LILACS FOR MOM
Mary Ann, Jimmy and I peddled our tricycles along the sidewalk on Whipple Street in Chicago as fast as our legs could push. We flew past the old woman’s house hidden behind overgrown lilac shrubs afraid that she would come out and capture us. But, one day when I was out for a walk with my mother, Mom actually stopped to talk with her at her front gate. Regina looked ancient to my young eyes. The most fearsome thing about her was a disfiguring hump on her back. Osteoporosis wasn’t well understood at that time in the 1930s. As children, we didn’t realize why her back was misshapen.
Regina told my mother that she had difficulty buying ready-made clothes. Mom, who could sew anything that she could imagine, offered to make a dress to fit her if Regina bought the fabric. That meant that she would be coming to our house for fittings! As the visits progressed, I realized that the elderly lady was really quite nice. My mom made life easier for Regina by taking the stigmas away from her. The kids and I learned a lesson in kindness and not making cruel judgments. Regina came one day with a huge bouquet of lilacs to say thank you.
Mom used a jigsaw to create wooden brightly-painted teapot plaques with hooks on the bottom for potholders that she sewed from fabric scraps. The bakery next door placed them for sale. Every little bit of money was needed in the Depression days.
My mother, who grew up on a farm in Missouri, never had education beyond the third grade, but was an avid reader. In the winter time we sat together in the big chair nearest the living room pot-belly stove. She read articles from “Readers’ Digest, National Geographic” and books from the library that she thought my brother and I were old enough to understand. What a cozy memory that is with Mom next to us reading aobut the world, and the warmth of the stove nearby on a cold day.
When I was in grade school Mom and I used to walk together in the evening while the weather was still warm. We’d stroll over to a place called Manor Park and sit on the bench and sing all the popular songs and show tunes from musicals like “Showboat” or “Porgy and Bess”. She had a pretty and true voice and we shared the music together. that was her gift of enjoying music.
Mom and I shared many things that I realize years later could not be bought for us, but were given in love. This I believe: those moments had a great value beyond money and stir warm memories that I cherish.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.