How to Recapture Your Earliest Memories of Your Mom

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First: Go as far as your memory will take you.

Then let your heart take over:


I’m no more than four years old. I’m mad at Mommy for I don’t know what reason. As the youngest of the three children Mom had in four and a half years, I was always mad at somebody or something. It’s an early trait of the baby of the family before she grows up to be the ultimate fixer of all things familial. Even when Mom had a fourth child by her second husband when I was a teenager, I still held my station as the baby of the first litter. That’s how it works.

I announced, with all the conviction of my four years, that I was running away from home. Where I got this tactic, I have no idea. But these were cards I had never played before. So I was willing to bet beginner’s luck would win me the pot, so to speak.

Mother paused from whatever she was doing at the sink, considered what I’d said for the briefest of moments, then dried her hands on the rag she was using for an apron. She proceeded to pick me up from the spot of kitchen floor I’d staked out and to carry me out of the kitchen, through the front room, and straight to the front door.

In what seemed like one fluid motion, she opened both the wooden and screen doors, stepped across the wide porch, set me down on the top step, turned, and went back into the house, closing the two doors firmly behind her. I heard the bolt slide into the lock on the door and saw the yellow porch light flick on.

This was not going as planned.

That round, yellow bulb was the only source of illumination afforded me as the shadows of dusk began to gather. The cool moisture of the Kansas evening seeped through my cotton dress and panties into the soft tissues of my stubborn little bottom as that concrete step lost more and more of the summer day’s warmth.

Darkness closed in around me.

Our small yard was no longer the lively midday playground within the safety of my mother’s reach. It was a vast sea of unprotected blackness with only a string of faint yellow dots trailing down the street from the neighbors’ front porch lights, similar to our own. Houses close enough in the daylight to converse between open windows now seemed like isolated manors on thousand-acre estates miles and miles from the nearest living soul.

Instead of the friendly barking of playmate dogs who nipped at my panties as I ran through sprinklers in a tandem chase, my little ears were alert to the slightest twig breaking. That sound doomed me to the certain encroachment of creatures previously suspected of occupying the long, dark closet that stretched from the door in my bedroom to the adjoining door of Mommy and Daddy’s. Even the creatures’ transvergence to the spooky regions below my bed could be defended by shrinking to the middle of that twin bed and pulling the covers up over my head. Night creatures can’t get what they can’t see, as is well known throughout the Christendom of childhood.

But now I found myself simply at the mercy of the who-knows-what in the night that might appear at any moment from the gloom of the shadows. I was no more going to budge from the security of my getting cold, concrete top step than a doomed pirate clinging to the narrow splinter of a ship’s plank.

Four-year-olds can be stubborn as Hell. And I had a hard time acquiescing to the fact that my Mother had trumped the ace I’d thought I had up my sleeve with my announcement I was going to abandon her to the joy of only two of her three offspring. It had seemed so foolproof to my innocent’s reasoning. -Right up to the point where she’d landed me on my chilly touchie on that top porch step. Now the inherent flaws in my plan were becoming more and more obvious to me as I became more and more concerned about that ghoulish shadow dancing along the tree line.

Creeek-dump!

-What was that?

Fortunately, four-year-olds are stubborn as Hell, but have no pride whatsoever to speak of at that age. Certainly none where their Mommies are concerned. One last indefinable sound from the depths of the night, and I was up and scratching at the door just like my kitten when Mother is slow bringing out the dinner scraps.

But, you know what?

How smart are mothers?

Mine didn’t come to the door when I scratched. Not right away. Not for several moments. Not until I got to the point of really wondering if she was going to come to my rescue at all.

E-ven-tu-al-ly, I heard footsteps from inside. There weren't many. She must have been watching from the front room window. I heard the lock slide in the bolt and the door squeak ever so slowing open, a little.

“Yes, may I help you?”

“It’s me, Mommy.”

“Yes, is someone there?”

“It’s me Mommy, down here.”

“Why Kathleen Elizabeth. I thought you’d be at the bus station by now.”

“No, I’m still here.”

“Change your mind?”

“Yes’m”

“Well, come in. It’s time for bath.”

My earliest recollection of my mother.


That night, forty-seven years ago, my bath was taken in an iron tub on the kitchen floor. Working class people in Rose Hill, Kansas, lived in track housing consisting of four rooms and an out-house. And we were working class. I just didn’t know what that was yet. What I did know was that, being the youngest in a family of five, I got the left over bath water. Mother would reheat it, but after heating water for three other baths, what could you expect? In 1957, a housewife had to pace herself.

In 2011 my mother’s house has four indoor bathrooms, thank you very much, an elevator and a wine closet. Had someone tried to tell her in the fifties she would live to see such riches of her own, she would have laughed out loud.

“I have no need of such things,” she would have said. “I’ve blessings enough right now.”

