I remember Mom

5

Rota, Spain, circa 1985

I remember drawing fruit pictures as “presents” for Mom when she was in the military. (Watermelon wedges were my favorite.)

I remember making Mom ashtrays out of the black bases of 2-liter Coke bottles.

I remember Mom & me walking across the street to the Majik Market when we lived on Malibu to get a Nestle Alpine White candy bar.  

I remember reading Encyclopedia Brown with Mom at the Summerdale outdoor flea market, where she & Dad sold lamps & lampshades for Grandma & Grandpa York. We would stay in the LaQuinta Inn on Saturday nights, so we wouldn’t have to drive all the way back to Pensacola & all the way back to Summerdale the next day.

I remember getting bubble gum in my hair & Mom using peanut butter to comb it out.  

I also remember the smell of “No More Tangles” that Mom would use to comb through my stringy hair which she always insisted be curled for school pictures.

I remember when there was a dust-up at my high school because of an issue I had with one of my teachers. When my principal, Mr. Bill Slayton, wouldn’t listen, that’s when Mom banged her hand on the desk (I heard this secondhand) & said, “My taxes pay your damn salary!”

I remember being so annoyed when Mom & Dad would be watching a football game & suddenly scream, “Get him! Get him!” at the TV. 

I remember when the outlet went out in Mom & Dad’s room, & Mom watched TV “long-distance” (as the power in the other bedroom across the hall worked).

I remember the time we were on a mini-vacation when Mom & I were in cahoots to get Dad to wake up at a reasonable time (like before afternoon), & I set all the clocks forward three hours. It wasn’t until we were at Publix later in the day that Dad happened to see the clock & made a face, saying, “Hey, that isn’t right.” I couldn’t help myself & burst out giggling, confessing my deception.  

I remember Mom always complaining that Dad & I were on the same wavelength. (Especially when it came to food, & we wanted to go out for Mexican.)

I remember Mom telling me that you never stop worrying about your kids, no matter how old they get.

I remember Mom wishing she’d gotten a picture of Sharon before she was buried.

I remember Mom telling me that Grandma & Grandpa Booker had always treated her just like a daughter.

I remember Mom saying how embarrassing it was when Grandpa Booker hung her underwear on the line.

I remember when Mom & I went to a Mitt Romney rally & Jon Voight approached us from behind. (He actually touched her shoulder!) Mom & I were stunned speechless (it seemed our brains had temporarily shut down). And we’d made fun of Lucy for years for being starstruck!

I remember how Mom would send Dad out for Cokes, cigarettes, or thin crust Pizza Hut pizza with beef & onion right after he got home from work.

I remember Mom getting really pissed whenever Dad would take the entire bag of chips to work instead of putting what he would consume into a separate container.

I remember one of the few times Mom cooked, & she put sweetened condensed milk in the mashed potatoes.

I remember Mom telling me that she told Dad before she married him that she didn’t cook or clean, so he couldn’t complain.

I don’t remember Mom ever getting her own cup of ice.

I remember I always had to have a Coke for Mom whenever she came over.

I remember Mom & I always trying to get Bernadean to make her chocolate rolls.

I remember Mom saying she didn’t believe in whipping because that had been her parents’ answer to everything.

I remember Mom wearing her zebra-pattered bathrobe & house shoes that she stepped on the backs of in the car with me praying we wouldn’t get stopped.

I remember Mom & me sharing Tami Hoag, Sandra Brown, & Lisa Jackson books. 

I remember how much Mom hated “The Twelve Days of Christmas” song.

I remember how much Mom loved Hank Williams, Elvis, & The Beatles.

I remember all of Mom’s unfinished projects (like the sewing machine she never used), as well as her endurance for all of Dad’s random research projects.

I remember when Mom & I went to a Daughters of the American Revolution meeting, & I was about to doze off from boredom.

I remember Mom’s patriotism.

I remember Mom always getting on to me for not driving with both hands on the wheel.

I remember when we went to Jerry’s Cajun Café, & Mom made such a big deal out of my softshell crabs looking like a tick, I couldn’t eat them anymore.

I remember Mom flipping out whenever cheese was on her sandwich or yelling from the passenger seat, “Tell them hot fries!” (or “thick shake” for thick milkshake), whenever Dad was in the drive-through (which would get him all flustered).  

I remember when Mom & I joined the Mormon Church, & we would have the missionaries over for dinner appointments. 

I remember Mom & me driving around Cantonment to spy on Sister Wade (who monopolized the missionaries).

