My Non-traditional Mother

I was only nineteen when my mother passed away. It boggles my mind that she was only in my life for nineteen years and I have lived without her for forty-seven years. Still, I remember her larger-than-life personality as if I was with her yesterday.

My mother was not the kiss you on the cheek, tidy apron, cookie making mother. She was not a fan of any type of domestic chores. She was much more comfortable outside than inside. Maybe it was because she was raised on a farm.

Mom kneeling, second from the right

She played basketball for what I suppose were corporate intramural leagues when she worked for Raytheon. (Raytheon was a major defense contractor.) In Florida, she worked as a cocktail waitress in a small bowling alley. We moved back to Virginia and my parents went to find work in Ohio. There she worked for Goodyear Aerospace (defense and NASA contractor) and eventually worked as a mail carrier for the US postal service.

My non-traditional mother was denied the opportunity to finish college because of funding and her parents adamantly opposed her joining the military because of the presumed reputation military women carried. All a bunch or rubbish and the reason my mother supported all of her children joining the military.

As a result, we all learned to do our share inside the house. I cooked a lot of meals, did the laundry (mom insisted on a wringer washer and we did not have a dryer so all our laundry was hung to dry) while my parents worked.

Mom was much more comfortable outside working in the yard or playing touch football with all the neighborhood kids. We usually had a badminton net up in the side yard and horseshoe pits out back.

Mom was a great country cook and in Ohio all the neighborhood kids loved to come to our house to eat our strange but wonderful food – cornbread, biscuits and milk gravy, fried chicken and banana pudding were among the neighborhood favorites.

On the farm where my mother grew up, reading was the favored pastime. My mother was an avid reader (Zane Grey, Louis L’Amour, and Grace Livingston Hill were her favorites) and it was often difficult to break her attention from a good book. I remember well the way her face contorted as she read an action piece in a story as if she was herself involved in the conflict. When I took art classes, I often drew my mother’s hands as she sat still holding a book for long periods of time. In some ways I resented the time she spent lost in her books.

Mom even liked non-traditional tv shows and movies for most women of the time. She loved Sunday afternoon roller derby – especially the women’s teams. High Noon, 12 O’clock High, Rat Patrol, Where Eagles Dare, Von Ryan’s Express, Kelly’s Heroes, and The Great Escape were all my mom’s type of entertainment.

I am not sure I inherited my mother’s adventurous spirit, but I did inherit her desire to pursue my own path wherever that might lead me. I lost her too soon, but her feisty spirit lives on and for that I am forever grateful.