Archive for March, 2011

Creative Motherhood

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

Remembering creative motherhood

As we share deeper and deeper, the one who holds my heart and i have been talking about our childhoods. One of the ways i know that she is the person i want to build the rest of my life with is that through her reactions and observations, ive come to learn things about my mom that gives me a deeper appreciation of moms creative approach to motherhood.

Its important to know that mom raised six of us. Generally we are two years apart, four girls and two boys. Being the dad of two daughters, my favorite oldest and my favorite youngest, i have looked back sometimes and wondered how mom and dad raised six since two kept us pretty busy.

Mom was pretty good at making ways for all of us to stay occupied. Sometimes productively, sometimes not, but occupied so we werent being overly creative (or behaving like a pack of wild kids.) i remember all of us walking to the gunthers greenhouse and taking turns holding one side of the wire handled bushel basket of corn, or the paper bags that always seemed to begin ripping a block or so from home. Those of us who hadnt been tasked to retriev the corn or pick up the ears that fell out of the bag were on water boiling or butter melting duty. Mom synchronized all six of us so by the time we hit the front porch, the water was at full boil, the butter at full melt, and the shucking crew on the porch would tear into the just picked sweet corn, handing each ear off to one of us who would rush it into the boil. We would clean the ears fast because we knew the incredible taste of salty buttery sweet corn was only minutes away.

Ive seldom had corn as perfect as that, fresh off the stalk. It was a feast we only had once a summer, maybe in late july. 

I remember the assembly line that we would have after every dinner, on washing, and a circle of dryers, stepping in, picking up a plate, and stepping back, making the five steps in a circle that would end at the cabinet where the tallest one of us would help the shorter put the dish away, then step back in the circle, grab another bowl or plate, and enter the cycle again. I remember dad sitting at the head of the table saying “we dont need a dishwasher, we have six of them!”

Some nights when dad wasnt home, mom would organize bowling lessons. We would set up plastic pins in the kitchen, open the door to the utility room for proper alley length, and mom would show us the approach. “Push, two, three, four” showing us the movements from cradling the bowling ball, to pushing it out and away, letting it swing back, and smoothly following through to release it. Mom was a good bowler, we had a set of shelves filled with the trophies won by her and dad. We would listen and watch attentively, then try our hand rolling the softball¬†

Each of these was a way that mom would harness our energy, setting pins, retrieving errant balls, lining up, moving furniture, each of us had a job, and as we’d bowl, we’d rotate through the jobs.

Some nights the six of us were just cranky with each other, picking, poking, jabbing at each other, we just had too much energy i guess. On those nights mom would organize “friday night wrestling.” we’d move all the cushions from the couches to the floor and mom would referee. No biting, no spitting, no nose pulling, no eye poking…mom ran a clean ring. I remember that tickling was allowed, and one of the sneaky strategies was to declare “i have to go to the bathroom!” your opponent would pause and relax, you’d execute a reversal and mom would award the point…we’d fall for that most of the time…. By the end of the evening, we’d all by too tired to argue with each other, and fall right to sleep.

Cleaning was the same, mom would organize a vacuum crew, one on the cord, one on the cannister, and one on the business end (we all wanted that, because if you were on cannister, you had to empty it at the end. We’d move it up the stairs, and have to lift the cannister to let the hose person reach the cobwebs in the corner. While this was going on, mom would work with the windex crew, a sprayer (best job) wiper, and paper towel tender. Mom would do the tall windows and i think the rest of us mostly just smeared the finger and nose prints around…but as we all worked, we’d be listening to South Pacific, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, or for a special treat, Alan Sherman or Bill Cosby….i think now that Mom would have liked it if we would have spontaneousl burst into song when the sound of music was on, but i think we were often more like the rival gangs in west side story….

I think she had aspirations for us back then, she bought us the Britannica encyclopedia (my favorite reading) the great books of the westwern world (which i wish i had) and a piano, which we’d play by ear (THAT must have been painful to listen to!!!) but i never remember her telling us to stop playing chopsticks, or when irish eyes are smiling…thats a patient mom for you.

But mom never forced us into lessons, or practice, i think her idea was that if we enjoyed it, we’d keep after it. Only my sister kept up with music, she became a good twelve string player but doesnt play much these days.

I think we remember the most recent things about people, or remember longest those things that concerned or hurt us, and after moms cancer, there was a lot to remember, especially for my caregiving sisters who took the brunt of moms anger and disappointment with her later life while caring for her as only daughters could. So i’m not trying to portray mom in an unrealistic light, just remembering the energy and creativity she put into early motherhood, something that the one who holds me heart has shown me was an amazing accomplishment.

Mom passed away a few years ago, i miss the early years mom quite a bit sometimes, and feel bad that i was the only one who could arrange life to take later years mom in small doses.

I dont have a clever closing, just to say we only get one life, live it the way you’d like to be remebered, one day someone might be writing about us.