Flowers for Mother

Flowers for Mother

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Tribute to Moms

Flowers for Mother

We can let circumstances rule us, or we can take charge and rule our lives from within.

Earl Nightingale

When time flies backward in my memory, I find myself standing in front of a lilac bush. I am eight years old, and it is Mother’s Day. But it’s the Depression years, money is scarce, and I have nothing to give my mother. I take out the scissors I found in Mother’s sewing basket and snip the prettiest lilac. Laying it in a shoebox, I tie it with a string and creep upstairs to Mother’s bedroom. Ever so quietly, I place my treasure at Mother’s door, and just as silently, I make my way back downstairs.

Fast-forward forty-six years. Cleaning out Mother’s things after her death at eighty-one, I found the old shoe-box with the dried lilac still inside. Also inside was the love of a little girl, as fresh as ever. Mother was a single parent during the early part of the century when, unlike today, it wasn’t accepted as part of “the norm.” She found employment at a downtown department store and rode the streetcar to and from work. She was as thrilled to see me waiting for her at the car stop as I was to see her step off the streetcar. She always had a small treat for me, a stick of gum, a bit of candy, or a funny postcard. With arms around each other, we walked the two blocks home.

As much as Mother worked hard to be both a mother and a dad, I remember sitting on the front porch watching the fathers of my friends come home at night. I envied the way they were greeted, just like heroes coming home from a long war. I wanted someone who I could call “Dad,” someone who would greet me like that. At times I felt guilty for feeling that way, because I knew Mother worked hard to provide for me the best she could.

I remember the day of my twelfth birthday. Mother had invited four little girls to our house for cake and ice cream. After we played games, Mother called me to the front yard. Pulling up to the curb was a big truck, and we watched as the driver opened the doors in the back and pulled out a brand new bicycle! I had never seen anything so beautiful—it was red and white with green stripes. No one in the neighborhood had a beauty like that, and I couldn’t believe it was mine. I asked Mother many years later how she could have afforded such a gift, and she said she had to sign a note to pay one dollar a week for eight months.

When summertime came, Mother scraped enough together for a season swim ticket at Crystal Pool, and as I grew into my teens, I never felt left out of any events because I couldn’t afford a ticket or a fare. When my junior high school put on their operetta, I was selected as one of the main cast and needed a different gown for the two nights it was performed. I was afraid to tell Mother about the gowns, because I knew how expensive they could be, but Mother scoured the shops and found two beautiful dresses on sale—one white and one pink—and again she said she had to pay each week on credit. During the curtain call on the second night of the performance, I was handed a beautiful bouquet of flowers; it was a gift from my mother.

The years passed, and when I was married during World War II, Mother rode the bus with me out to Nebraska for my Army chapel wedding. I didn’t have a dad to walk me down the chapel aisle, but Mother proudly provided that part of the service. She was present when each of our five children was born and was as great a grandmother as she was a mother.

When Mother was hospitalized for a biopsy, she was asked by the nurse if she had anything valuable she wanted to put into safe keeping. Her answer: “Yes, my daughter.” She passed away two weeks later, and I’ve missed her for the past thirty years. She was my role model, my protector, my mentor, and my best friend. It was an honor to be able to share her love and devotion with others.

Mary Emily Dess

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