Light, Leaven and Laughter

Dear Mom,

I hope that I haven’t disturbed you or caught you at an inconvenient time. When I call my friends, or even other family, I always start by asking, “Is this a good time to talk, or have I caught you at a bad time?” Come to think of it, I seldom make random phone calls any more, most are pre-arranged. I suppose it saves (me) the embarrassment of being told, no, I can’t talk right now.

I ask this question, because I have no idea what your schedule is like there, and I am supposed to be letting you Rest in Peace. But that is not how I think of you. I don’t think of you as Resting in Peace, rather, I think of you more as Light, Leaven and Laughter. I think of you that way, because of your personality, because of who you are. And I think of you that way because I picture heaven as a place of joy, music, worship, and stories, but also I picture it as a place of meaningful work, meaningful engagement of all sorts.

Picture of a woman and a teenager standing on a street.

And the truth is, you are such a presence in my life, and not in some ghostly or ethereal way, but in the way of love. Perhaps it is my fault, because when you died, I didn’t think I needed closure and I certainly did not think that I needed to say goodbye. How could I? The other truth is that I talk about you, tell stories about you, write about you, and let’s not get started on all the sermon illustrations where your name has come up. Well, let’s just say I have taken taken your name in vain on more than one occasion.

I am not sure if you have run into any of my former parishioners, but I have a theory that if they do meet you and know that you are my mother, well. Don’t be surprised if a stranger rushes up to you, points a finger at you, and says, “You’re the one!” But, it’s all good, as the kids say. And maybe, if I have done my job right, they will also say, “Thank you.”

While I am in a confessional frame of mind, I should tell you that in many of those stories, you get blamed. On more than one occasion, after having done or said something, I have added, “It’s my mother’s fault, and she is not here to defend herself!” Don’t be dismayed though, because it is really not blame, it is credit.

I remember something that Dad said, when he was sick. I was home from Florida for a visit, you had gone out to run some errands, and I stayed home with Dad. I sat in the chair by the front window and dad was on the couch. I was working on a small latch hook kit. He looked at me and said, “You are just like your mother.” Pretty sure I dismissed it at the time. He didn’t realize that I did not and do not have your ability for sewing, crocheting, or other needlework. I remember when you reupholstered the overstuffed chair in the living room, and then did the same thing for some of the chairs at the bar. Come to think of it, I am sitting on one of those bar chairs now.

Color picture of an hotel circa the 1890's.
The Union Villa Hotel, Onset, Massachusetts Photo Courtesy of Angela Dunham and Wareham Historical Society

I remember you laying linoleum in the hallways of the old hotel, on your hands and knees, without kneepads, no less. I remember, I remember the matching curtains and spreads you made for your bedroom in the apartment in Baltimore, and using leftover wool to make an afghan with the colors that matched the beautiful rug that you made.

I remember the sound of your laughter; when someone told a joke at the bar, the kind of joke that I wasn’t supposed to hear, and probably never understood. I remember a time in our house in Shrewsbury when you were doubled over laughing. Nicole, who was in sixth grade, was telling you jokes she had heard at school, and you were laughing, and writing them down in shorthand, so that when you got back to your senior citizens’ apartment you could tell them to your friends. Bear with me here mom, I am trying not to say in print what kind of jokes they were, but they were not ‘knock-knock’ jokes.

While I do not have your talent, or ability for working with threads and fabrics, I am pretty sure that I inherited your sense of humor, which is the chief thing I tend to blame on you. But the real credit is your teaching me to be able to laugh at myself, and not take myself too seriously. But not that alone, our shared love of cooking, of literature and music, though admittedly not the same taste in music. In addition our mutual penchant for storytelling and our shared faith in God.

You wrote a few stories, I still have them. I have your secretary’s notebook from your 1930’s sorority adventures too, in which you chronicle planning dances, card parties, making fudge, and carrying on. I wish you had been able to write more, that you had let yourself write more. You liked to play with words, as do I. You also set the example of never being more than a reach away from a good dictionary. Believe me, that was a practice that stood me well through college and seminary.

For the most part, you did not point your sense of humor at others, and that is something I try never to do. But gosh mom, when our school introduced mandatory sex education, did you have to tell the folks at the bar that I got an ‘A’ in technique but flunked birth-control? Not nice! I know that you were just going for the easy laugh.

Picture of a basket with yarns and knitting needles.
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels

Something funny happened today. I was going through plastic totes, looking for things to give away, part of my downsizing efforts, and I came across some things that I had forgotten that I had. Things that you had made, with wool and fabric and embroidery thread, and it just about undid me. I was trying to decide what to do with the woolen hook rugs that you had made, that I am unable to use. Because they are wool, they are very heavy, I wondered if I could give them away, or donate them. But holding them in my hand, looking at your work, I got stuck. I picked up a wall hanging that you had made for Jason, needle point I think, but large needlepoint. I looked closely at your work and marveled a the care and the detail.

And then I found them, the embroidered placemats with the napkins, some of them; they were the things that made my eyes water. In that seamless moment, I remembered seeing them in the store on display and falling in love with them. I was sixteen. So, you bought it and started working right away. There are wonderful shades of blues and greens, simple flowers clustered in large groups in the bottom corners. And the seams on both the placemats and the napkins were not machine stitched, but hand cross-stitched.

