dual personalities

Tag: mother

Oh, sweet and blessed country, The home of God’s elect! Oh, sweet and blessed country That eager hearts expect!*

Well, I got a little weepy in the car yesterday morning on the way to work. I had just heard from a friend that another friend’s mother had died. The friend was at our reunion this weekend and her mother had died the day after she returned to Virginia. Listening to Steve Earle’s Pilgrim was just a little too much for me.

Harriet and I met in the three-year old class at Sunday School and went to school together starting at age four. She is my oldest friend.

class61

Sometimes I would go home with her after church because she was an only child and needed some company. So I have known her mother a long time. Her father was much older, a dignified, shadowy figure in the background, around whom we had to be quiet. But her mother was quite a gal.

Unlike other mothers of that period, she always wore pants–grey flannel pants with a blue oxford shirt. It was like a uniform. She wore a navy blue dress to church. She was from Texas and spoke with a distinctive accent. She was a small woman, but she knew how to shoot, and God help the person who broke into her home or threatened her child. She was tough–Barbara Stanwyck tough.

Furthermore, she was an M.D. at a time when there weren’t a whole lot of female doctors. She had worked in a M.A.S.H. unit in Korea**. She had seen it all.

After the war, she got married and had a child, and she retired from doctoring. She moved into a house in suburban flyover-ville and lived a presumably quiet life. But what do I really know? To me, she was a pillar of the Altar Guild.

All through high school I sat with her in church every Sunday, because my own mother skipped church and prepared her Sunday School lesson in her classroom. I logged many an hour with Harriet and her parents in the third row from the back, Epistle side.

This past weekend we were talking about people’s mothers and how you always knew the ones who didn’t really care about you and the ones who probably didn’t even like you at all. I knew Mrs. T liked me. She liked me a lot.

marys4

Here is a picture of Mary T (still wearing grey flannel pants) in 1985. She is pictured with her first grandchild, along with my daughter on my mother’s lap–all four named Mary.

* Jerusalem the Golden by Bernard of Cluny, Hymn #309 (Lutheran Worship Hymnal)
**I am not sure of my facts here, but it had to be Korea (not WWII) because of her age.

A new month and a few things to keep in mind

deskaugust

A new month, a new calendar page and the end of summer in sight. For those of us in this flyover state it has not been a bad summer weather-wise. Indeed, we have had lovely long stretches of Michigan-esque weather. By this time, usually, we are counting the days ’til fall, but not this year. I am in no hurry for school to be back in session full throttle. I plan to enjoy the dog days that are left of summer 2013.

The August TCM star of the month is old Humphrey Bogart, film idol and Episcopalian.

bogart

As I’ve mentioned before, my mother had a preference for Warner Brothers stars, such as Bogart and Errol Flynn, because she went to see all those movies at the Lewis J. Warner ’28 Memorial Theater at Worcester Academy (which I blogged about here). Like my mother, I feel that same thrill when the Warner Brothers logo appears and their rousing theme is played at the beginning of all their movies. TCM is not showing anything that I haven’t seen a million times and my favorite Bogart film, The Petrified Forest, is not on the line-up, but oh well. They are all still better than anything you’ll see on network television–reruns and commercials!

Tonight, however, they are showing my second-favorite Bogart film Key Largo, which is also one of my all-time favorite movies. I just saw it again recently and it really is fabulous. John Huston and Bogart were a good team and the star is at his best, ably supported by Edward G. Robinson, Claire Trevor and Lauren Bacall. So be sure to tune in or (at the very least) set your DVR.

August 1 is also the birthday of Herman Melville (August 1, 1819 – September 28, 1891), American writer and author, of course, of Moby-Dick.

Herman_Melville

This would be a great month to read the great book! You know you’ve been meaning to. Here’s a little something to get you in the mood.

