IN LIFE AS IN THE DANCE : GRACE GLIDES

ON BLISTERED FEET.
---Alice Abrams

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

My Mother's Birthday

February 8th is my mother's birthday. This year she would have been 90 and hated every minute of it if she couldn't be independent.

She always reminded me of Betty Grable with black hair. I once told her that and she wasn't pleased. She never thought of Betty Grable as being at all pretty. I should be so lucky. She was born on a small farm in Southern California, between Santa Ana and Long Beach. Her mother was a school teacher and has a school named for her in that area. My mom and her two sisters were required to pitch in and work along with their dad. They delighted in telling about the time they caught their dad out in the outhouse and nailed it shut until their mother made them let him out. He in turn chased them down with tomatoes and I guess they had a free-for-all. The old farm is now the site of a Forest Lawn Cemetery.

My mother worked at Knott's Berry Farm when it was just a chicken restaurant and a berry market. One of my aunts was Mr. Knott's bookkeeper. My mom saw a good looking young man coming up the front path and ran into the office to tell my aunt, "If he's looking for a job, you'd better hire him!" He did, she did, and the rest was history! My mom and dad married in June, 1941 and when the war broke out, he was working with the FBI in Washington D.C.

After the war they relocated to Anaheim, started a business and wound up with their own concession at Knott's. My father passed away in '69 - much too soon - he was only fifty. My mother went to work the day after the funeral even though she was totally devastated. It was her way of coping. She spent the next 23 years keeping up with that business. She never dated because she said she didn't expect anyone else to live up to my dad. She absolutely idolized him.
She was one of the strongest women I have ever met. She always kept going, no matter if she was sick and had a Christmas dinner to fix or if she had to go to work because someone else was ill. She had a soft spot in her heart for the men who lived down in the missions in Los Angeles and supported a charity that helped look after them.

There was a woman that worked for her at the shop, who had a lot of family in Tijuana. My mother loaded up the car at Christmas with masa (corn flour), flour, beans, sugar and other staples and drove down to deliver the food plus jackets, coats and warm clothes to the families in need. She never spoke about stuff like that, either. She just did it. Back in the day when she grew up, if there was a need in the neighborhood, the neighbors stepped up and took care of it. That's what she did.

She found out she had cancer the first of October and was gone by October 29th. At 75, she still worked full-time, attended to all of her own affairs, and drove just as well as she ever did, which was as good as any female that ever drew a breath! And she never looked a day over 55. She was always impeccably groomed but I remember seeing her when I was young, driving a tractor, ripping out a stand of poplar trees.

We were all so blessed that she didn't "fade" away and become dependent as that would've depressed her to the core. We were given time to say our "good-byes," and whatever needed to be said, but we all believe that, not only was it her "appointed time to die," but she yearned to go home at that point. She so missed our dad - she was ready...

I miss her voice, her black-bottomed pie, her wonderful Christmas dinners and most of all, her advice. She always waited until I asked and never offered unsolicited. When my husband died, it was the first time I had ever witnessed her lose it. She told me it was because she knew what I faced. When my son-in-law died, I immediately realized what she meant.

Every day on the 8th of February, I think of this raven-haired beauty with the lilac blue eyes and realize a part of me is gone forever more.

10 comments:

SGT DUB said...

Happy Birthday Gracie's mom. I'm glad you chose to share her with us. I lost my mom 14 years ago and I don't stop missing her either.

Skittles said...

What a great tribute to your wonderful mom. It sounds like she had a full and interesting life. Thank you so much for sharing her with us.

Katie said...

Gracie this is a beautiful post. Simply wonderful. I'm so glad that you decieded to share her with us! She sounds like she was really an amazing woman. Thank you for the story. It was very touching.

Austin Girl said...

I was just “next blogging’ around and found your site. I love your dog. My little guy would totally have fun playing with your little Katie.

Heart of Rachel said...

Hi Gracie. Thanks for sharing those treasured memories of your mom. It's a lovely tribute especially on her birthday. I'm sure she lived a happy and meaningful life.

Ron Simpson said...

Your mom and my grandmother sound just alike. I always say Grandma was the strongest woman I have ever known. She died about seven years ago, and our family still has a hole in it. She grew up on a farm and married her sweetheart. He died when I was 2. I barely remember him. She never dated, never even entertained the thought of dating again. She said she only needed one man in her life and she had found him. She was tough as nails. I remember helping her move a pile of bricks on her farm and we found a snake. I am deathly afraid of snakes. She picked it up by the tail and killed it with her bare hands. After she killed the fourth snake, I refused to get down off of the tractor! She told me I was wuss and to stop acting a little girl. She put up with no nonsense and dished out only the tough truth. I miss her immensely. Whenever I come to some kind of moral decision in my life, I always ask myself what she would do. She always did the right thing.

Oh, The Joys said...

What a lovely tribute.

Hootin'Anni said...

What a beautiful tribute. Let's see, boy you got me thinking about my mother now....she would have been 96 this year.

And your memories of her are heart swelling. She really was very prideful. And strong.

I'm sure she was beautiful in your eyes....

Gentle comforting hugs to you.

Dayngr said...

It never goes away but you carry her with you in everything you do and everything you are.

Liz said...

She sounds like she was a wonderful woman and mother. I regret that I barely knew my mother. Although I was 18 when she died, she always went out to work to bring me up so I never really got to know her. She's now been dead for 35 years and people still speak of her with love. I'm sure thath's what they will do about your mom too.