But she didn’t. She made all her family’s meals from scratch. It's hard to find “scratch” these days, but back then it was all there was. She ironed pillowcases and underwear on a board set up in front of an unimaginable luxury: a black and white television set. I remember the day Daddy brought it home and how worried she was about where the money would come from to pay for it on a schoolteacher's salary.

I had no idea where money came from, but learned that day it comes from a place Mommies worry about a great deal. Actually, I empirically learned where money came from during the next week while we ate pinto beans for supper every night.

Mommy learned to use the television, though. She’d schedule her day so she would be ironing those pillowcases right when her two fifteen-minute long Soap Operas were on. “The Secret Storm” and “The Guiding Light.” Sure seems a long way from “Sex in the City” and “The Bachelor”.

Mother washed clothes on the back porch with a wringer washer. I only remember this because the pinching she got at least once a load from getting her fingers too close to the wringer. This pain inflicted on Mommy made quite the impression on the little girl who seemed to generate most of the dirty laundry for the household.

And she made the best piecrust. To this day, no bakery anywhere in the world has even come close to matching it. She’ll tell you it’s because the best pastry chefs don’t have to make do with so few ingredients. I say, less is more when it comes to a flaky, white piecrust. I say, there will never be better piecrust in the world than Mother’s.

Oh, yeah. Now there really won’t be.

. . . Mom.





On Amazon by Kathleen

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Comments 11 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

Beautiful tribute to a very wise woman. I was laughing because a similar incident happened at our house with a very stubborn young boy...I got a block from home and realized that the world was much bigger than I had ever imagined. LOL Thanks for the memories my friend.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

So good to see this story from your childhood here. It has been, and still is, one of my favorites. When I first read this I instantly realized how much I liked and admired your mother. :) The photographs are wonderful and tell such a great family story. Sharing. Theresa


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

billybuc and phdast7: I'm so grateful for the patience and support of my HP friends. This grieving thing is taking longer than I imagined. I owe an apology to all my friends who have already been through this part of life. I took it too lightly when it was happening to someone else.

billybuc: I'll bet we all have this story from our childhoods in one version or another. Thanks for enjoying mine.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

Oh, what a beautiful hub and tribute to your lovely mother! This is such a clever idea for a hub. I try so hard to go back to my earliest memories, and I think I've made it to about the age of four. My mother went on to be with the Lord just this past Christmas, just four days after her 84th birthday. She was the sweetest mother on the planet in my mind.

Thank you for sharing here and your photos are just lovely.

Voted up ++++ and sharing (have to return to share, buttons not appearing right now)

God bless, Faith Reaper


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

FaithReaper: My Mother was 88 and passed away on January 13. I'm so glad this hub ministered to you. I know how you feel and I apologize to folks who've been through this already because I had no idea what it was like to have someone so close to you as a parent simply just be gone.

This is actually an excerpt from a novella I wrote about five years ago when my Mother was recovering from pneumonia, called "A Working Title Memory". I'm glad I wrote it then. I couldn't write it now.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 3 years ago from TEXAS

I have thoroughly enjoyed laughing out loud all through this delightful masterpiece! I identify both with you and your mommy. My youngest was born in 1957. I made meals 'from scratch'. I paced my day's chores with the B&W Tv programs.

I must go further back to my own youth outhouse & for the tub in the middle of the floor for baths, - at the ranch -, where each summer was spent.

In town for each school year, we did have an old-fashioned bathtub with legs, though. It was in town that I did my 'running off'; but it was a chronic event, when I was about 4, and wanted to prowl through all the neighbors bookshelves. Mother knew to expect it and would peer down the street, while I knew to expect her to do that, so I darted from tree to tree along the sidewalk to hide from her gaze. I'm sure she wasn't fooled. The neighbors knew to call her when I arrived, to assure her I was OK - and to offer me lemonade and cookies after my research! The result? I was enrolled in a one-room-8-grades-in-one school for first grade when still 4! If I was so eager for books, was the reasoning, - well - I'd get started on my education! Mommies and daddies are so smart!

I loved this, Kathleen! Thanks for sharing and reminding!


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Nellianna: Thanks for sharing memory lane with me. I went to a one-room-8-grades-in-two-rooms schools for part of third grade. My teacher lived in a trailer out back. The other teacher was my Dad. Hard to believe we came from that to today in such a short time! Thanks for the read and your wonderful comments.


DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Incredible memories of ones mother is so precious an interesting thought here of our precious mothers.


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

DDE: When my Mother passed away a few months ago, a friend put it this way: She was the first to love you, and she loves you still from Heaven. I'm so glad you found this hub.


peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 20 months ago from Home Sweet Home

always cherish and remember your love ones before she is gone. My mom had stroke but she is OK, contact her often as I could.


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 20 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Someone said grief is the last thing you can do for someone you love. Hope your Mother continues to get better.

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