“There is no steady unretracing progress in this life; we do not advance through fixed gradations, and at the last one pause:– through infancy’s unconscious spell, boyhood’s thoughtless faith, adolescence’s doubt (the common doom), then scepticism, then disbelief, resting at last in manhood’s pondering repose of If. But once gone through, we trace the round again; and are infants, boys, and men, and Ifs eternally. Where lies the final harbor, whence we unmoor no more? In what rapt ether sails the world, of which the weariest will never weary? Where is the foundling’s father hidden? Our souls are like those orphans whose unwedded mothers die in bearing them: the secret of our paternity lies in their grave, and we must there to learn it.”

August 1 is the birthday as well of Jerome Moross (August 1, 1913 – July 25, 1983) who composed works for symphony orchestra, chamber ensembles, soloists, musical theatre, and movies. He also orchestrated motion picture scores for other composers. His best known film score is that for the 1958 movie The Big Country, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Original Music Score.

Jerome Moross - The Big Country - Front

The winner that year in that category was The Old Man and the Sea, scored by Dimitri Tiomkin. Hold the phone! Are you kidding me? Jerome Moross was robbed! But why am I never surprised? Anyway, you might want to watch that movie–it’s a good one. It misses being a great western because of the annoying plot and the super annoying character played by Carol Baker. Nevertheless, it has some great people in it: Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, Jean Simmons, and Burl Ives (who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor). And the score is probably the best ever.

So here’s to a good August filled with great movies and great books! Let’s all have a good one.

You can say that again

“In the mail a letter from a twelve-year-old child, enclosing poems, her mother having asked her to ask my opinion. This child does really look at things, and I can write something helpful, I think. But it is troubling how many people expect applause, recognition, when they have not even begun to learn a craft. Instant success is the order of the day; “I want it now!” I wonder whether this is not our corruption by machines. Machines do things quickly and outside the natural rhythm of life, and we are indignant if a car doesn’t start at the first try. So the few things that we still do, such as cooking (though there are TV dinners!), knitting, gardening, anything at all that cannot be hurried, have a very particular value.”

—May Sarton, Journal Of A Solitude
(found here)

After I read this on the W.W. Norton blog, I went back to my May Sarton books which I have collected over the years. Some belonged to my mother who liked Sarton a lot and felt a certain bond with this lonely writer.

Image from the New York Public Library

Born in Belgium, May Sarton (May 3, 1912 – July 16, 1995) was an American poet, novelist and writer of memoirs. Although she is frequently pigeon-holed as a lesbian writer, she has a lot to say to everyone. Here’s a poem to think about today:

Now I Become Myself

Now I become myself. It’s taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
“Hurry, you will be dead before– ”
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!

May Sarton, Collected Poems, 1930-1973

If you wait long enough

Back in the sixties and into the seventies our mother was inclined to wear blouses with peter pan collars. Just like everyone else.

I wore them myself. Here I am in the eighth grade wearing the very popular shirtwaist dress from Ladybug with tucks and a peter pan collar.

The peter pan collars that my mother wore were from the Tog Shop catalog and had piping of a contrasting color and were frequently monogrammed with her initials. She wore these most often with a wrap-around style skirt that matched the piping on the blouse. It was almost a uniform. I always said, I couldn’t wait to grow up and wear those blouses.

Unfortunately, they were completely out of style and long-gone by the time I entered my middle years.

But wait. Can it be that Kate Spade has brought them back? Zut alors!

What do you know? They are everywhere!

I guess it’s official. The peter pan collar has made a comeback.

And I want.

(Photos from Kate Spade New York, Harpers Bazaar and Real Simple)

To dance beneath the diamond sky

Our mother died twenty-four years ago today. She was 62 years old. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her and that I don’t miss her.

She was, indeed, a pilgrim and a stranger in this world, but I like to think of her in heaven, dancing “beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free, Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands…” My mother was no fan of Bob Dylan. She feared the change he heralded, but she did like “Mr. Tambourine Man” a lot and that line in particular. I always thought it described her alter-ego perfectly.

Here is a poem that I found in one of her notebooks. It seems appropriate today.

