My youngest sister Elizabeth and I have been having long conversations lately where we wonder about our Mom’s relationship with her older (and only) sister Wilma. Their age difference was also 14-15 years. I know my mother adored and missed Wilma because she took me, then me and Terry, then me, Terry and Lynn to visit her each year. And I remember watching her write letters. Lots of letters.
I’ve talked about my love of those long train trips trips from NYC to St. Louis, MO before. I enjoyed every minute, but can you imagine being a young woman of 25 with three babies traveling by train across country? The question we ask is, “Why did she move to NY when her whole family was in the St. Louis area?
I’ve never wondered why my parents married at City Hall with a Justice of the Peace, just accepted it at face value, but Elizabeth finds it inconceivable that they wouldn’t have had a wedding with all of Mom’s family in attendance. Maybe they didn’t accept my Yankee father… or his religion, and dealing with that was more than they wanted to do. Maybe money was an issue, Dad had just come home from the Korean war and was building a career. Maybe it seemed more romantic to them to elope. There is so much that we know nothing about…
(My parents. December 3, 1950. My mother’s jacket and skirt were the loveliest camel-colored velvet.)
As we talk about this gap in our knowledge of our Mom, we wish that we’d been more present, asked her questions, listened between the lines to what she was saying. Well, just listened, period. Kids tend to be innately more self-centered.
With a house full of kids and all the work that caring for six other people entailed (Mom had the five of us girls by the time she was 35, birth control not being an option back then) I’m sure she didn’t have time to reminisce about her hopes or dreams, or why she made the choices she made. And having married at only 19, had she even had time to think about any of it yet, really?
There are so many questions that neither of us knew to ask. I think this would make a good book – asking everyone, asking all of you, “What do you wish you had asked your Mother while you could?” Please, please , please if you have a suggestion, leave it in the comments. Who knows where it’ll go?
She’s been gone 24 years now, and I almost miss her more, but the things I miss about her are different now; I miss the “her” that I never knew.
I appreciate you all,
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