Sunday, May 8, 2016

Every Day Could Be Mother's Day

Dear George,
Katja and I celebrated Mother’s Day by going to brunch at the new Harvest restaurant in our neighborhood.  I asked if she thought we still have mothers.  Katja said absolutely.  She said her mother is present every day, even moreso than when she was alive.  I’d have to agree, at least with the first part.  I’m sure I still worry about winning my mother’s approval and feel bad when I fail.  Here are a few memories on this special day.  My mother:

  • loved jazz and was entranced when Louis Armstrong and his band performed at the Silver Dome at Pine Beach.  
  • supervised our husking August corn in the front yard.
  • had such a dark tan in the summer that my father convinced us she was part Indian.  
  • made sure each of her children in turn brought a trillium to Miss Guimond, our grade school principal, when they first bloomed in April.
  • played golf at Riverside Country Club. 
  • was close friends with Jean O’Hara, Florence Caley, Nan Jacobsen, Ruth Mars, Margaret Worth, Muriel Sawyer, Jackie Burke, Janet St. Peter, Barbara Smith, Martina Steffke, Dorothy Skully, and many others.   
  • played a tiger in a community theater production at the Menominee Opera House when I was 3 or 4 years old.  
  • scolded us kids for listening to people’s conversations on our party line.  
  • packed the picnic lunch when our family went on rowboat outings to Indian Island. 
  • welcomed our teenage friends and made our home on the river a popular gathering place. 
  • would never miss her weekly hairdo at the beauty salon.
  • rescued me when I walked too deep into Green Bay water at Caley's beach. 
  • got frazzled when all of of us acted horribly simultaneously.   
  • planted an elegant garden along the west side of our front lawn.
  • was a single mom to Steve and myself when our dad wemt overseas in the war. 
  • kicked my best friend Marvin F. out of he house when he burned a box of kitchen matches on our living room floor.  
  • sat in a lawnchair on the riverbank every time her kids went swimming. 
  • sang old favorites, e.g., "The Dark Town Strutter's Ball".    
  • regularly told us “Eat your beans, Suzy” or “Straighten up and fly right.”
  • stocked the bird feeder and kept a list of the birds she saw out the kitchen and dining room windows.
  • had such a low voice that callers often mistakenly addressed her as Mister L***.
  • took me clothes shopping at Montgomery Ward, Lauerman's, and Goldberg's Men's Store.
  • hung the laundry on clotheslines in the back yard.
  • belonged to the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.   
  • laughed when, in the midst of a crisis, I handed her a note that said, “Don’t give up, don’t give in, try Wrecks-All” (an allusion to our family Rexall drugstore).     
  • taught me the names of all the wildflowers in our field and forest.    
  • regularly hosted big parties for family friends. 
  • was thrilled to have a baby daughter after three boys.  
  • gloried in the Menominee River sunsets. 
  • had an infectious laugh.   
  • prepared delicious whitefish, pot roast, and Swedish meatball dinners. 
  • criticized my handwriting, with the result that I stopped writing in cursive altogether.   
  • worshipped our family Irish Setters, Mike and Micki. 
  • got a nasty gash on her hand when she intervened in a dog fight.
  • crawled on her stomach on the river ice to rescue Mike when he fell through. 
  • helped us string popcorn and cranberries to put on the Xmas tree.
  • smoked too much and had lung cancer surgery. 
  • enjoyed playing bridge with friends.
  • had weekly after-dinner meetings with Steve and I to address our fighting and squabbles.    
  • was best of friends with her cleaning lady, Hannah, with whom she traded stories all day long. 
  • served sardines, creamed herring, and peanuts at the cocktail hour. 
  • showered Steve and I with praise when we cleaned up the kitchen.    
  • encouraged me to go to Antioch College because of its many fraternities and sororities. 
  • worried whenever we drove home from Ann Arbor or Cincinnati. 
  • refinished the antique organ at Farm.  
  • adored her white Persian cat, Lovey.  
  • said “I’m grateful” to Peter and me on the day she died, perhaps her last words.  
There are lots more memories, but this hopefully gives some of the flavor of our mother and her many contributions to our family.  We’re grateful too.


  1. I add my gratitude for your sharing this "spot-on" recollection of wonderful Doris. Almost all points resonated as she and my mom, Muriel Sawyer, led such parallel lives. I hear her voice in her comments--deep and gravely as it was. You could write many blogs about the group parties, I am sure, as could I. Our cottage on the bay served the same purpose for the same group as your Riverside Drive home; drinks, laughter, singing, Packer games. Somewhere I have a tape made of the songsters at your home. It is easy to pick out the voices attached to the people we hold dear even now. I also remember the snapping turtles swimming with us in your space of the river! And the bloodsuckers. Oh, what wonderful memories you have stirred, along with a few tears. Bless you, David.

  2. Thanks, Barb. It makes me happy that someone who knew Doris well could appreciate these recollections. A lot of extraordinary moms in that group. Dave