The coming weekend will be festive. Sparky and I celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary Saturday, and Sunday is Mother’s Day. For the first time, I won’t be with my mom, who just lives up a hill, down a hill, up another hill and around a corner.
Mom and I celebrated her special day early with a trip to St. Louis and dinner at a classic Italian restaurant with white tablecloths, tiny fairy lights, and Frank Sinatra crooning in the background. It was a lovely evening, and as we wished each other a good evening and blew kisses, mother’s garage door closed on a memorable time.
It was one of those ordinary weeknights that can come as a surprise — just a last-minute get-together. We talked heart to heart at a candlelit table, and when I dropped her off at her house, I whispered a prayer of thanks for our times together talking books, and yesteryear. Though lately we’re arguing about a new novel I loved that she totally hated.
I remain the luckiest of women, having my mother still with me, and three daughters just an hour away, as well as five grandchildren. Generationally, I’m right in the middle, hearing stories from my mom about her mother and family, and listening to stories as my daughters parent their children.
Several weeks ago, our daughter Becky called to tell us that Miles, her son, has to have braces. Hearing that triggered memories of the sacrifice my parents made to fix my teeth, which protruded horribly.
In my growing-up years, mothers didn’t work outside the home like they do today. Dad provided the paychecks to finance my braces, but it was Mom who drove me back and forth to St. Louis University for four years, to a clinic where I’d wait in line to be treated by student-orthodontists. The total cost was $400 — quite a lot of money back then for a family struggling to make ends meet.
Mother learned to drive so she could make the twice-monthly trips from Gerald to St. Louis on old Highway 66. Our car wasn’t very reliable, so Dad sent a container full of water for mother to pour over the radiator if the hot engine light came on.
There were other complications too. In those days, St. Louis and Gerald were on different time zones. At certain times of the year, you’d gain an hour going one way and lose an hour going another. I also suffered with carsickness, until some advice passed down by my English great-grandmother provided a fix, one that had worked for my mother when she was a girl.
We never backed out of the driveway without Mom taking a piece of the newspaper for me to sit on. For some insane reason, it worked. Perhaps it was a sign of things to come. Now I’m in a newspaper, not on one.
Though these frequent trips to the city were inconvenient and costly, I don’t recall mother ever complaining about having to drive me back and forth to the city. Turnabout is fair play. Now I’m driving Mom to St. Louis, but in a new car without a newspaper.
The Missourian did get some mileage on Saturday. Our granddaughter Avery requested it when we headed out the door for Longmeadow Rescue Ranch. When I asked her why, she related the story I’d previously told her, which I had forgotten about. Avery’s timing made me laugh, and I filled her in on the column I was working on.
Avery was able to read some books in the backseat. The newspaper stopped a sick tummy, but didn’t ward off a headache. Maybe I took along the wrong section. Regardless, Avery is certain to have her own old stories to pass down through the ages — what an endearing thought.