Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

Anna Catherine Hennessey Rettstatt

Today's Alphabet Blog post would have been the letter 'X'. Then I considered that this Sunday, we celebrate Mother's Day. Since all of us writers, at one time, had a mother (or you may still have her with you), I figured it's a great time to honor mothers. We'll return to the Writer's Alphabet and the letter 'X' next week.

My mom, Anna Catherine Hennessey Rettstatt was born in 1925 and passed away in 1991. A short life by today's standards. Being the eldest of nine children, I think my mother, known to most folks at Kay, began mothering at the age of four. She grew up in a large family supported on a coal miner's salary. No frills and, I imagine, hard financial times, though she never talked about those times or complained.

With her younger sister, Bridget

My mom loved family and was a constant in the lives of my self and my younger sister, Peggy. We never came home to an empty house. She would often tell us stories from her teenaged years--sneaking out of the house to meet friends or taking risky bike rides in the dark down winding country roads--then end the story with, "And don't even think about trying that." She loved a good joke, too, and was quick to laugh. Memories that I still have on old 8 mm movies are of mom playing baseball in the back yard (she loved baseball and the Pittsburgh Pirates) and trying, over and over, to master the Hula Hoop. She loved to dance and to sing, and could often be caught humming a country song while she worked. If she were around today, I've no doubt Dancing With the Stars and American Idol would be her TV favorites.

While she preferred to do the housekeeping and cooking herself, therein failing to teach me to survive on my own (something I learned quickly when I moved into my first apartment), she did teach me other important values. The small town in which I grew up had three known homeless people: Bill, Johnnie, and Annie. My mom was fearful and anxious at times, but never allowed her fears to prevent her from doing a kindness. We lived in the days when glass soda (pop) bottles were worth a nickle. The homeless folks would forage for bottles (much like people gather cans today) and would turn them in at the local grocery in exchange for food. My mother collected our bottles and set them out on the back porch for Bill or Johnnie to pick up. She often left a foil-wrapped package of food, as well.

I would like to say that my mother and I were close, best friends. But we were not. I always thought that was because we were so very different in our views on life. I learned, as I approached my middle years, that we were very much alike. They say that, at some point, we all become our mothers. In some ways, I could only be so lucky.

If you still have your mom with you this Mother's Day, let her know she is loved. If she has already passed from this life, honor her by remembering and sharing something about her.

And if you're a mom, Happy Mother's Day!



Jude Johnson said...

A lovely tribute, Linda. My mom was also a huge Pittsburgh Pirates fan, and one of my earliest memories is of her jumping up and down on our reddish-pink couch when Bill Mazeroski hit his walk-off home run in the 1960 World Series. I was all of two years old, so all I remember is my mother yelling with a big grin on her face, leaping into the air, making the springs creak and the couch thump while she gestured wildly at the black and white images snowing across the tv.

We were not close at the end of her life, but I tried to communicate how grateful I was to have her as my mother. I am all I am because of her - hopefully I emulate the good and avoid the less than stellar.

Happy Mother's Day.

Camille said...

What a lovely tribute to your mom, Linda! I hope you have a terrific day tomorrow

Verna LaBounty said...

My mother died last July. My sister, brother and I cared for her during the last two years of her life. I grew closer to her than any other time in my life...seeing her vulnerable and dependent was hard, but her good spirits and thankfulness made our time with her quite wonderful. We made memories together.

Unknown said...

Linda--I'm so glad I didn't miss this. Loved your description of your mother, and the photo is outstanding. I adore old photos, and need to scan a bunch so I can use them in posts.
My mother was born in 1916 and is still living--94. It's a sad way to live, but she has a strong will and just sort of refuses to give up. She knows very little, certainly not us, and cannot do anything for herself.
Like you, I was close to Mother growing up, but as we three girls turned into adults, she became very critical, which caused too many rifts. It was no one person's fault--I just hope I can avoid such nonsense with my own children.
She also was the oldest of less than your mom...and she also mothered them all because her stepmother worked outside the home. Very odd for that day and time.
Take care...Celia

Linda LaRoque said...

What a beautiful post, Linda. My mother wasn't a traditional one for the age. She worked outside the home, loved to laugh and play jokes, and loved us unconditionally. When she was close to death I told her, "Mama, at least when you go you know you have lived fully." She died in 2000 and at times I can still hear her mischiveous chuckle.