Mommy’s Meanderings

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How many of us know our parents beyond our child-parent interactions? Do we know what their hopes and dreams were when they were young or whether the path they ultimately traveled has made them happy? Did we ever engage them in any discussions about their childhood—birthday celebrations, school memories, and family life? For those of us who are Baby Boomers, our parents and grandparents may have stories of surviving the lean years during the Great Depression and going off to war just a few years later.

I waited too long to have those conversations with my father, but after realizing my egregious error with him, I tried to learn as many stories of my mother’s early years by sending her a series of memory-jogging postcards. She responded with several letters, which filled in as many blanks as she could.

Upon hitting the milestone birthday of sixty, I began reflecting upon growing up during the fifties, sixties, and seventies. I wanted to share my memories with my own children and grandchildren, so I began writing a blog.

I told them about an era when trying to make ends meet was a daily challenge—a challenge which was met with acceptance and without complaint. Limited income sparks creativity.

My parents and grandparents knew how to stretch a dollar. The women folk rarely crossed the threshold of a beauty salon, but instead, they cut and permed their hair themselves.

When butter became too expensive, they finished their cakes with jelly and a sprinkling of powdered sugar instead of making icing. Rather than calling a plumber or electrician, they learned the basics of the craft so they could repair what was broken themselves.

Our families were large back then, but we never missed having a lot of “stuff.” My childhood is filled with memories of lots of cousins, aunts, and uncles, and growing up in a small town where everyone looked out for one another’s children. We walked everywhere, played outside until dark with the neighborhood kids, went to the movies on Saturday afternoons, and had one television in our house.

My generation was the first in the family to proudly witness some of their children graduate from college, whereas most of the next generation in my family—The Millennials—are college graduates.

As much as it pains me to admit, I am now considered old—not elderly yet, but still old. My body cannot perform as it once could, I regularly visit the hair salon to cover my gray hairs, and in addition to being called “Mom”, I am also called “Grandma.”

I am constantly adding leaves to my family tree, both to learn and to keep my mind strong, and I am planning my next vacation to somewhere exotic—Alaska, or Europe, or through the Panama Canal. I continue to write my stories to my family, so that they will know what made them the women and men that they have become.



How far back can your recall? For me, I believe my memories go back to age three because I am able to remember playing with my grandfather. I was 3 ½ years old when he died. The pungent odor of a cigar transports me back to that time, and my mother has confirmed that he did, indeed, smoke cigars.

I remember sitting in a chair near the window in the left front corner of his living room. Was the aroma from the smoke-infused curtains imagined, or does my subconscious hold the actual moments of a little girl hiding within the folds of the fabric?

I would giggle with delight as Papa would carefully back into his seat, pretending not to notice his tiny granddaughter seated proudly on his chair. Because I have that memory, I now play that game with my own grandchildren. Someday I will tell them the story of the inventor of that game—a survivor of World War I, the Great Depression, and father of six children.

My parents purchased the building lot adjacent to my grandparents’ home from my great uncle, Pat Cooney, so I was the lucky cousin who could climb aboard a chair near the kitchen window, wave, and perhaps play peek-a-boo with them every day.

And I was the cousin who was instructed to bring Papa to our house for dinner that wintry night in January. He had been too tired to accompany my grandmother earlier in the day, saying he would come later after he rested at bit. But he never answered my soft knocks on his door. That was the last time my tiny feet ran next door to see my grandfather. Do I remember that evening, or do I know the story because it was told to me so often? I will never know, because some memories can never be retrieved.

I find memory intriguing, which