I was rather touched by this demonstration of caring for my feelings, a trait not often observed in this particular population who know me only as the lady who circles the lab to make sure they are not looking at rap music web sites instead of their educational program.
But, it did start me thinking about my mother, and how sad I actually am that she is no longer with us. It has been twenty-four years since my beautiful, healthy, vibrant mother succumbed after only six months to a particularly nasty form of cancer. She was sixty years old. She had raised seven children and had ten or eleven grandchildren. She and my father had been married for almost forty years.
My father and mother both grew up during the Depression in Washington, D.C. My mother, Betty Lou Donovan, was the youngest of four girls in an Irish family, although they got a surprise baby brother when my mother was twelve. She and my father became sweethearts after meeting at a dance in junior high. She reportedly told her sisters that she had "just met the man that she would marry." Indeed, they dated all through high school. Their dates often meant roller-skating in a park or taking little brother Jerry along on a walk or to the movies. When World War II came along, my father was off to England and then Italy in the Army Air Corps, the earlier version of today's Air Force. I wrote last year about my father, Pete Turner, a successful commercial and fine artist. We were allowed to read their love letters when I was growing up. My father called her "Botts," and all his letters were filled with wonderful little cartoons and drawings. When the war was over, they married and moved immediately to New York, where my father could begin his career as an illustrator in the midst of the big city's advertising and publishing mecca. They started out in a tiny apartment in the Bronx. When the babies started coming, they moved to a new apartment building in Stuyvesant Town, which was built for returning veterans to have affordable housing. By the time they had their "Irish triplets," or three babies within four years, it was time to move to the suburbs. But I have a photo album of pictures to prove that despite raising three little ones in a high-rise apartment, we went out to play in the park every day, and I seem to be wearing pretty little starched and ironed outfits every time.
We stayed in the suburbs of New York and New Jersey until I was fifteen. By then our family had increased to seven children. The last three were boys. I, too, had a baby brother twelve or thirteen years younger than me, but there were four others in between. Have you ever seen those old maternity outfits of the fifties and sixties? Before the onset of spandex, the maternity pants and skirts just had open holes with ties around the waist, where the big belly just kind of hung out and was covered by a tent-like maternity top. I guess I remember my mother the most wearing that sort of get-up. She remained beautiful despite all the pregnancies, and the difficulties of a being a housewife before all the modern conveniences of today. Here is a picture of her dressed up for her brother's wedding (yes, that's me as a flower girl, shortly before my cousin spilled a glass of ice water right on my dress). I found out later that my mom, the ultimate bargain hunter, had bought the whole outfit, lace dress and all, for about ten dollars. Money was always a little tight in our family with so many mouths to feed, but she could squeeze a dollar harder than anyone I know. We always had fabulous balanced meals for dinner. I don't remember ever going out to eat dinner as a family until we moved to North Carolina when I was fifteen. That's right, every single meal cooked at home. When my husband was talking about my mother at my nephew's wedding a couple weeks ago, it was all about how she always made him something special when he came to dinner, even if it was a special bowl of turkey gravy with no "giblets" or mushrooms. Nothing was ever wasted by letting it linger too long in the refrigerator. And here is a memory I treasure: a line of eight brown bag lunches every morning, with names written on each one, from "Pete," my father, to "Patrick," the baby. Why did they have to have names? Why, because they each were different according to our preferences. Creamed cheese for this one, peanut butter for that one, white bread for some, pumpernickel for others, Oreo cookies for this one, Hydrox for that one.
I miss you, Mom, and now that I have raised my own family, your accomplishments astound me. I don't know how you did it. I guess the answer is love and self-sacrifice.
Thank you for being my mother.
That is all that I can give you for Mother's Day.