I am so privileged to have had the love and companionship of my mother for such a large part of my life. Although thirty years in age separate us, we have a closeness and a friendship that transcends the years. We both have birthdays in May, and as I turn 61, she will turn 91. Although the years have slowed her down somewhat, she is still a force to be reckoned with. She comes to visit and in minutes everything in my house stands a little straighter and shines a little brighter. She can beat me in folding clothes hands down and in ironing she has no equal. Her quick hands still fashion the loveliest Barbie doll clothes, some for me (I have an extensive doll collection) and now some for her great-granddaughter. I wish I had the foresight to preserve the clothes she made for my Barbie doll in the 1960s. All of the clothes were stitched by hand, and she would work long into the night so that when my sister and I awoke the next morning, our Barbies would be sitting on our dresser sporting new outfits. While Jacqueline Kennedy was First Lady, our Barbies had a collection of pillbox hats to complete their ensemble. My mother supported us in everything we did, volunteered at our schools, and was always home, in her red kitchen, waiting for us to return from school.
As I grew our relationship changed, but I never lost my respect for her. She became a confidante, companion and friend, and her wisdom and advice helped me through many a tough time. While in college, we would often come home from class, and sit around the kitchen table sharing our day over a cup of tea. My mother and her red kitchen formed the heart of our home, a place of stability and comfort. I will always remember it with a heartfelt nostalgia.
My mother’s life was not without challenges. She had several miscarriages, surgeries and a partial mastectomy from a breast cancer that returned when she was 84, requiring several weeks of radiation. She weathered through a long bout of painful polymyalgia, arthritis,and suffers from a heart arrhythmia. Last year a different breast cancer led to another mastectomy. Chemo proved too hard for her body to endure and she called a halt to it, despite the fact that the breast cancer had moved into a lung. She endures shots in her hips every month to help slow the spread of the cancer (possibly cure it).It is a milder form of chemo, and it gives her a few bad days afterwards but this she can tolerate. She lost her husband (my dad) in 1994 and my older brother passed away at 53 in 1999 from a massive heart attack.
But through it all she has remained strong and a great inspiration to all who know her. Her tenacity and positive view on life have helped me meet my challenges with cancer and Parkinson’s disease.When she visits we often do crafts together, shop a little, share what’s going on in our lives. On a recent visit she brought albums from her early life and as we gazed at pictures of her past, she told me stories about her life back then. Bittersweet stories, because although she can envision them as if it were yesterday, of her parents, seven brothers and one sister, only she remains..
My mother is one of the kindest, compassionate individuals I have ever known. Yet there’s strength and courage there as well. She is my friend, my teacher, my heart. She is my mother. And I love her.
The Red Kitchen
- at the kitchen table on a warm fall afternoon
- rays of golden sunlight suffuse the cheery room
- I sip my mug of tea while mom and I discuss
- all the happenings that day
- and that is why I have to say
- this kitchen(which is painted red)
- is our home’s heart, our binding thread;
- and when my thoughts begin to roam
- I often envision my childhood home
- and I see my mom waiting there
- with a cup of tea to ease my cares
- in that red kitchen, they remain a part
- of my center and of my heart
- –pc 2012