Sunday, January 16, 2011

I write because she made me...

I have a blog because, she made me promise to write her weekly when I left home first for college and then into my military life. When she had left her home in Montevideo, Uruguay to come to The States for college, her mother had demanded a weekly letter from her. If it was good enough for her mother it would be good enough for mine. So I did, I wrote, and she made me believe I was special because I put words on the pages and sent parts of my life her way. She would answer and send much of her love my way - I did get the best of the deal, although I was sure what she was writing back about wasn't what I had written. I was using email and early websites long before my parents - the Army was trying to get faster links between people with no investment to the warriors trying to survive. But my father had an email address and my brother and sisters were on and when I mentioned in one of my letters that I had heard something interesting, she got excited enough to jump on and use the machine for email. So as the internet improved, I started this long, five or six pages of the Weekly Wonders of Willie, that I would dump on almost ten to twenty poor folks and family. Someone reading one of those long emails said I should write a blog. And I did finally. Mostly it was for my mother, I knew by that time that people read what they want, I think a little strangely, and I am as popular as I ever was or will be, which isn't much but always more than I deserve.

She was my mother, and although I would at different times for different foolish and faulty reasons almost try to hide her from people I was trying to impress, I was blessed by the best woman to mother me. She had dreams, always living them as much as she could, transferring the pressure of those dreams to family for our support and to improve our own dreams. She wanted to be married to a wonderful man and hero, she wanted to have children and love them, she wanted her children to be Presidents, doctors, lawyers, preachers and good folks. She wanted all of them to have fairy book romances, marriage, children, and grandchildren and great grand children. She liked to think she was romantic - and she probably was, Dad had the practical side. She sunk emotions into the stories she read and heard, had empathy for things I was sure she shouldn't be exposed to - and would cry freely and tearingly. Once she heard a story it was hers to share her way, and although she said she could keep a secret I stopped telling her mine since I don't think my secrets were good for the world to know.

Until I was near two, I didn't have to share my mother, now you know why I am spoiled. My sister came along and I had to share her love - sharing was a good thing, but my sister should have been a boy I could lead astray. But my mother loved having a girl, as much as she had loved the boy. She would never understand men, but she knew what kind of men were good, what she wanted from us and would work and worry about how well I was going down the right path. We had to have manners, we had to be educated and well read, we had to go to church all the good men in her life went to church. One of the rules was until I was eighteen I had to go to church or Sunday school. Church camp and vacation Bible schools were supported, exposure to all various religions highly encouraged, ever wander into a Christian Science church and readings and wander out wondering? Our trip with my grandparents to California showed me many new views of God's fearing folks.

We lost the N-word at one of the family dinners, Dad brought it to the table and Mom floored it. She was not impressed with "they even use it themselves" as a reason to be cruel, words had power to her and it was important enough to make the stand. No, Martin Luther King wasn't known by us yet. But Earl Martin Smith, Reverend was and what he said, or he believed was - our lives were changed by her absent father. The family dinner table was where I learned much, every night when Dad was home at regular time, or when he was absent his place was held. Dad had all the good math, science and technology to share and Mom had the social, philosophical and theology down, and it wasn't home schooling like now but it was close. I could tell in the Army what economic class one came from by what foods you loved. Macaroni and cheese, bread pudding, and other stuff that meant feeding the multitudes on few enough dollars - you were eating in my mother's kitchen. Always good wholesome food, but dumplings are just a way to get more food into you with fat dripping goodness.

There was only one television in our home, and tons of books, and what we didn't have we were taken to the Bookmobile or library to find. I could read anything, and got real interested in the busty blonds on the covers of historical romances, funny since I am so shy of all the flesh that is exposed to my lack of interest today. But we could talk about what we read, and recommend it to share. I got piano lessons, just enough to be embarrassed and drop out of music until I could hide in a choir. All her children were encouraged to extra learning, dance, music, art - I got a Summer of painting in oils, and frustrated that the teacher kept messing with my pictures - my mother would have taken what ever I had produced and praised it.

