A Tribute to My Mom: Encourager, Listener, Costume Designer, and Ham Extraordinaire
Memories of My Mother
The great humorist Erma Bombeck once wrote a piece called "When God Created Mothers." I will show the whole piece in its entirety at the end of this hub. But as I was reading it over for the millionth time in my life today, I thought of my mother in the last paragraph. It always chokes me up. The piece is on God creating a mother. It is a real challenge and he has an angel who is admiring His work. Here is the last paragraph:
The angel then bent over the model and ran her finger across the cheek, "There is a leak", she said, 'I told you, you were trying too much effort on this particular model.'
"It is not a leak", said the Lord, "But a tear."
"What is it for?"
"It is for the joy, disappointment, pain, pride, sadness, loneliness and triumph of her kids."
"Wow!! You are a genius!," said the angel, thoroughly impressed.
The Lord looked somber at this and said - "I didn't put it there."
A tear for the joy, disappointment, pain, pride, sadness, loneliness and triumph of me and my sisters was the epitome of my mother. When we hurt, she hurt, as if it was her own pain. When she saw a gift or talent in us, she cheered us on and encouraged us. I started writing in the fifth grade. One day she and my teacher, Mr. Crosby, talked about my writing talents at a parent/teacher conference. From that day forward my mom read everything I wrote and always laughed and cried, whatever the piece was meant to do. If I made a lumpy pot of clay in school, she displayed it proudly as if it were meant for a great museum of fine art. She kept all of our artwork and writings through the years, and on the day that she passed away her husband Bob allowed us to go through her things, and we found some of our masterpieces worn and yellowed, but still treasured by our mother.
When I heard my mother was ill I became worried about her spiritual condition. As I packed my bags and caught a flight to California, I tried to remember if I had ever told her the plan to salvation, if she understood the whole gospel message. My mom always believed in God very strongly. She told us all our lives that God loved us and was always with us. She tried to answer all our questions. She grew up in the Christian Science religion, as her mother was a practitioner. She took us to Sunday School and church faithfully when we were children, until her mother left the state, then we quit going. At that point, I was starting to realize that Christian Science did not make sense. Nonetheless, when we were going through a trial, she always reminded us that God was with us and would not allow us to go through anything we could not bear without His help. But Jesus wasn't really in the picture. When I became a Christian at age 23 she was thrilled for me. She didn't really understand completely what Christianity was. But she was glad I had found a "religion" and that I tried to live for God. I talked with her many times over the years about my faith, but never to my remembrance had I told her the way to salvation. So on my way to see her, I asked God to confirm that she at least knew the way to heaven.
When I got to her bedside at the hospital, she was semi-comatose. Whether she knew we were there or not I am not sure. But when it was my turn to be alone with her and say goodbye before they "pulled the plug," I held her hand and sang Jesus Loves Me to her. I prayed that she could hear me and receive Jesus. I will never know this side of heaven whether she heard me and responded in the quietness of her own heart or not. At 5:00 a.m. July 18th, 2002, Marilyn Joy Brigham Waltz, my mother, slipped away from this world. Later that day my step-father Bob was in so much distress, he asked us if we could go through her things and take what we wanted. The memories of having her things around was more than he could bear. At one point Bob came to me with an old, old, beat up King James Bible in a worn black leather cover. It was my maternal grandmother's Bible. My mom got it when her mother passed away, and Mom had instructed that I should get it when she passed away.
That night in the hotel I was leafing through it. I found a piece of paper and opened it up for a look. I was dumbfounded to find that it was a letter from me and a poem I had written. She had apparently been going through a very, painful trial with a family matter and I had sent her this poem as a way of telling her God was with her. In the letter portion I told her about Jesus and how to find salvation in Him. My eyes wept with joy, and I had a lump in my throat the size of Cincinnati. What peace I found it that.
The thing I remember most about my mom is her tremendous ability to "read" us. And she was an incredible listener. My mom instinctively knew when we spoke if something was wrong. As an adult, my sisters and I developed the same instinct as she when she was not quite right. I was prone to depression in my teens. None of us knew what it was. But sometimes, when I didn't really know what was going on with myself, she would sit down with me and tell me she saw that something was eating away at me. I looked sad and troubled. She let me know she was there to listen and support me and to please let her know how she could help. I never understood why I was walking around troubled and gloomy. So I always told her I couldn't think of anything. I was being truthful. But she always knew something wasn't quite right with me. This happened on several occasions in my teens, and by the time I was an adult I was more in touch with what was bothering me, and I felt completely safe and loved when I shared my burdens with her.