I remember how much Mom didn’t like Relief Society because it was so domestic. (How to fold fitted sheets really took the wedding cake.)

I remember giving Mom my novel, “Because of Mindy Wiley,” to read on the Greyhound bus on the way back from Sidney, Montana, where I nannied for 3 girls.

I remember Mom & I were always declaring that Jeffrey Hunter was the best-looking man ever—with Dad arguing that it was Tyrone Power.

I remember when our cat, Brie, had kittens on Mom’s stomach.

I remember Mom keeping vigil over Brie (who suffered peritonitis), comforting her till she died.

I remember when Punky, our dog, was dying; Punky wouldn’t come in out of the cold, so Mom put a blanket on her & sat with her for a while.

I remember Mom always dreamed of moving to Wyoming.

I remember Mom & I were always quick to let Dad know when he was wrong about something; I’d immediately ask Google to prove our case—if nothing more than to remove that smug look off his face.

I remember Mom sending Dad & me to Albertson’s to buy Bit-o-Honey because she had an addictive personality & would get on “kicks.” She also really got into watermelon & popcorn.

I remember how thrilled Mom was when she knew I was going to have a girl & name her Hannah.

I remember Mom was always so excited to see Hannah, calling her “Hannah B!”

I remember Mom coming to my house on Heirloom Drive immediately when I was freaking out because Hannah would not stop crying.

I remember all the times Mom would come by my house on Heirloom & hang out before picking up Dad; we’d talk & enjoy Hannah, maybe even watch a couple of episodes of “Wings.”

I remember Mom getting Hannah started on the “Smack Quackers” routine.

I remember Mom sitting with me in the hospital when I was so ill & couldn’t stop throwing up.

I remember all the times Mom took me to school & work when she was tired & didn’t feel like it.

I remember Mom weaseling her way out of most of the driving when we went up to Uncle Bill’s funeral.

I remember Mom often joked that her funeral better be held in the afternoon, so Dad would come; I know she knows better now.

I remember Mom.

I remember . . . 

Thinking of Mom on Mother’s Day

1987

My mom with me (I was about six here) and my brother, Kelly “Kel” Morgan. I never lacked for books, as you can see from the stack of Little Golden Books on the nightstand (Rota, Spain, 1987).

What would’ve been my mother’s sixty-fifth birthday passed on the twenty-third of April–a day when we would’ve gone to all the different Firehouse Subs and gotten (or haggled) for her free sandwich (I still remember her precise order and how she would flip her you-know-what if there was cheese on it because “they slop cheese on everything now”), with me buying a brownie or two so we wouldn’t look like greedy a-holes trolling for handouts.

Since then, I’ve been to her marker, now headstone, twice, my grandmother relieved that Ann was included on the stone (all the other military headstones we saw only included the middle initial).  Bernadean (my grandmother) was the only person who ever called my mom by her first and middle name (which is customary in some parts of the South): Betty Ann (as she was named her paternal aunts, Betty Lee and Carmen Ann).

Mom was so sick for so long (her stomach and back always given her trouble), it never occurred to me that she was dying–that all it would take was a slight thing to trigger a chain reaction that her body was defenseless to stave off.

“It still doesn’t seem real,” my dad still says, echoing my thoughts, echoing his previous words.  Isn’t it strange (and perhaps it’s own kind of wonderful) that wonderful things seem more real than terrible ones?

For good things have happened since “Grandma went bye-bye to Heaven” (as my daughter says), never doubting that they were meant to happen.

I wish (two words I find myself thinking more often) that I had more pictures of my mom and me in our later years, but, like the Bible says about a man leaving his father and mother and cleaving unto his wife, well, I guess the same goes for wives.  I became the adult in the family portraits, and my favorite subject to photograph became my daughter (still is).  I became one of those annoying moms I loathed who think everything their kid does is cute. (Okay, maybe not everything, but I love to share what is.)  I will never be a “Caroline Appleby” (Lucy Ricardo’s frenemy from I Love Lucy) about how adorable her “Stevie” is.

My mom wasn’t the type to open up to other women (I am too much the other way), so even though she wasn’t a Caroline Appleby, I always knew how she felt.

I was hesitant about sharing this eulogy I wrote and read at her visitation, but then, what is a eulogy but a type of poem?  I wanted to make this available for the family members who didn’t get to be there due to distance and circumstance, or for those who came later.

The post I published before was about her death–this is about her life, who she was, and still is, in what I think of as a “galaxy far, far away.”

