Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mom Memories

Dear George, 
If my mother (Doris L) were alive today, she would be 107.  That’s hard to imagine.  It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were all together, but Doris died at Marinette General Hospital on April 24, 1986.  To the best of my knowledge, she uttered her last words to Peter and myself: “I’m grateful.”  That sums up a lot of Doris’ nature.  Here are some more memories that come to mind to me on Mother’s Day:  

  • Doris had four kids: David (7/21/37), Steven (2/27/41), Peter (6/9/45), Vicki (2/24/47).
  • My mom was very pretty and full of fun.  She was a teenager during the flapper era of the 1920’s, and I always thought that helped shape the course of her life.  
  • When I was about 4 I attended a community theater performance at the Menominee Opera House, and, when the bouncy tiger appeared on the stage, I hollered at the top of my voice, “That’s my mommy.”  (Lots of laughter from the audience.)  
  • Doris and Grace Fernstrum took Sally F. and myself sledding on numerous occasions at the Tourist Information Lodge with its big hill.   
  • When we moved to the river Doris planted a luxurious garden along the west side of our lawn.
  • Doris also planted a strawberry patch next to our driveway, and we gathered strawberries each morning to put on our cereal.  
  • She and Vic travelled around Menominee County, finding wildflowers along the roadside to dig up and transplant on our property.  
  • When the trillium first bloomed in the spring at Brewery Park, Doris made sure that each of her children in turn brought the flowers to Miss Elsie Guimond, our sixth grade teacher. 
  • Doris stocked a bird feeder outside our dining room window and kept a written list of all the birds she saw.  When a red-winged blackbird appeared in our driveway, she called all the kids to come to the kitchen to see it. 
  • My mom was an excellent cook.  Whitefish, pot roast, meatloaf, venison, duck, Swedish meatballs, and turkey are just some of the delicious highlights that come to mind.  Also strawberry shortcake. 
  • All of our extended family came to our house on Xmas eve.  My bachelor uncle Karl brought extravagant gifts for Doris, Aunt Millie, and Aunt Martha (dresses, jewelry, etc.) as well as for the children. 
  • Doris packed a picnic lunch for our family rowboat outings to Indian Island up the river.  
  • Doris had many close female friends: Jean O’Hara, Florence Caley, Ruth Mars, Nan Jacobsen, Margaret St. Peter, Jackie Burke, Margaret Worth, Martina Steffke, and lots of others.  She and Vic entertained frequently: costume parties, art parties, poetry parties, jazz parties, and just plain parties.  They had a wonderful network of friends.  
  • Doris was officially a member of the D.A.R., though she saw it as a pretty stodgy group and didn’t attend the meetings. 
  • My mother loved jazz.  Her happiest moment that I can recall is when Louis Armstrong’s orchestra played at the Silver Dome, and Doris sat on the edge of the stage, just 3 or 4 feet from the master.
  • My mom had a very deep voice which led to telephone callers frequently thinking that they had reached Mr. L.  She also got a deep tan in the summer, and my father claimed, tongue in cheek, that she was part Navaho. 
  • After three boys, Doris was thrilled to have a girl in the family (my sister Vicki).  
  • Doris had a lot of aphorisms for her children: “Don’t give up, don’t give in”; “Straighten up and fly right”; “Eat your beans, Suzy”; and many more 
  • Doris was one of the best women golfers at Riverside Country Club, and she enjoyed horseback riding at the stables located at the intersection of Riverside Boulevard and Highway 577. 
  • Doris smoked through much of her adult life and wound up having surgery for lung cancer.    
  • She enjoyed drinking Silver Cream beer and chatting with house helper Hannah while Hannah did the ironing.  Their story-telling often took up the full afternoon
  • Doris also loved going to the hairdresser where she would catch up with the community gossip.  
  • Whenever we children went swimming, Doris sat in a lawn chair on the riverbank and kept a careful eye on us.  We weren’t allowed to go in the rowboat without lifesavers.    
  • My mom loved our Irish setters, Mike and Micki.  One time when the dogs got into a nasty fight, she tried to break it up and wound up with a deep gash on her arm.
  • Mike fell through the ice on the river in late winter, and Doris crawled out on her stomach to rescue him. 
  • When my friend Marvin F. set a large box of kitchen matches on fire on our apartment living room floor, he was banished forever when my mother discovered the charred wood. 
  • As a youth, I thought my mother was crazy at times, but, later in life, I discovered all mothers get crazy at times.  After one episode of particularly unruly children, I gave her a note that read, “Don’t give up, don’t give in — Try Wrecks-All” (a play on “Rexall”, our family drugstore name).  Doris broke into laughter and felt much better. 
  • When my mom criticized my handwriting in ninth grade, I stopped writing in cursive for the rest of my life (except for my signature which is indecipherable).
  • Doris was thrilled when Katja came for a visit during our sophomore year in college.  She told her that she was the first girl I’d ever brought home (which, of course, was true).
  • Most of all, my mother had a warm, rich, spontaneous laugh, and we heard that every day of our childhood.

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