A Note to My Readers: My mother’s birthday is April 30th and I remember her birthday every year…much more than I remember my own. My father died when I was just ten years old and my mother is the central influence in my life. I love her more every day and there is many a time that I wish I could just talk with her once more…even for a brief time. Not just to ask her all the questions that as a genealogist I wish that I had, but as her daughter to hear her voice…smell her perfume and share a lazy afternoon sifting through the boxes of old family memorabilia that she treasured.
One Hundred and Fourteen Candles
Happy Birthday to my dear mother.
She would have been 114 years old on April 30, 2013. Mom was a wonderful spirit who loved people, made the best lemon meringue pie and every Easter dress my sister and I wore. She kissed my forehead when I had a fever (and left telltale lipstick) and she gave me the gift and inspiration to write. Christmas was a joyous season despite our dire straits after my father’s death and my mother made it that way. I cannot smell oranges or cloves without my heart being lifted because she made pomanders that Christmas of 1958 and kissed and hugged me so hard while I sat making garlands of popcorn and cranberries. She taught me courage and personal responsibility by living her life with resolve and hope and joy. I had been working on a blog post about my mother and looking through the myriad of old black and whites for a photo of her as a child and realized that there was never any there.
The only ones that she ever had begin with her at age 12 ensconced in a Stutz Bearcat that belonged to one of her sister’s Cornell sweethearts. The very ones she would always pull out first and tell me what was happening at that very moment.
At sixteen she was a flapper and had marseilled, cropped hair topped with a cloche hat. And long legs covered in silk stockings. She danced with Franchot Tone at a Delta Tau Delta party and once dated author Sid Kingsley.
While I have been sad that I don’t have photos of my mother as a small child, I have something better I think. Her stories that she would share with me. Stories of Ithaca and Mama and Papa and Grandma Smith and her life amidst the early days of trolleys and horse-drawn ice wagons and movie making at Stewart Park and the heydey of Cornell. When Papa leaped from the second story of their home to escape the fire that burned their house and possessions…and no doubt gobbled up some of the family treasures that included her childhood photos.
Mom and I gave each other presents and cards on our birthdays. Always on my birthday…I sent her a dozen pink sweetheart roses. I was here because of her and I am part of her. She kept the crayoned cards that I would draw for her as a child. I found a dried Mother’s Day carnation and one of my cards in the family bible that she gave to me to preserve. The family bible is an heirloom…her grandmother’s marriage bible from 1867 that is full of family stories and mementos and the root of the stories that I write.
When she was in her late seventies, she leaned on me and said “I miss my mother.” At the time, I thought it odd and perhaps a bit of senility creeping in, but now I know that she was meant every word without confusion.
Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you…and I miss you.
Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher
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