I’ll never forget that day in the hospital when I sat next to you on your bed, and you leaned your head on my shoulder and cried. It was my saddest moment and my privilege. I leaned on you my whole life, so humbled that you could lean back.

You are missed and loved and remembered and oh, the stories I get to tell, and so I do, with all my love.

Not holding back the tide,

Michele

Copyright 2021 Michele Somerville, The Beach Girl Chronicles and https://msomervillesite.WordPress.com

Sharing on Esme’s Senior Salon and Natalie the Explorer’s Weekend Coffee Share and Denyse Whelan’s Life This Week

Published by msomerville2014

About: Michele Somerville is a wife, mother, stepmother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin and friend. She lives with her husband and their dog Sheba. Sheba is their fourth rescue dog in 30 years. She is a retired ordained United Methodist Elder and serves two churches part-time in North Central Pennsylvania. She obtained her Bachelors’ Degree in 1999 from Mansfield University and her Master of Divinity in 2004 and Doctor of Ministry in 2016, both from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York. My Doctor of Ministry Thesis was:” Prophetic Words of Grace: Biblical Storytelling in the Local Church.” Michele began writing and performing character monologues for worship in 2008. She began by asking the question about nameless characters in the Bible, “What would they say if they could speak for themselves?” and then using her theological education and experience of the human condition to attempt an answer that is both academic and creative. Much of what you will read here are memories from growing up in a tourist town, in a bar, in the 1960’s, shaggy dog stories about our rescue dogs, life in a small town, and stories of faith and hope. Throughout her life she has lived in many states, including small towns, large towns and cities. She lived in Rota, Spain, for nine challenging months. Despite all the places she have lived since moving away from home in 1970,Michele is at the heart of all things Jack and Maggie’s daughter, and a beach girl from Onset, Massachusetts.

22 thoughts on “Light, Leaven and Laughter

  1. Wow! What a touching tribute to your mom, Michele. It brought tears to my eyes. Your mom must have been the same kind of larger-than-life personality as mine. I could not say “goodbye” to my mom either. I hope that someday (a long time from now) we get to greet our moms again. I wonder what they will have been up to!

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  2. Thanks Laurie. I am glad to know that you could not say goodbye either. I always felt a little odd about that. As a Pastor, I understand the need for closure, and yet… I had played with the thought of a fictional account, with her showing up for late night talks, and doing the dishes. I imagined my husband coming into the kitchen in the morning and saying something like, “Your mom was here again, wasn’t she?” But although I can write fiction, I think the blog posts represent my forte, non-fiction essays. And I find them easier, they flow from head, to heart to fingers, as you well know. Easter blessings friend,

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  3. You know I am so enjoying posts like these because I think being of a similar age and stage we are being reflective of our relationships with our late mothers. I would like, now, to be having chats to my Mum who died 14 years ago. I could never have chatted to her back then as I want to now. Maybe a letter like this is a good idea. Thank you for that.

    Always delighted to see your posts in Life This Week Link up. Thanks for joining in. Looking forward to next week, when we may, should we choose, Share Our Snaps (photos!). Denyse.

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    1. Thank you Denyse, I would encourage you to write to her, it can be freeing and cathartic. My mom passed away 27 y ears ago, it hardly seems possible. Her birthday is this coming weekend, and she died 5 days later. happily, I am mailing the needlepoint wall hanging to my son, who lives on the opposite end of the country. I enjoy and appreciate participating too. I don’t always have something ready and some of my posts are series on my weight loss experience, that I have written every month or so. See you soon in #LIfe this week. Many blessings, Michele

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  4. Your post reminded me so much of my own mum. She did exquisite needlework, knitting and sewing. I still treasure many of the things she made many years ago. She passed away 30 yrs ago but her memory is still vivid to me. Thankyou for this lovely tribute to your mum, it was beautiful. Regards Christina

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    1. Thank you Christina. I am glad that you have so many treasures of your mum. It is truly something special to be able to hold in our hands the work of their hands. And I like what you say about her memory being vivid to you. Tomorrow (here) or today (AU) is my mom’s birthday and she passed away 27 years ago on April 16th.In some ways it doesn’t seem possible that it has been so long. I am happy that my post reminded you of your mum too. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Blessings for the day, Michele

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  5. Hi Michelle. Wow! What a great letter to your mom. it was such a pleasure to read. I too had a mom who didn’t fit any mold and often wish she could cross the gulf between heaven and earth just for a few minutes so we could chat and she could either encourage me or sit me straight as needed. Such a love, my sisters and I lost when we lost her.
    Thanks for a great read.

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    1. Thanks very much Gary for sharing part of your story too. Sometimes when I write I laugh, sometimes I cry, sometimes, like with this post, I do both! So blessed, you your sisters and I and many were blessed to have parents who are missed and loved. Love never ends. I heard that somewhere:) Michele

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  6. Hi Michele, this is some of the best writing I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. A few years were shed while reading it. I’m glad that you have so many happy memories of your life with your mum. xx

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  7. What a wonderful post about your mom. I just recently lost my mom, and because of Covid, I was unable to say goodbye. It was so hard. But I think of her often with a smile, as I have such wonderful memories too. We are both so fortunate to have that. xo

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    1. I remember reading when you had lost your mom. You are right, so fortunate. Mine has been gone for 27 years on Friday. You will never stop missing your mom, imo, but love never ends too, that is the best and bittersweet part. Thanks for taking the time to read the post and comment. Blessings, Michele

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