Life

I made a posie, while the day ran by:
Here will I smell my remnant out, and tie
My life within this band.
But time did becken to the flowers, and they
By noon most cunningly did steal away
And wither’d in my hand.

My hand was next to them, and then my heart:
I took, without more thinking, in good part
Times gentle admonition:
Who did so sweetly deaths sad taste convey
Making my minde to smell my fatall day;
Yet sugring the suspicion.

Farewell deare flowers, sweetly your time ye spent,
Fit, while ye liv’d, for smell or ornament,
And after death for cures.
I follow straight without complaints or grief,
Since if my sent be good, I care not, if
It be as short as yours.

–George Herbert

This and that

How cute is this? And speaking of the queen and her diamond jubilee…I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Elizabeth.

This is in large part because ever since I was a child she reminded me of my mother. They were born the same year (1926) within a few months of each other. And they really do look a lot alike.

Even as an old lady the queen still looks like Mary C.

It’s funny because, while people remind me of my father all the time, the only other person besides the queen who has ever reminded me of my mother is this lady:

They certainly dressed alike.

A Mary picture for Monday

Here is a picture of daughter #1 when she was about 7 months old. She is pictured with her grandmother and namesake, along with the daughter of my friend Harriet and my friend’s mother–all four named Mary. How great is that?

Even if my mother had been named Ethel or Gertrude or Bernice, I would have named my daughter after her. And I would have learned to love the name Ethel or Gertrude or Bernice. As it is, I love the name Mary and have never regretted naming my daughter #1 after my mother. I was named after my grandmother who was  named after her grandmother. My  mother was named after her great-grandmother. Her older sister was named after her 2 grandmothers, Susie and Anna, i.e. Susanne.  It is a tradition of which I heartily approve. Ahem.

Happy birthday, Mary and Dolly (and Buffy)

January 19 is my mother’s birthday. It is also Dolly Parton’s. As I’ve mentioned before, it is also Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s birthday. Talk about synchronicity! My mother would be 86; she died in 1988. Dolly is 66. Buffy, being a fictional character, never ages.

On the Episcopal Church calendar of saints it is the feast day of St. Wulfstan (c. 1008 – 20 January 1095), Bishop of Worcester. He was the last surviving pre-Conquest bishop and the only English-born bishop after 1075. Oh boy.

But today we recognize those latter day saints, Mary and Dolly.

My mother's the squirmy one on the right

My mother was born and raised in Worcester, MA. She was a happy child who knocked her teeth back in her head while sledding, so enthusiastic was the abandonment with which she threw herself down the hill. She wore braces (at age 3) to correct her teeth. She was the opposite of me as a child. I was timid where she was gregarious and daring. Her stories of her childhood frequently scared me. Especially the one about the great New England hurricane of 1938–when they ran out in the street to see the destruction! And then, of course, she skied the Headwall on Mt. Washington at Tuckerman’s Ravine while a college girl at Middlebury. She was fearless.

But life can change you. Things happen. You get married and have three kids.You move away from home and your family. You live among strangers. Despite her challenges, my mother was a great mother. She taught me that you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. She taught me to keep it simple. She taught me that antiques should be lived with, not kept behind a silk rope. She taught me that Shane and Ninotchka and Breakfast at Tiffany’s and The Quiet Man and The Adventures of Robin Hood are great movies and that Errol Flynn was the epitome of handsomeness. She defended Elvis. She tried to teach me and my sister the importance of ladylike behavior at all times. She hated vulgarity. She taught me that you have to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. She taught me the importance of being spontaneous and that parties should always have favors. She taught me that you could never have enough bookshelves and that there is always money for books.

And then there’s Dolly. Dolly Rebecca Parton as you well know, is an American singer-songwriter, author, multi-instrumentalist, actress and philanthropist, who is best known for her work in country music. Dolly was born in Sevierville, Tennessee, the fourth of twelve children born to Robert Lee Parton and Avie Lee Parton. She is clearly a multi-talented person, but her song-writing is where she really shines. Indeed, she has written over 3,000 songs and has earned over 35 BMI Pop and Country Awards throughout her prolific songwriting career. In 2001 she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. She was honored as a BMI Icon at the 2003 BMI Country Awards. Yes, she is an icon.

