This is the title of a movie that inspired a popular spin-off TV show back in the day and I’m missing my mom tonight. What else can I say? Happens from time to time or maybe happens in an under-current sort of way always.
Truth is, in Mom’s and my antiquated 1950’s-speak, we didn’t always hit it off. “Seeing eye to eye” was a challenge. During that decade, Mom was busy cleaning or cooking. She poured oatmeal into a clunky, iron saucepan from a cylindrical box with a Quaker image plastered on its side, then added water, weird. And lumpy. Who does that now? Actually, my sister and oldest daughter do, so I must be missing something? Oh well, to be sure, my mom took excellent care of my younger sister who was seriously ill at birth and tended to my older brother who was a handful. She also sewed our clothes except for underwear she ordered from the Montgomery Wards catalog. Boo-hoo for ignored, poor little (spoiled) me, right? Then, in a wink of her eye, I developed into a snarly teen-ager with prickly quills I’ve still not managed to totally retract. My bad.
Skipping several decades ahead to when I became a grandmother and Mom moved into the status of truly great, if not venerated, I initiated an adoption search for Maurine Virginia Sharpe’s biological parents, with Maurine Crandall’s permission. At first, she didn’t think much of the alternative birth name we found her, “Barbara Mendenhall,” and was leery about accepting strangers as family. AWKward, as my daughters, her grands, said at the time but over the years, I’ve grown to treasure Mom’s birth relatives, all pieces of her DNA walking around au naturel, so to speak. Surely these family connections would have taken on greater significance for Mom had they entered at an earlier stage in her life.
To backtrack, Mom’s biological parents eventually got married and my maternal grandparents produced four more off-spring before they divorced. Theirs was an ill-fated union from the start. Mom was born miles distant in a state far-enough away to keep a secret while her father graduated high school but my grandmother never finished. Sigh, those were not the good old days but thankfully an adoptive set of parents scooped up my mom as an infant into their loving arms and she thrived. In her own high school class, Mom was Valedictorian. From there, she glided along into a small, Midwestern liberal arts college where her awards were multitude ranging from Homecoming Queen to Phi Beta Kappa scholar. Before senior year, she married my dad, a stellar debater with a list of sterling accomplishments worthy of competing with hers but, no worries. The two were bound at the hip, played on the same team, and were always very much in love. Now sharing the Crandall moniker, they earned public notoriety for being published side by side in a volume of Who’s Who in American Colleges. A year after their graduations, my brother was born in the month of June. With World War II underway, Dad was already stationed in the South Pacific although he returned to the States on furlough to visit his father before he unfortunately died. Dad’s leave from the US Navy ended too soon but not before he had a first-time glimpse of his son and a family member snapped this photo.
Long story short, I was a Post War boomer, born in 1947 and my sister Margaret Clare, in 1948. My mom never had the pleasure of knowing her younger sister’s daughter Kate (see card) who is loads of fun and has a terrific sense of humor. I found Kate several years after completing the birth family adoption search for Mom. I, for one, embrace my tribe, including Kate’s and my shared first cousin once removed who lives in NOLA. Her name is Mina Lea Simske Crais. What’s not to like about a retired Tulane University librarian in her mid 90’s heralding from Wisconsin who once owned a music shop on Bourbon Street with her husband? He was a trumpet player hobbyist and an attorney by trade, interesting folk.
I hope to visit Mina this winter, my fourth trip to her part of the world. Each time we meet, Mina passes onto me another box of files. Sweet surprise of surprises, Ruth Mendenhall Huebner Kornitz, my biological maternal grandmother, was a genealogist and a prolific one at that! While on the topic of laurels, please permit me to add that two more of her children earned recognition as valedictorians of their respective high school classes just like their sib Barbara. Not too shabby but moving on…
So what if my parents raised us their own three children to grow up with less renown and no acclaim. We’ve all done our thing which is okay and the world hasn’t stopped. The fact my name Laurine Virginia, once a matchy-match to Mom’s Maurine Virginia doesn’t rhyme with Barbara is symbolic of our incongruity and maybe a healthy sign of our individualism. After all, the name Barbara stands alone, like the cheese in a Farmer in the Dell. Oh dear, and Mom’s family hails from Wisconsin, land of cheese…
Yikes, suffice to say, life used to be easier and less complicated. Today, mothers and their teen-aged daughters have a tough row to hoe as portrayed in the current movie Lady Bird. Still, I recognize threads in the fierce, emotional exchanges on screen between daughter and mom and can identify. Whew! Although hardly like scenes depicted in episodes of I Remember Mama, just maybe mine were the good ole days. Or maybe that’s looking back in nostalgia with love…love for all of us and all our former, future, might-have-happened selves?