sister Kathy — Thank goodness for my big sister, taking care of me once again.
To find out more about Jackie Gingrich Cushman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit creators.com.