A lot of people don’t know that since she hit it big, Dolly Parton has supported many charitable efforts, particularly in the area of literacy, primarily through her Dollywood Foundation. Her literacy program, “Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library”, a part of the Dollywood Foundation, mails one book per month to each enrolled child from the time of their birth until they enter kindergarten. It began in Sevier County but has now been replicated in 566 counties across 36 U.S. states (as well as in Canada). In December 2007 it expanded to Europe with the South Yorkshire town of Rotherham, United Kingdom, being the first British locality to receive the books. The program distributes more than 2.5 million free books to children annually. Is this awesome or what?

And her Dollywood theme park has brought jobs and tax revenues to a previously depressed region. She has probably done more to help people live respectable lives in Tennessee than anyone else. Dolly never just played lip service to where she came from. She has spread her wealth around from the very beginning. I have always thought she should run for Governor. She would be a great one. She is clearly a great role-model for all young women. That is why I encouraged daughter #2 to choose Dolly as her 6th grade Reach project. Here she is in costume holding her shoe box Grand Ole Opry for her (1st place) presentation:

Unfortunately her platform sandals are not visible.

She has written so many great songs, but Coat of Many Colors is my favorite. (Dolly has also described it as her favorite of all the songs she’s ever written.) In my humble opinion it is one of the best songs ever written by an American, right up there with those greats written by Stephen Foster, Rogers & Hammerstein, Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer, Bob Dylan and all the rest. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. Hearing it sung by Dolly is a real emotional experience!

Back through the years
I go wonderin’ once again
Back to the seasons of my youth
I recall a box of rags that someone gave us
And how my momma put the rags to use
There were rags of many colors
Every piece was small
And I didn’t have a coat
And it was way down in the fall
Momma sewed the rags together
Sewin’ every piece with love
She made my coat of many colors
That I was so proud of
As she sewed, she told a story
From the bible, she had read
About a coat of many colors
Joseph wore and then she said
Perhaps this coat will bring you
Good luck and happiness
And I just couldn’t wait to wear it
And momma blessed it with a kiss

Chorus:

My coat of many colors
That my momma made for me
Made only from rags
But I wore it so proudly
Although we had no money
I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me

So with patches on my britches
Holes in both my shoes
In my coat of many colors
I hurried off to school
Just to find the others laughing
And making fun of me
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me

And oh I couldn’t understand it
For I felt I was rich
And I told them of the love
My momma sewed in every stitch
And I told ‘em all the story
Momma told me while she sewed
And how my coat of many colors
Was worth more than all their clothes

But they didn’t understand it
And I tried to make them see
That one is only poor
Only if they choose to be
Now I know we had no money
But I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me
Made just for me

So happy birthday, Mary and Dolly…and Buffy! You’re the best!

Tout va bien

“My child, the troubles and temptations of your life are beginning, and may be many; but you can overcome and outlive them all if you learn to feel the strength and tenderness of your Heavenly Father as you do that of your earthly one. The more you love and trust Him, the nearer you will feel to Him, and the less you will depend on human power and wisdom. His love and care never tire or change, can never be taken from you, but may become the source of lifelong peace, happiness, and strength. Believe this heartily, and go to God with all your little cares, and hopes, and sins, and sorrows, as freely and confidingly as you come to your mother.”

Louisa May Alcott (from Little Women)

(I found this quote on the wonderful blog Hay Quaker. Check it out!)

Life is stranger than fiction department

Did you know that although she was not credited by name, one of the executive producers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was none other than Dolly Parton? Really. She had a production partnership (called Sandollar Entertainment) with Sandy Gallin, who had managed Dolly’s career. You gotta love it.

I wonder if that is why Buffy has the same birthday as Dolly? That’s January 19 for the uninformed, which, by the way, is also our mother’s birthday. Sometimes life just really makes perfect sense.