Thursday, January 9, 2014

Listening to Mom

Mom, always the English lady. 
"Marigolds are pretty, but they have a terrible smell."

"That Lucy and Desi, they're so common. I don't want you girls watching that show."

"Tea must always be served in an English teacup, dear, with a saucer. And milk and sugar. And brewed in a teapot."

"Depression glass is just cheap glass."

"China made in Japan is no good. Not worth wasting money on."

"Wrap that baby up! Poor little thing is freezing."

That was my mother talking. Her opinions, lightly and carelessly dropped, shaped my view of the world, of housekeeping, gardening, and child-rearing. I followed her rules and her lead,  and only recently realized how much she influenced my own likes and dislikes.

My English granny, Naomi Florence Hagger, who was visiting us in Centreville, VA, on her 60th birthday when this photo was taken. Granny's tastes and opinions probably had just as strong an influence on my mother as Mom's did on me. 
Take silver for example. Mom loved silver. Looking back, I bet she would have adored having a real silver tea service but that never came to be. She also like brass and copper, and there were certain pieces that we kept on display in the house for years, polishing them for the holidays. Two crystal decanters sat on either end of the buffet in our dining room; one held port, the other sherry. I do not remember anyone ever drinking those dark red liquids, but I do recall washing up the decanters along with all the other sparkling serving dishes for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

This was taken at our second home, in Manassas, on the occasion of Mom and Dad's 35th wedding anniversary. I do believe this is the on;y photo I've ever seen of her drinking anything but tea!

It was surprising to realize when she passed away how many of her likes and dislikes she passed on to her daughters. We all love crystal, silver and flowery English teacups. We all grow flowers, have an apron tucked away somewhere in our kitchens, and most of us still drink tea with milk and sugar. For a long time I did not watch the Lucy show or the Mary Tyler Moore show either ("Common," Mom sniffed). To this day I cannot watch movies with violence or children being hurt, and I'm a fan of happy endings.
Mom with her siblings, gathered around her mother, probably sometime in the early 1980's
I was surprised when I found that I actually liked the smell of marigolds, and of a bruised tomato leaf, another scent my mother did not enjoy. And I left the delicate English teacups in favor of the more substantial and, I think, just as pretty German-made cups and saucers. I have never been a big fan of pale pink and green Depression glass, but when I found I really liked the pale yellow version, I felt guilty for years!

My sisters and I in 1991, at my brother John's wedding. As usual, the photographer had a rough time getting us organized.
My tastes began to become my own when I left Virginia and moved to the mountains of West Virginia. I became intrigued by handmade art-pottery, quilts, and baskets filled my home. I wore jeans and seldom put on makeup (Mom put hers on daily, and "freshened up" with new lipstick and a clean apron just before Dad came home from work). My mother visited my mountain home only rarely, and for the first few visits was visibly upset at the hard path her oldest daughter had chosen. I did not think it difficult at all--to me it was all a great adventure, a challenge to learn how to provide for ourselves in this then-remote place.
Mom and I, 1988, at my son Jon's wedding. (and I thought I was fat then! Geez,)
Over the years my tastes gentled; Mom was surprised on her last visit here in 2003 to find air conditioning, lace curtains and a more civilized way of life--at least to her way of thinking. I went from minimalist to an eclectic, comfortable style that includes all of the things I love in a glorious mishmash that is still orderly--unlike my mother, I do not want "everything out where I can see it, dear." I still recall how quickly she could trash a place, scattering belongings hither and thither, filling a dresser top with makeup, medicines, lotions and creams and completely covering a countertop in less than 10 minutes. She was happiest with a comfortable clutter, as she called it. I can deal with clutter for a limited time but then it has to get organized and cleaned up.
Dad in the comfortable clutter of Mom's kitchen. Note the teapot (aluminum, she liked those kind best for some reason), the spooner, magnets on the fridge, tablecloth, etc. There was seldom any clear space on the counters of her kitchen but she cooked easily without it, an accomplishment that always amazed me.
Every now and again, I'll start to say something, and I'll hear my mother talking again. I have to smile because even though she's been gone for eight years, her opinions live on in her daughter's subconscious mind. It makes me wonder if I influenced my sons in the same way. Is it this way with all mothers? Do you still hear your mother's opinions coming out of your mouth?

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Rowan said...

I am very much like my mother in many ways though rather more broadminded I think. I often hear myself saying the same things as she did and the older I get the more I look like her as well.

Country Whispers said...

Loved this post. It made me think of my mother in law who has been gone for several years now. She lived in with "comfortable clutter" that would drive me nuts.
As for my mother she thankfully is still with me and continues to influence me daily.

Jenny said...

I look more like my mother the older I get - which is hard on me sometimes & other times I don't mind. She was much braver, stronger & outgoing than I could ever be though I do have her great love of flowers.

Nance said...

In my work ethic, family philosophy, book selections, habits . . . I often see my mother's influence and I tell folks (in response to what I said or why I did something) "Mama was looking over my shoulder". Your Mama reminds me of my dear Gramma.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

The photo of Granny with her children was taken in 1984 on the occasion of her 90th birthday. In her latter days she became a keen advocate of having everything where she could see it, in fact she wanted everything where it could be reached from her chair. "And wrap up warm, Dear, and eat plenty of hot soup during this cold weather".

Granny Sue said...

I find the same thing, Rowan--I am more broadminded that Mom (although she was fairly liberal herself). I learned compassion for others, how to listen, and how to enjoy the little things in life from her. And love of beauty--she loved beautiful things and scenery, the feel of fine fabric, and sweet floral scents.

Granny Sue said...

Blessings on your mother and you, Jessica. I hope you have many more years to enjoy each other!

Granny Sue said...

I know what you mean about growing to look more like your Mom, Jenny--I see her in my reflection too. A lot of my Dad looks back at me too :) I have to say that in many ways I am stronger than my mother, taking after my father there, but her strengths were her capacity to love, her joy in others' successes, and her ability to continue to enjoy life even with her many health issues, right up to the end. I remember the last time I talked to her when she was in the hospital, she said, "They've just brought me some lovely fresh strawberries for breakfast." Simple pleasures, always noted and enjoyed.

Granny Sue said...

Nance, those traits passed on in our family too with the exception of book selection. Mom read romances, and I can't abide them. Dad read history and religious books. I read history but not books on religion. Neither of them enjoyed folk literature or folk music, and couldn't stand banjos and fiddles, which I love!

Granny Sue said...

John, thank you for the date clarification. I think they all look so beautiful here, especially Granny. My memories of her and her visits are such happy ones. I wish your mother had been in this photo too, but she might have been the one taking the picture.

Sue said...

The older I get, the more I become like her. Most of that is good…

But what's annoying is I am beginning to show glimpses of even the few traits of my mom that I didn't want to take on!



Not only do I hear my mother's words coming out of my mouth but now I will catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror and see a faint shadow of her face on mine. I can see my grandmother as well.
Now my three daughters have disclosed that they are beginning to hear my words come out of their mouths. As my mother said, what goes around goes around. I say, "Yay."

Tipper said...

Great post! Even if it made me a little teary eyed : ) Yes I hear Granny's words coming from my mouth to the ears of my children on a regular basis!

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