When I was a kid, I always felt sorry for my mom on Mother’s Day. We followed the old Southern tradition of wearing a red corsage on Mother’s Day if our mother was living and a white one if she had died.
The three of us girls wore red, Mom wore white because her mother died when Mom was 8 years old. I never liked that division between us.
I remember Mom plucking a white gardenia from the bush in front of our house in Atlanta before we headed off to church. The fragrance, overpowering to me now, was splendid then. Just the sight of that white flower, though, cast a pall over Sunday Mass, over dinner out afterward, over the day in general.
On Mother’s Day we often ate at Camellia Garden restaurant on Peachtree Road. It’s gone now, and my memories of it are faint. It was a restaurant where you wore white gloves when you entered, sat up straight and carefully draped white linen napkins across your lap.
It seems like I always ordered strawberry shortcake for dessert. My mother was indulgent when it came to treats.
Have I mentioned my mother was beautiful? She had blond hair and green eyes, high cheekbones and a thousand-watt smile. Shortly before she died at 89, I told her, “You still have nice legs, Mom.” She studied them and said, “That’s what they tell me.”
When she was younger, Mom wore high heels, a feat I could never pull off. I never really learned to walk in heels higher than a pump, but Mom, she could maneuver city sidewalks in 2-inch stilettoes.
My dad always said she “looked like a million dollars.” Mom was always coordinated and accessorized, every hair in place, her nails perfectly manicured, courtesy of a standing appointment at the “beauty parlor.”
I am not like my mom in that regard. Somewhere around 11 years old, when Mom no longer had complete control over how I looked, I degenerated into an attitude of comfort first.
Mom was an excellent cook. Her specialties were barbecued chicken, spaghetti and fried chicken, though everything that came out of her kitchen tasted delicious.
Birthdays meant homemade chocolate cake studded with pecans and the entrée of our choice.
My mother had a Southern accent, a South-Georgia accent, an accent I wish I’d picked up. She drew out single syllable words to three syllables, pronounced dollar as “dollah,” and her sentences were peppered with sayings like “he’s as slow as Ned in The First Reader.” Somehow I knew what she meant even though I didn’t get the reference.
My mom was an excellent seamstress. I first took note of her talent when she whipped up a first-grade Christmas pageant costume for me. Compared to the other “angels,” I looked as if I were dressed in couture.
Mother’s Day is a day of remembrance and gratitude. Take time for both.
Jan Hearne is the Press Tempo editor. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.