Memories of Mom, for StoryWorth.com
Storyworth.com is hosting a Queen for a Day contest and they asked me to help them celebrate Moms and stories. You can get all the details at the end of my post, but all you have to do is share a story about your mom. Here's mine ...
My whole life, whenever I ask my mom how she has managed to learn or do something, she says, “Oh I don't know. You just think you can do it, so you do it.” I’ve never seen Connie Hall shy away from a project or challenge of any kind. She has a quiet confidence and sense of self-trust that seems to subconsciously drive her interests and creative pursuits. She doesn’t talk about plans or necessary preparation. She just dives in. She isn’t limited by a lack of resources, or discouraged by mistakes. In fact, if something goes wrong, it seems to ignite more passion in her and she works with even more determination. She knows instinctively that things will work out and work out in a beautiful way.
Since girlhood Mom has had an artistic flair with a sure grasp of what belongs and what doesn’t belong, at least visually. She spent hours with a dollhouse that her father built for her. She painted and decorated and built and arranged furniture and then she did it over and over again. She attended high school in the 1950s and her favorite subject was home economics, where she especially took to sewing. She often designed her own clothes and even sewed dresses for formal dances. For Christmas one year, her mother bought her a longed-for Jantzen sweater with cut outs in the collar. She also began making Connie a surprise circular skirt from white felt to go with this sweater. One day, she left the skirt at the sewing machine to answer a phone call and while she was away, the light bulb in her machine burned a hole in the skirt. She did not have the time or the money to begin again, so she asked Connie to draw her a shape or flower of some kind that she could use for a “project” she was working on. My mother assumed this project was for her volunteer work at church, and she drew her a clover shape. Grandma cut dozens of these clover shapes from her scraps of felt and then set rhinestones in the center of each. She used one to cover up the hole and attached several others to the body of the skirt. She then scalloped the edge of the skirt and sewed a clover into each scallop. When Mom opened her gifts on Christmas morning, she was delighted and amazed. Her skirt was the prettiest she had ever seen and so unique, featuring the shape she had designed herself! When she wore this outfit, people would always stop to compliment her. She and her mother kept the secret—that in covering up the mistake, they had created something far better than originally planned. As I have thought about my mom’s ability to boldly share her talents and design and create without hesitation, I believe this experience with her mother undoubtedly shaped her. It was one of those ordinary moments that over the years has become extraordinary in it’s influence.
When I was just a little girl, my father built a small-animal veterinary clinic. He didn’t want to spend money on artwork for the walls of the cat and dog waiting areas, so he commissioned my mother to create something. In college, she had majored in dance (her favorite form of creative expression), but she also took an art class where she learned the basics of mosaic. Mom decided to create two murals, one of lions and the other of penguins. This was not a small undertaking. As I remember it, each glass mosaic was huge—probably in the neighborhood of 5 feet long by 3 feet tall—featuring thousands of pieces of glass. Each picture took up the full space above the chairs on either side of the check-in desk. At about this same time, we moved into a new, but older house—somewhat of a fixer upper. My mom immediately set out to freshen things up. Because my dad’s practice was so new, money was tight. There was no budget for home improvement, but that didn't stop my mom. I remember sitting in the parked car behind the carpet store, with my younger brother. We waited for what seemed to be forever as Mom dug through the large garbage bins for scraps. She again employed her mosaic skills, this time with shag carpeting and a bucket of tar, to create a colorful patchwork rug that covered the floor in our large living room. She fashioned a TV shelf from an old door, which she hung from the wall with a big, black chain purchased at the hardware store, and she made her own drapes, sewing in small weights, so that they would hang properly. Keep in mind that all this repurposing was done without the help of Pinterest or DIY shows!
