Today is Mother’s Day. I would like to wish all mothers, grandmothers, and godmothers a very special day! I would also like to take this opportunity to honor my own mother, Constance Kleinschmidt Brown, who left us all too soon in June, 2002.
It’s hard for me to believe that it is almost 10 years since my Mom passed away. So much has happened in these intervening years that she has not been a part of. We’ve had hurricane Katrina, my daughters’ weddings, and the births of my four grandchildren (her great grandchildren.) But I want to go way, way back to share some of my fondest memories of my Mom. These are memories from when I was a kid.
To understand my relationship with my Mom, you have to know that she suffered a heart attack at the young age of 29, when I was four years old. They treated heart attacks differently back then. She was told not to stress her heart. The result was that my Mom slept till noon and had a maid to take care of the house and us kids. What a different life we would have had if she had been encouraged to participate more fully in her life! And while this post is in honor of my mother, I want to give tremendous thanks to our maid, Aline Taylor, who fulfilled the day-to-day mothering duties beautifully! I owe her a great debt of gratitude for her influence on my life. This may well be the subject of another post one day.
I mention this because, from a child’s perspective, my Mom was very special. It was a treat to have her around. I thought that my Mom was beautiful, and everything that she did was beautiful as well. For instance, I remember having the most beautiful crown of roses that she made for my day to crown the statue of Our Lady. I was in the second grade at St. Leo the Great Catholic School, and every day in May we would crown the statue of Our Lady in our classroom. Each child got a chance to crown Our Lady as we were assigned a specific day to bring our crown of flowers. Even my teacher commented about how beautiful my crown of tiny pink rosebuds was. The rosebuds were taken from a bush in our garden and adorned with tiny pink ribbons. It was absolutely the most beautiful thing I had ever seen!
I am sure that being freed from the everyday duties of raising a family made it much easier for my Mom to focus on the special things. Another example is the ribbon fleurettes she made for the lace christening bonnet my sisters and I used. This same dress and bonnet was used by my girls, and most recently by my granddaughter for her christening. The fleurettes have not only held up, they make the bonnet!
But my favorite memory of my Mom is the one that happened one autumn when I was 14 years old. I cannot remember the reason my Mom picked me up early from school, but she did. It was just she and I in the car driving home. Nothing prepared me for what she did when we were three blocks from home. She pulled over to the side of the road and asked me if I would like to drive home! I was speechless! Of course, I was thrilled. But I had never, ever driven before!
Let me set the scene. We lived in a little neighborhood in Gentilly. It was a very modest area, but it had a lovely entrance. The place where my Mom pulled over was called the Parkway Commission. It was where they grew trees to be planted around the city. This road was beautifully planted with giant pampas grasses and tall palm trees. The next block was where the little houses started. We lived in the block after that. We were driving my Mom’s car which was my Dad’s old car. It was a 1952 green Chevrolet. Even then it seemed like an old car. It was great, very basic. The only extra was that it had automatic transmission. There was no air conditioning, no power windows, no radio, and no blinkers! That’s right. This was in the day where you had to learn hand signals because most cars still did not have signal lights.
I remember the combination of excitement and terror I experienced as I slipped behind the wheel. My Mom sat there calmly as she told me what to do, and I did it! I doubt that I went more than 10 miles an hour, but I got all the way home and even turned into the driveway without a hitch! I was on top of the world!
When November came and I turned 15, I was ready to take the driving test. We had done a lot more practicing by then. I got my license, and became the family chauffeur and errand girl. I loved to drive! I was willing to go anywhere for anyone as long as I could drive there.
I share these memories because they show the paradox of my Mom. There was the part of her life where she seemed so sheltered and not at all bold. Then there was the way she encouraged me to be bold, as with the driving. I know that her faith in me that day boosted my confidence in myself more than anything else I can remember. It was such a gift! It was such a surprise! It made such a difference!
Thank you, Mama, for being the mother I needed you to be!