Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mary Jacobs: Mother's Day Memoir


Mary's mother with her parents, Horace and Carrie Kingsbury, circa 1905.
Three-generation households that included grandmothers and other aging relatives were way more common before World War II. My own included Aunt Hilda, who liked to stir things up in much the same way as Mary's Grammy Bullard. We tolerated her because she was part of the family and what else could you do? Besides, she made wonderful pies and cookies. Mary says this piece about her mother (in which Grandma Bullard makes a brief appearance) is unfinished, but she allowed me to share it with you as is.

Stand up straight so I can fit this pattern to you . . . Hold still so I can get a straight part in your hair . . . Change your clothes before you go out to play . . . Stop dancing around while I pin up this hem . . . Be sure to wash your neck and clean your fingernails. These are all remembered remarks from my mother.

The household ran on a schedule. Wash on Monday, iron on Tuesday, clean upstairs on Thursday, downstairs on Friday, and do the weekly baking on Saturday. Pies, cakes and donuts were made almost daily. The only time this schedule changed was in the winter, when my Grandmother Bullard lived with us. According to my grandmother, who smoke, drank beer, and was a Ouija board fan, my mother was much too rigid about her schedule. My mother thought Grammy was too bossy. This led to many conflicts between the two, resulting in Mother's going to bed with a "sick headache." This left Grammy to do as she pleased for a few days. This meant many fewer rules these days.

During World War II, Mother became very involved in making bandages for the Red Cross. She went to the Parish House almost every afternoon to cut and fold all types of bandages. Also about this time, she became involved with the Bethany Women's Fellowship, so more often, the daily schedule was not followed.

She still baked, canned vegetables from the garden, chicken and beef that my father raised. She always made all of my clothes. She was an expert seamstress. In later years, she made granddaughters prom dresses, bridesmaid and wedding dresses.

She began to travel alone on the train when I was in Boston. She soon learned North Station and the subway. These were war years and North Station was a very busy terminal for servicemen and could be very confusing.

Another big change in my mother were grandchildren. She spoiled them and was very proud of all of them. they could do no wrong, and if they did, she was very vocal in her protest to the accuser.

After my father died, she lived in the same house that has been home for 45 years. She had a "roomer," Peter, a young man that worked at Vermont Castings. It turned into a mother-and-son arrangement. He helped her and she fed him and did his washing, etc. Their only problem was the Boston Celtics. She was a fan and he was not, and she often told him that he had never played basketball and knew nothing about the game. As if she had played.

Shortly after Dad's death, his brother died, leaving her a nice inheritance. I remember her asking if I thought she had enough money for combination windows. I said, "Mother, you can buy a new house if you want." She snapped back, "I don't need a new house. All I want is not to bother with storm windows." She was very careful with this money, but loved to do something extra for the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

She took her first plane ride when she was 86. We went to San Francisco to see John and his family. While there, we went to Lake Tahoe to a casino. She was fascinated by the slot machines, playing her quarters and not wanting to leave.

On a trip to Florida, we missed connections in Boston and flew first class with all its amenities. On the return trip, we were back with the common people. she said to the flight attendant, "Young lady, I can tell you that this plane cannot even begin to compare with the one we traveled down on."

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