On another occasion, I remember my mother wanting a stained glass lamp for our newly remodeled kitchen, as they were all the rage in 1975. Rather than spend her money on one lamp, she used it to sign up for a stained glass course from a master artisan and she then worked diligently to become gifted herself. She set up a small corner in our often chilly garage and spent hours there, cutting and soldering with all kinds of colored and textured glass and yards of lead came. She first created lamps and windows for our home and then ultimately designed and sold dozens of windows to people in our community. I remember getting off the bus at a friend’s house, to play after school one day and realizing that my mother had made the window by her front door. I remember thinking, “My mom is really cool!” A few years later, Mom read a book about a system of color analysis for complementing skin tone and dressing for success. She agreed with most of the concepts she studied, but had additional ideas of her own that would help make these concepts more understandable and useful for women, so she signed up to teach classes at a local community college and subsequently started a business to do color draping and personal shopping for the clients she met in class. To this day, she has people who call her up, and beg and plead with her to take them shopping.
Now might be a good time to mention that while she was pursuing these interests and developing these many talents, Mom was quite busy at home with five children, ranging in age from high school to pre-school. In addition to keeping up with all of our activities, she often volunteered to teach ballroom dance or sew costumes for school and community productions both large and small. Birthday cakes and Halloween costumes were always homemade and she spent hours in the summer, canning and preserving the harvest of Dad’s big garden. She was mastering the balance of motherhood and personal fulfillment long before it was a topic in the media, and she was happiest when she was doing both. After I left for college and once all my siblings were in secondary schools, Mom decided she wanted to go back to school, so she began working on a degree in interior design. She eventually graduated and again went to work helping people, this time to beautify and personalize their homes. Her special niche was working within a limited budget. She helped clients honor the sage advice to, “Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make Do, or Do Without” in that she encouraged them to see through needless extravagance, make do with items they already had and loved and save for quality purchases that would make the biggest impact in the outcome of their combined efforts. She did not need to affiliate her services with a store or product of any kind, because happy clients kept the referrals coming.
As empty nesters, my parents were able to finally build their dream home on a quiet little lake northeast of Seattle, Washington. Dad set the budget and Mom worked within it to compose her crowning work, which perfectly melds her love of color and design, with my Dad’s love of nature and animals. In this home Mom has been able to furnish and decorate to her heart’s content, and you’ll be glad to know that there is a wood floor for dancing and really nice carpeting that she did not have to lay herself! The walls showcase several pieces of meaningful art mixed with a lifetime of photographs that celebrate an ever growing family which now includes twenty two grandchildren. I know if someone were to ask her today how she has nurtured such a large, happy family and managed to pursue her interests, enjoying so many rich experiences, she would say, “You just think you can do it, so you do it!”
Note: I'm still tinkering with my story, and I'm looking for a few additional photos, but I'm anxious to publish this post so that I can officially invite you to join with me in a fun campaign for Mother's Day. StoryWorth.com is hosting a Queen for a Day contest.
What are some stories from your mother’s life that inspire you?
Storyworth wants to hear about extraordinary moments, acts of everyday bravery, and the stories about your mom that you’ll just never forget. This is your chance to celebrate the woman that made you who you are - and if that woman happened to be your mother, grandmother, aunt, or someone else, we welcome you to honor them by telling their stories too! The winning entry will receive a $150 spa certificate. But, as of last week, they’re also going to post one of their favorite stories each week on their blog, and award that storyteller a $50 certificate to the restaurant or business of their choice. Send your stories and photos to our Community Lead, Hope, at firstname.lastname@example.org. She’ll work with you to edit your story before it is shared publicly.
Once I get my story finished I'll be uploading it to my page at StoryWorth and attaching it to my family tree at familysearch.org. It's interesting, because just now, as I'm writing this paragraph, I received a phone call from my Dad. My mom is in the emergency room, because she was experiencing symptoms that suggest she may have had a small stroke. Everything will be ok, but this is a reminder to me that my beloved mother is not going to be available to me forever. The very BEST gift we can give our moms for Mother's Day is to set aside some time to write or help her write some of her story. You can use a solution like StoryWorth, or not, but in the end, it is these stories that we will treasure and it is these stories that we will be able to pass down to the next generation.
Do it, this year!