(as read March 12, 2018)

I’ve always said that no one loves you like your mom loves you. I never understood that till I had a child of my own.

I remember when I knew I was going to have a girl, I put Hannah’s ultrasound picture in a book as a surprise. I remember Mom was as excited as if she was going to have the baby herself, and doubly excited that I was going to name her Hannah, for she’d always loved that name.

From that moment on, she started calling her Hannah Banana. Hannah eventually became Hannah B (for Hannah Beth). Mom was always so excited to see her. When Hannah got old enough to understand the concept of Grandma, the feeling was mutual.

But I know my mom loved me, too.

*

It was Mom who made my dad go into the room with me when I had to get a spinal tap for spinal meningitis because she couldn’t bear to see her child in pain.

It was Mom who showed me that a woman could have a career and a family, and still be a good mom. (Cooking skills not required.)

When I lived at home and didn’t come back when expected, it was Mom who would worry and drive around looking for me.

It was Mom who taught me to be observant, so she may have helped me save my own life and I never even knew it.

It was Mom who made my husband promise to take care of me.

It was Mom to whom I always first brought my stories—before they had the credence of publication or awards.

It was Mom who would give me rides every morning to work and pick me up when I didn’t have a car—sometimes when she was sick—because she had faith that I would be successful someday.

It was Mom who taught me how to have a sense of humor, and I understand, in times like these, how important it is to have one. I still laugh when I think of one of her “mom jokes”—funny only because they came from her.

It was Mom who told me that I could always come home, if needed—that there would always be a place for her children.

Mom always made sure her mom was taken care of, and I always figured the day would come when I would have to help take care of her.

I just wish I’d gotten that chance.

*

Just as Mom didn’t know how much I appreciated her—something we so often forget to tell people—I didn’t always know how proud she was of me, but a teacher of mine told me at an event I read at, that she could see how proud she was.

I just hope that Mom knows I’m proud of her, too.

*

Throughout her life, Mom did what the writing experts tell all storytellers to do—to show, and not tell. She did even better than that; she backed up everything she said.

She will be terribly missed, but that only proves how much she meant to all of us. She’s gone, but not lost to us forever.

Almost everything Mom taught me, I would never learn in a classroom, but isn’t that what moms are for? To give you the tools you’ll need for when they are gone?

So, thank you, Mom, for all of that, and everything else.

20 Things My Mother Taught Me: A Mother’s Day Message

Mom

  1. You don’t have to be a stay-at-home mom to be a good mom.  Dads are capable of raising children, too, just as women are capable of serving in wars.
  2. Do not repeat your parents’ mistakes.  My mom didn’t believe in whipping because she was whipped as a child, and it was always a dehumanizing experience. Contrary to conservative belief, my brother and I didn’t fear our parents and turned out to be good citizens and innately kind human beings.
  3. Just because you love your children differently, doesn’t mean you don’t love them equally.
  4. The military is a worthy career choice.
  5. Tell your daughter she’s pretty.  (Her parents never did and so she grew up believing she was ugly.)
  6. Cancer schmancer.  You get it a second time, you fight it a second time.  Fighting till the end doesn’t make one’s death any less “dignified.”
  7. Perfectionism can be a hindrance to starting and finishing things.
  8. If you want your kid to be a Christian, take them to church.  My mom has often said she regretted not being stronger about this with my brother.  Church attendance doesn’t make you a Christian, but it can help solidify the foundation poured at home.
  9. Kelly is not a girl’s name.  American girls stole it.  (My brother’s name is Kelly Morgan.)
  10. Even if your parents weren’t perfect, it is your duty to take care of them for raising you to maturity.
  11. It’s okay to get really pissed off and throw things.  Just don’t throw them at people.
  12. Let your child pursue that which moves them.  For my brother, it’s music; for me, it’s writing.  Encourage them.
  13. Empathy is one of the greatest of all virtues.
  14. If you have one good friend in a lifetime, you’re lucky.
  15. Marry who you want, regardless of what your parents think.
  16. Eat your meat well-done.  Her dad grew up on a farm and knew the deal.  If you look like a hick for ordering it that way, so be it.
  17. Don’t be afraid to accept help, even if that help is from the government (as long as you are trying to better yourself in the process, in which you will be paying it all back via taxes).
  18. Dad’s food might give you ringworm.
  19. I was a baby before I was born.
  20. Let your children know they can always come home if they need to.  Love really is an open door.