She had rules: and we almost lived up to most of them, I being first was the most problem. My job was to test them all, break them and ask forgiveness if I figured out how wrong I had been. Tough job but all mine, first born fool, my sister would have to break the ones girls needed. My mother, being a fine woman, knew that I was not to be trusted in another home without adults present if there were females of my age group. She was wrong about trusting me, she had ground a lot of great things into me and betraying trust wasn't on my list of wants to do in life. So she actually confronted Mrs Lois Johnson, the mother of the family I was often hiding from mine in, and tried to make sure it was not okay for me to be the large lanky teenage boy in a home without an adult to hold me back. And Mrs. Johnson was quite capable of making her own determination of my ability to be almost an adult, and what her children were needing and so trusted me to be better than most boys. When she wasn't she would kick me out in exile, and did. But my mother loved me enough to make sure I knew there were rules to live by. I was crippled very nicely in my teenage years by a long private talk about sex and saving it for marriage. There were still virgins in my mother's era - the media hadn't turned it into a disability yet. She had groomed me well to try and be a white knight and a hero, well I would try and fell off and kept getting back on until I was stable on the plow horse of real life.

There are so many things that she wrote and said I don't have the time to share them all. "Comosedise? How do you say?" when searching for a word in one of two languages she thought in. She really believed she loved all her children equally - but we all knew she loved us uniquely - and if you wanted to really know who she was to each of us you would have to find the gifts she gave us and left us as we went on with our lives. Always knowing that I could always come back, even if my Dad locked me out of the house to make a point (and I got in anyway), her home was open to everyone. They didn't finally really lock the doors until a drunken coed was found sleeping in the living room. My mother loved to tell about her heroic husband going down the stairs to meet the intruder with the Japanese saber in his hands. She had lots of stories, many were told over dinners, pizza and Canasta in the evenings. She made many traditions up. As I was constantly leaving to go back to work, war business is always good, she started making bread dough and letting it rise, so she could get up early and make cinnamon rolls for my last breakfast and to take me down the road. I loved her hot from the oven homemade bread, spread with butter cut in thick slices for chewing thoughtfully.

It is getting hard to see the screen as I write so little about such a big woman in my life, so I give you the poem she wrote, that I read before I prepared to kill the next person that got between me and my loss of my mother - and the pastor was coming at ten. He left alive and with my real name locked in his mind. Thanks, Mom.

Scrub Bucket

I'm the scrub bucket in your life,
the one with sudsy clean water.
That shines up the spots
and polishes the floors in reality.

I'm not the crystal vase
with the beautiful cut flowers,
I'm not the tinsel on the Christmas tree
(pretty young things are those);

I'm just an old scrub bucket
that's dented from daily wear
that keeps cleaning up
the rows of jars in life's basement.

I'm not the famous falling star
you wish upon,
or the moon glow in
the a rose garden at night.

I'm just the old scrub bucket
that sloushes water in right and wrong places.
But given a choice I dream of being
your strawberry shortcake with whipped cream on top!

by Melba Dungey

I have several thousand pages of poetry to read and remember and pick two...
but this one picked me and I share with you.

I do thank all the people that reached out to touch me and my mother, she is in the Lord's care now, and that would be interesting to see as a fly upon the wall. God will bless her, she did her best and always with enough love that I -- proud professional paratrooper and competent killer, can weep for my dead, on my side and theirs. That killing with compassion isn't taught well anywhere. I remain a poor mourner, I hate funerals because it takes our future together away. I am with Comrade Misfit, I never know what to say and I want to be there for you but I don't want to get between your loss and you. There be dragons there...


Jeffro said...

Just a scrub bucket, eh? One can surely see where you got your streak of self effacement. Thank you for the well painted picture of your mother and why you appreciated her so much. She'd be proud of you for writing your memorial of her. I certainly feel your loss and hope God will be with you and yours.

Old NFO said...

Well said Earl, I know your Mother was proud of you and the poem is very appropriate, showing both her humility and grace. God bless her and you and your family.

Ron and Joan said...

Seldom do we see such great writing about the loss of a loved one. Very inspiring and we all thank you for it.

Long-time RN said...

Heart warming, powerful tribute, Earl. Thank you for sharing such a talented, spirited, insightful lady with us. Your loss is felt, and I'll be lifting you and your family in prayers. Strength, peace and blessings tomorrow.

Ky Woman said...

You have my deepest condolences.

What a beautiful tribute to your Mother. You both were blessed, as are all your family.


threecollie said...

That is so very beautiful and once again I am so sorry for your loss. I wish I could say it better....

rilma said...

thanks ever so much for this blog Earl!! I just read it out to my Mother and she loved it too. what a wonderful tribute to your mum and I love the poem you picked or rather picked you.:)
blessings from your cousin

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