coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Sunday, May 14, 2017

In My Mother's Day


This is my second Mother’s Day without my Mom.  She had her weaknesses, as we all do; but now I only remember her strength. She was often resourceful and independent.

In March 1964, when I was 12, we moved back to Northern Indiana after a 3-year interlude in the Pacific Northwest. My Mom wanted to go "home" where she had family. There were 6 kids in 1964, and none of us wanted to leave. However, we had to go. My Dad flew back ahead of us to begin work at his new job and get things settled for our arrival. Mom single-handedly packed and shipped our belongings, and we set out in an old 1958 Ford station wagon for the Promised Land.  My oldest sister was a senior in high school with only 3 more months to finish. She stayed with a friend’s family until after graduation.

My Mom drove 2,225 miles from Seattle, Washington to Northern Indiana with 5 kids between the ages of 2 and 14, and a cat, in that car. The two youngest were still in diapers. We drove down Washington State to Oregon, eastward to Idaho and Wyoming, through the Rocky Mountains. After that we traveled through the flatlands of Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois. Northern Indiana was home. My mother had always been fearless, but never more than on that epic journey when she took us home.

We didn’t stop at restaurants - too expensive. Back then, people didn't really eat at restaurants as casually as we do now. We stopped at small groceries and ate sandwiches at rest stops. Once, when we stopped to eat, the cat got out of the car and ran away into the farmer’s fields that were ubiquitous along the highway. We loved that cat, and looked long and hard. Eventually, Mom said we had to go. We were shattered as we silently drove away. However, a couple miles down the road Mom inexplicably turned the car around and went back for the cat. It was a heroic decision, and this time the darn cat had the good sense to come when called. We were more careful about keeping her safe after that.

Large chain motels didn't exist in the early 60’s to my recollection. Instead, motels were small and unique, “Mom and Pop” businesses. I remember staying overnight at one motel with a series of small, one-room cabins lined up next to each other. We all stayed in that one room. It took us 7 days to get to Indiana. The car broke down in Plainview, Nebraska. We stayed at a motel for two days while it got fixed. It was fun. We were not in school and it was mid-March. That felt strange in the middle of the semester, knowing that kids all over the country were in school leading normal lives. I felt like an outlaw on the run. It was a bit disconcerting, but exciting.

Towards the end of the trip, we started running out of money. There were no ATM’s or credit cards. Mom had a certain amount of cash, and that’s all we had to get where we were going. One night she decided to save money by not renting a motel room. Instead we all slept in the car: toddlers, tween, teenagers, mother, and cat. She parked late at night in a gas station parking lot, intending on gassing up the car when we woke the next morning. It was a cold night and, dontcha know, the car engine froze up. Early the next morning the car would not start. The owner lived above the gas station’s garage. We banged hard and long on his door to wake him up so he could come out and help us, which he did. At first he was angry, but when he saw the sorry lot who woke him up he softened. He helped us, and he didn’t charge a dime. People can be so kind. It is important to remember that.

I remember feeling like a vagabond. At that moment, we did not belong anywhere except in that old station wagon, traveling with our brave mother. She was our home. Eventually, we arrived at our destination and went directly to my paternal grandparent’s house where we were loved and celebrated.

My Mom was amazingly strong during that trip. She was confident, determined and never complained despite the many hardships. I guess one might say she persisted. I believed she could solve any problem that came our way, because she did. I trusted her in a way I have never trusted another human being since. It was a grand adventure that provided experiences and memories I would not trade for love or money. For many years, she was everything to me. I hope I told her that. 



27 comments:

  1. I really, really enjoyed this post. She definitely sounds like a cool mom. I'm

    And I know what it means to miss your mom. Mine died in 2011 when she was 65. I miss her every day.

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    1. Oh, 65 is too young. That's the age I am now. I'm sorry you didn't have your mother longer.

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  2. Now I will tell you a story. My father took a job on a dairy farm outside Spokane. When he secured a home for us my mother took 5 children on the train from Nebraska to Washington. When the owner of the farm died we drove back to Nebraska probably taking the same route your mother took. We lived in a small town about 20 miles from... you guessed it... Plainview, Nebraska. My mother was also a strong woman and I admired her.

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    1. Oh wow! Isn't that an amazing coincidence? I love it.

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  3. I think that is one of the top stories of motherhood that I have ever heard of in my life. What an amazing mother! I'm sure she was scared many times and as the best of mothers she never let you know. God bless her.

    A wonderful day to you today, I really hope you are well enough to enjoy it.

    And ps....we had a car almost exactly! like that. Ours had 4 doors and was red and white.

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    1. Nice! Great old cars. I hope you have a great Mother's Day, too.

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  4. What a moving tribute to your mom. Cheers to her and you.

    Happy Mother's Day to your both. And your daughter as well. :-)

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    1. Same to you! I know you, also, must be missing your Mom today. Sending some love your way.

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  5. I'm very sorry that she's gone, but it seems she left you behind with wonderful memories. I think I might share my own mom story today. Hadn't intended to, but... you know...

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    1. Wish you would share your own Mom story today. I'd like to read it.

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  6. Thank you for sharing Colette,i wish i have more words in English so i can tell you how moving is your post.

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  7. That is such a beautiful, compelling story. I can't imagine such a road trip in 1964, and your mother was truly courageous to take such a journey with the kids and cat. I love that she went back for the cat. That says so much about her heart. Thank you so much for sharing this. A lovely and loving memory.

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    1. I'm happy you enjoyed it, Robin.

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  8. Mothers of the fifties were of a different cut. They did so much with so little. How missed they are. My mother has been gone twenty years, and I talk to her every day.

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    1. Yes, they were the masters of "make do." If there is an afterlife, I am quite sure your mother is proud of you.

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  9. What a wonderful tribute to a strong, loving woman and mother. I love the part where she went back for the cat!
    I may have asked you before but what part of IN? We lived in Lafayette for about eleven years.

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  10. I love this, Colette. Amazing, moving, wonderful.

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  11. What a beautiful tribute to your mom! It brought up great memories of how my family took vacations - always driving, eating sandwiches at the side of the road, staying at cheap motels with roll away beds, or sleeping in the car. But we got to see more of the USA than any of my more wealthy friends.

    I think women who grew up during the depression just knew how to make do. They were strong and resilient and set an amazing example for us. We are the luck ones.

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  12. what an inspirational and moving sharing !

    your mother was a brave and daring lady my friend and her strength made you trust her .
    i am sure there were many times when you told her that you love her.
    your lovely post is tribute to her spirit .

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    1. Many thanks for the kind words.

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  13. Colette, this post really stuck with me. Again:), especially going back for the cat.

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    1. Yeah, that was a magical moment for sure. I'll never forget it.

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  14. An epic journey .
    Our mothers' generation never really got the credit for just holding it all together and giving us all so many chances to grow .

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    1. You are right, they didn't. I am afraid they were taken for granted. Previous generations had so many more children, too. I wonder how they managed to love so many children without losing their minds!

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So, whadayathink?