It was the mid 60’s and we were dirt poor. At the time we lived in a 2 story old farm house on Route 12B outside Hamilton, NY. We had a front porch with banisters. The house hadn’t been painted in years, and it looked like a worn out house. I remember every time the school bus dropped all us kids off, wishing we had a house with a fresh coat of white paint with green trim around the windows and the banisters. We were tenants, so that was never going to happen. We had a big shade tree in the front lawn, a lilac bush grew right next to the house and Lily of the Valley popped up along the edges of the house. Regardless of the weathered exterior, the foliage seemed to help the curb appeal.
There was a barn with about 40 cows across the road from us that we would get our milk from. Back then, I didn’t appreciate fresh warm milk. But that barn and everything in it was our playground. The long rope swing, the bales of hay- our playground. The pastures and the river behind the house- our playground. The hill behind the barn, we’d go picking tiny wild strawberries. Or pretend to ride horses and run up as far as we could into the forest, all of that was our playground. I have so many memories of all us kids playing softball or Mother May I together.
But here is a memory of just me and my mom.
I was telling her about my memory the other day, she doesn’t remember. But I do.
It was status quo for me to inherit my 2 sisters hand-me-downs. I recieved dresses and blouses mostly and it also included toys and Barbie dolls. Except I didn’t get the Barbie doll. My sister, Pam, (the oldest) gave me her Midge doll. Midge was Barbie’s friend with red hair. I was so little then, maybe 5, and so excited to get a doll that was Barbie’s friend. She came with one dress and nothing else. It wasn’t a fancy dress, just a 60’s style.
At the time, I asked my Mom, if I could have another dress for my doll and she said she could sew me one. I was so excited at the thought of having 2 dresses for my doll. Because that is what you do with a Barbie type dolls, you dress and redress them.
Now, you have to understand, there was a lot of competition for my mom’s attention. I was number 4 of 6 kids, 3 boys and 3 girls, me, being the youngest girl. With a family of 6 kids and Dad, I didn’t get a lot of one on one time with my mom because of all the crazy, non- stop, chaotic energy of 6 kids. There was always a kid or two grabbing her face and manually turning it so she could pay attention to us. This action was a sign we needed her undivided attention at that very moment.
So I was very excited that my mom and I were going to make something together. I don’t remember her having any interuptions from brothers and sisters. She probably had my youngest brother, Kane, down for a nap.
My mom had an old fashion foot pedal Singer sewing machine. (I learned to sew my 1st pair of bell bottoms with it.) She proceeded to get it ready while I anticipated the new dress my Midge was going to wear. 2 dresses! My doll was going to have not one but two dresses. This was the beginning of her collection wardrobe. No shoes yet but she was going to have a wardrobe. Heck, I think I only had barely one pair of shoes that barely fit me. My feet were growing rapidly but Mom couldn’t keep up with everyone’s feet. Gramma stepped in for those things. God bless the Grammas. But I digress.
Mom told me to take the doll’s old dress off and hand it to her. I did. Then she told me she was going to make a pattern from it. I didn’t understand what she meant but I quickly realized the original dress was being carefully taken apart and placed on scraps of material Mom had around the house. I was mortified that she was taking the only dress I had for Midge to make another. I didn’t realize I had to sacrifice one for the other. (Story of my life) I was disappointed that I would not have 2 dresses after all. I’m not sure if I fussed about it, but I remember I was just happy that we were making something together. I don’t recall her putting the original dress back together. We never made anymore dresses. But I cherished the new dress. She also made me a tiny pouch for my first tooth. These are special memories that I hold dear.
I was forever wanting to hang out with her as a kid. I still love hanging out with her or talking on the phone for hours. She was fun and funny and in my eyes, the most beautiful woman in the world. All of us kids adored her. She still is funny. Just ask her grandchildren. She has been known to say some inappropriate things at any given moment, especially with a margarita in her.
Growing up, she was very much like Lucille Ball, and always striking up a song to sing, or banging on pie tins to wake us up for school. My dad would get mad at her because she was a push over with us kids. But I think we all feel we have a place in her heart for each of us. My mom has always been a loving Mom and Gramma. Happy Mother’s Day Mom.