I remember my mom being kind of melancholy when we were kids. Things were hard because my dad was always gone with an alcohol problem. We girls knew nothing about this. She seemed lonely sometimes. But she joined clubs and had quite a few friends. She loved gardening and was so creative in her flower arrangements. I laugh now because back then we lived in Tacoma, WA. Scotch broom, (what we consider a horrible nuisance of a weed now), was used in many of her arrangements. It is pretty, but it spreads like wildfire and chokes out everything else. When my family and I moved back to Washington in the 90's from California, I discovered that Scotch Broom was despised. I shared this little fact with my mother and we laughed that she had used it in all her arrangements.
My sister Chris was a terrible asthmatic as a child. There wasn't much medicine to take for it back in the 60's. I can remember my mother sitting on her bed throughout the night, and me in my bed a few feet away. We stayed awake the whole night, listening to my poor sister gasp and wheeze for breath. I love her so much for that. When we were sick, she was there.
For as long as I can remember my mother liked to dress up in costumes. For many years she dressed up as the Easter bunny. Her costume was very convincing. She had a rather toothy smile, so with the costume and the make-up she fooled us for quite a few years. When my sisters and I, and all of our friends and cousins got a little older, we could see a little bit of dark hair peeking out in the back of her headpiece. We all tried to tell her we had her number, but she was often able to convince us that she was the true Easter bunny. This evolved into a lifetime love of costumes. She loved to create her own. None of that store bought stuff for her. She was everything from Raggedy Anne, to a saloon girl, to a mermaid, to a sheriff, to a roaring 20's flapper. What a ham she could be. Some of her made-up in costumes are in the photos in this article.
My dear mother was all of my cousins' favorite aunt. At her little memorial service up on Mount Bachelor in Oregon, where we went to scatter her ashes, all my cousins took turns sharing something about what my mom meant to them. To them she was always Aunt Bunny, or more commonly known as Aunt Bun. One after one I heard, "Aunt Bunny was the cool aunt." "Aunt Bunny was my favorite Aunt." My mom treated my cousins the same way she treated my sisters and I. She listened, she showed interest, she was a ham, she was real, and sweet, and loving, and really quite fun, cool, you know, groovy. My cousins all adored her. Come to think of it, I just this minute realized that I don't think I ever met anyone who did not love my mother. How could someone not love someone named Bunny, who was a cute and funny as her name.
Not only was my mom a special mom and aunt, she was a fantastic Nana. She absolutely adored her grandchildren, and they adored her right back. She was very attentive, and once again, she was a good listener. They would share little tidbits of their world with her and she would show such interest that they would drum up other things to tell her because she seemed genuinely interested in what they had to say. And she was. She loved to ride with them on her bicycle built for two, take us all out to breakfast, lunch, or dinner, play games (although she really didn't care much for games), take the kids on picnics to the beach, the park, and introduce them all to her friends.
Every Christmas we would go out to her desert community by the "sea" and watch Santa Clause, dressed in a red, shiny, water-proof, Santa suit, water ski into shore. Once on shore, the kids surrounded him and the elves passed out gifts. Personally, I prefer snow and trees. But the kids loved it and it was quite fun.
Eventually Mom and her husband Bob decided they needed a change and moved up to Idyllwild, a mountain community in Southern California. She was thrilled with this because she could grow some of her favorite Pacific Northwest plants, like lilacs, and her favorite hyacinths. Thankfully, she did not plant any scotch broom. So her little mountain community was much more palatable to us, and the walks through the pine trees and cool mountain air were, to say the least, much more invigorating. There were some little touristy shops to browse through and little quaint coffee/sandwich/tea places to lunch at, and a few wonderful rustic mountain family restaurants.
One thing my mother taught me was how to accept a compliment or gift. She loved to buy lunch, or buy me a gift when we were out and about. I would always say, "Oh, that's okay Mom, you don't need to buy that." She would always tell me, "Just say thank you. I wouldn't do this if I didn't want to." If she complimented me, or someone else did, sometimes I would say, "Oh this is just a hand-me-down," or "my face is breaking out," or "you should have seen how long it took me to do this." "Honey, just say thank you."
Now I say it to friends and loved ones who also have trouble accepting gifts and compliments. And I tell them about my mother and what she taught me. Mom was a gift, and I cherish every remembrance of her. There is no other mother like my mom. I know we all say that, but we were very blessed to have such a loving, fun, hammy, kind of mother. So if you are listening Mom, I just want to say, "thank you."
© Lori Colbo 2011
When God Created Mothers by Erma Bombeck
When the Good Lord was creating mothers, He was into his sixth day of “overtime” when an angel appeared and said, “You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.”
And the Lord said, “Have you read the specs on this order?
- She has to be completely washable, but not plastic;
- Have 180 movable parts... all replaceable;
- Run on black coffee and leftovers;
- Have a lap that disappears when she stands up;
- A kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair;
- And six pairs of hands.”
