Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Salute to my Mom

Love you, Mom

Today is my Mom's birthday, it's either today or yesterday.  She wasn't sure which day but we usually celebrated on January 7. She was born in 1896, 114 years ago.  This is the earliest picture I have of her.

My drawing of Mom

Every year she had a big party.  The entire family, and all of our friends, were invited. You were expected to bring a gift even if you were broke from Christmas.  She cooked all of the food for her party and after several beers would entertain us with her way of dancing.  We would play Keno, knowing that she would cheat, and take all of our money.

Mom with her beer.

When we lived in Chicago it was easy to make her birthday party but after the move to Michigan the weather could cause problems.  I remember our struggling through the snow, hoping we would make it. Many times we went to Chicago early, if snow was predicted, to make sure we attended the party.

She raised the seven of us the best way she could, without a husband.  My youngest sister will be 70 this year and my oldest sister would be 95, if she were alive.   Three sisters were married when I was born so she never had seven children in the house at one time.

She was so strong.  What was she like when she was young?  A beauty, we know for sure.  Petite, slim, and vivacious, with long, flowing red hair.  Many men found her irresistible.  I imagine her as a carefree, young woman, teasing men with her flirtatious smile.

Then reality takes over.  She worked many hours in a cotton field and could drag a bag that was at least half her weight.  She sun must have been merciless in Georgia.  There were no pretty clothes for my Mom to wear to parties and parades.  Instead there were many floors to scrub, innumerable dishes to wash, and an abundant stack of diapers for the children she raised.

We would often ask her about our fathers, there were several, but she refused to discuss it.  We never told her how much we discovered from other family members, nor did we ever tell her that we knew that our grandfather, who I never knew, was not her father.

Yes, she was the Queen of the family.  Anything she wanted, she got.

We were on welfare and she did daywork, cleaning homes, but she taught us that any work is honest work.  She had one wish, that none of us would end up on welfare, and none of us did.  That was very important to her.

She left home early in the morning to clean homes.  No matter what the weather, she rode many buses and streetcars to homes that were far removed from us on the South Side of Chicago.

Mom would come home, tired and sore, but proceed to the kitchen to prepare dinner.  She bought "good" meat from the stores in the white neighborhood.  Her cooking warmed the heart, as well as the spirit.

Education was also important to her.  She went to elementary school and was one of the smartest woman I knew. She would go to downtown Chicago, to the most expensive store, look at a dress, come home and sew an exact copy.  She never liked anything cheap.

Everybody in the family, and I do mean everybody, has a afghan she made. Whenever someone mentioned that a baby was expected, we had to take her to the yarn store so she could make the afghan before the baby was born.

She lived 97 years, over twenty years after being diagnosed with inoperable cancer. She refused to believe she had cancer and never let it stop her from doing anything.

Even though we loved her, we still discuss how she was an enigma to us, a mysterious beautiful woman with a past, that none of us knew or would ever know.


  1. I'm here from Peeling an Orange with A Screwdriver...I'm so happy to find your blog. I loved hearing about your mom and seeing the pictures. (She was pretty cute with her Coors in her hand.) I also loved that she cheated during Keno but no one argued the fact.

    You have a beautiful family and blog.

  2. What a beautiful woman she was. Christella, I am always amazed at your family memories. You had led a charmed life, I am sure. Secrets she had that you will never mysterious (and exciting). I love your stories.

  3. It is SO nice to meet you!

    I stumbled over here from a comment you left on another blog and am glad I did. This was wonderful and it was wonderful to meet your mom this way as well.

    Maven from A Fabulously Good Life

  4. You look so much like your Mom in that first picture. You both have such soulful, slightly sad eyes. Are you as mysterious as she was? Somehow I sense there is something going on beneath the surface that no one knows about.

  5. Kass, You're right. There is a lot more under the surface that is never revealed.

  6. I enjoy reading your post, the way you describe your mom is full of love, pride and admiration. She was indeed a strong woman that managed to raise or her children during hard times.
    What a beautiful way to honor her on her birthday.

    Glad I found your blog. Will keep coming back.


  7. This is wonderful. What an intriguing woman. The things you have lived through and the people you have known make for some amazing stories.

    Another great post. I enjoyed it so much. (you really should write a book.)

  8. Christella,

    This was a beautiful salute to your mom. She was an amazing woman, and I could see her strength in this post.

    I did get tearful as I read this because it made me think about my mother. She was born in 1952. Also a single mother of six, with struggles and hopes very similar to those of your mother. I hope I can do my mother justice when I write about her, and I would be fortunate to have her read it as well.

    All the best,

  9. Your mom's work life and her strong and mysterious manner are so similar to both my mother and grand mother (still going strong at 97 today). Your mom was so, so beautifully classy and yes you look very much like her. Thank you for sharing.

    Deborah Bell

  10. Chris:
    I met your mother , sisters, & nephew before i knew you, I remember your mother, and what a sweet person was she, & I guess what she did for her family has rub down happiness, good health & wealth for your family. we had hard times back then, but it paid out later.
    Love you guys very much

  11. Young enough to wish you were my grandmother...I love reading your blog.