The angel shook her head slowly and said, “Six pairs of hands... no way.”
“It’s not the hands that are causing me problems,” said the Lord. “It’s the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have.”
“That’s on the standard model?” asked the angel.
The Lord nodded. “One pair that sees through closed doors when she asks, ’What are you kids doing in there?’ when she already knows. Another here in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn’t but what she has to know, and of course the ones here in front that can look at a child when he goofs up and say, ’I understand and I love you’ without so much as uttering a word.”
“Lord,” said the angel, touching His sleeve gently, “Go to bed. Tomorrow...”
“I can’t,” said the Lord, “I’m so close to creating something so close to myself. Already I have one who heals herself when she is sick... can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger... and can get a nine-year-old to stand under a shower.”
The angel circled the model of a mother very slowly. “It’s too soft,” she sighed.
“But she’s tough!” said the Lord excitedly. “You cannot imagine what this mother can do or endure.”
“Can it think?”
“Not only can it think, but it can reason and compromise,” said the Creator.
Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek. “There’s a leak,” she pronounced. “I told You You were trying to push too much into this model.”
“It’s not a leak,” said the Lord. “It’s a tear.”
“What’s it for?”
“It’s for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness, and pride.”
“You are a genius,” said the angel.
The Lord looked somber. “I didn’t put it there,” He said.
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A letter from Mom to my sisters and I
Dear Chris, Lori, and Jamey,
I'm sitting here, it's 7:00 a.m. Sunday morning, and I'm thinking of you three. I should still be in bed catching up on my sleep, but I am too excited about Christmas ever since Jamey called from New Jersey yesterday and said "Mom, we're here."
Christmas this year will be a very special one for me and for you too. We are all together once again. I can't tell you how much this means to me.
I look at each of you and I'm still as amazed as I was the day each of you were born, that you belong to me. You've all grown into such lovely women, each with something special to offer this world. I hope your dad and I have given you a sense of being an individual all your own. As you most certainly are: not a carbon copy of me, him, each other, or anyone else. It's important that you believe that.
You all reflect parts of Daddy and me, and yet have developed your own sense of yourselves. You all three have an inner strength, a toughness, and an undeniable fighting spirit to conquer whatever problems come your way.
How proud I am of you!
My mother than writes a pargaraph to us individually. Here is her message to me:
Lori -- You've come from being a very young girl on your wedding day to a lovely complete woman. Your strong sense of motherhood comes from me. It sometimes gets in the way with our men, but deep down inside them, it is what they admire and love most about us. Your sense of honesty, and morality comes from your daddy. Virtues to be cherished from him. I have admired your devotion to God and the way you have brought him into not only your life, but your family's.
Later she goes on to all of us:
I really miss you girls. We have always been so close, and still are. I know I see you from time to time and talk to you on the phone, but I guess I miss still taking care of you and worrying about you.
But--part of loving you is to love with open arms so you can be free. I hope I have done this with you.
We all have a sense of being alone at times, even with our family all around us. Fight this feeling, as we as a family are just a touch or a phone call away. We are very close and we all have a strong love for each other. When you are feeling alone, conjure up a memory from our times whe we were all together. It helps, I know, I do it a lot. Memories such as:
At our Stevens street house in Tacoma. The Christmas' we spent with Grandma and Grandpa, Auntie Marg, Uncle Elmer and our dear "Grandma Stebby". And our moving to California when we were all excited and yet scared at the new adventure.
The time Dad's TV tray collapsed and he had mashed potatoes all over him and the wall. When Chris and Jamey got into it in the kitchen over the dishes and Dad came into settle the ruckus, and Chris and Dad squared off nose to nose and I had to send Chris to her room and Dad out to the backyard till everyone calmed down and you two could come out and put your arms around each other and say your "I'm sorries."
When Jamey and I lived together and I would always forget to put the top on the coffee pot and the pot perked itself silly all over the stove. Or when I was trying to hang an ornament on the tree and lost my balance and dove head first into the tree with my legs sticking straight out. (I'm still picking pine needles out of my skirt).
The day K-2 (my firstborn son Kenny), Troy and Scott were born. I labored every hour right along with you Lori. And the joy of hearing Michelle was born and she was a Girl! How I love my grandchildren!!!
The absurdity of this letter is, I'm probably going through menopause and just getting sentimental over the past. I recently shared with Lori a sign I saw in an office, and it has really helped me when I thought I couldn't do it. May it will help you too:
"Lord, there ain't nothing You and I can't handle together."
So my darlings, go forth and have beautiful lives. Remember it's not all roses, but the good times outweigh the bad ones.
And--Most of all, remember how very much Daddy and I lovey ou, and if you ever need us we will be there.
All My Love,
A Card From Mom to Me
© 2011 Lori Colbo
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