Remembering When

Both Laura Brown and Jessica Turner have invited bloggers to post old pictures and tell stories about them in a meme called “Throwback Thursday.” Laura’s is specifically tied to her lovely book, “Everything That Makes You Mom,” and the request from her was to share an old picture taken with my mom. I don’t have many of those, at least not in digital form, so these three will have to do.

My mother, in her heyday, was truly a larger-than-life person.

That hat, for instance.

And the gigantic bow atop my head.
She started those bows when I could barely hold my head up,
ostensibly to announce to the world that this was a female child.
Apparently my baldness led many to believe I was a boy,
and my mom was having none of that!

I was a much-wanted child, long-awaited, and adored by my dad.
My relationship with my mom was more complicated,
very different from the easy, quiet companionship I enjoyed with my father.
Part of that is because my mother was a flaming extrovert —
easily the most 
socially gifted person I’ve ever known.
My father was quiet, reserved, careful.
Mom was glamorous, dramatic,
a loud laugher and a loud crier.

She was also an extraordinarily creative homemaker and hostess,
usually operating on the slimmest of budgets.
She set beautiful tables, told wonderful stories,
often acting out each part,
and she brought light and laughter wherever people gathered.

She was also deeply insecure, believing herself to be 
intellectually inferior to my dad and to most of her friends.
She had a mother-in-law who was sharp-tongued and 
judgmental and a father who belittled and verbally abused her.

So when I was growing up, she depended on me to be 
an emotional sounding board and a hands-on helper
with all things domestic.
For most of my growing-up years,
she was my very best friend.
I idolized her and thought she was the smartest
and most beautiful woman I knew.
and I tried to please her in every way I could.

Matching hairdos mom and me21118_n

My mother loved me and, most of the time,
she also liked me.
She struggled to understand me, however.
In some ways we are similar, sharing
a lot of the same interests and laughing
at the same jokes.
But in other ways, we are most definitely not alike,
and during those early years,
I intuited that it was not okay to step outside the box she drew,
the box of acceptable behavior and language,
of dreams and goals.

She worked hard at being a mom.
Until the last two years of high school, she made almost all my dresses.
She coached me in public speaking when I was ten,
helping me to be at ease in front of hundreds of people —
and to enjoy doing it, too.
Although she never finished college,
she read widely and well,
and she had a great 
facility with language. 
I remember being given a long list of my mom’s favorite authors
when I was in elementary school,
then walking through the traveling library-van to find them.
I read voraciously, from about grade two right up until today.
Because of her encouragement, I read well above my
grade level and in the process, learned a whole lot
of great vocabulary words. How?
Whenever I came to a word I didn’t know,
I’d spell it out and she would pronounce it and
tell me what it meant.

I thought she was the smartest woman I knew.
And the most beautiful.
And, of course, she is the most genuine extrovert I know,
always smiling that 100-watt smile,
reaching out with a hand to touch an arm
or a shoulder, offering kind words
and a gentle laugh.

Even in the midst of her dementia,
she does these lovely things,
saying ‘thank you so much,’
and ‘I’m so glad to meet you,’
and, ‘Have you met my daughter?’

Yes, Mom. I’ve met them all. Many times.
But I’m happy to meet them again. And again.

IMG_3337She is still one of the most beautiful women I know.
And she is still that flaming extrovert,

gifted with social skills that she uses with grace and aplomb.
The vocabulary is shrinking by the day,
as she loses more and more of her ability to communicate.

I miss her.
I miss our good conversations, our shared reading projects,
our party planning and execution.

And I am so deeply grateful for her and to her:
for being such a terrific mother in so many ways;
for modeling marital commitment through thick and thin;
for being a lifelong learner, genuinely fascinated
by this world and all its wonders;
for her deep, seeking heart,
hungry for God and goodness.
She taught me so much.

And she still does.

Joining this with Jessica at The Creative Mom’s Thursday link-up.
AND — Mother’s Day is right around the corner and Laura Lynn Brown’s beautiful, small book is a perfect gift, especially if you fill it with some good, shared stories. You can order it here.

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  1. I am travelling right now, and today I head North to be with family and see my dear mom. Her dementia is far advanced and all words are gone. My mother also was a colorful, creative extrovert and I enjoyed this peek into your relationship very much, and was nodding my head in understanding.

    Bless you and your dear mom. Peace to her and you, Diana. She sure sounds like an amazing lady.

    • And blessings right back atcha, Susan. I didn’t know that this was part of your story, too, friend. Some days I think death would be easier. And she is an amazing lady.

  2. You’ve written a lovely, loving tribute to your mother. You and your words are filled with grace. Thank you for sharing this with us, and may God bless you and your mother during these months and years.

  3. Sheila Dailie says

    Love your memories and your photos, especially when your mom and you were younger.

    I’ve been going through old family photos and have found none with my just my mom and me. At first I was sad, but soon realized that I have few, if any, with my older daughters.

    “My relationship with my mom was more complicated,
    very different from the easy, quiet companionship I enjoyed with my father.”

    That sentence is a rich mine, and probably true for most mothers & daughters. Thanks for giving us a peek inside. And prayers as you say farewell to your mom in bits and pieces, remembering all the good you had.

    • I have very few of those in my huge pile of photos – either with my mom or with my daughters. It’s part of the job, I think – I take pictures of everybody else, but not of me very often. Thanks so much for your kind words, Sheila, and thanks for your prayers.

  4. So lovely, Diana. So expressive of the many layers of the complicated love relationship.

  5. Diana, just your simple observation that your mother was an extrovert and you were not–that spoke to me. I think that difference between my mother and me was the source of some of our greatest conflicts. (Silly to admit, I know.) She was extroverted right up until the end, and I am sure I will be introverted on my dying day.

    I miss her so much. Really wish she were with me today.

    • I miss my mom already; cannot imagine when she is actually, physically gone. I am an extrovert – just barely – kind of in the middle of the scale, like a plus one on the ‘e’ side. My mom, must have been completely off the charts, however!

    • And I was an extravert and she was extreme introvert. We missed each other a lot and there is so much i never knew about her because she shared so little of herself. I have actually learned more about her from her friends and even my dad now that she is no longer with me. I can see now it was hard for her as it was for me. how little we all knew about any of this stuff we understand now! wonder how much difference it might have made.

      • My mom, on the other hand, probably shared more than she should have, at least when I was between the ages of about 7-15. Young children do not need to know the extent of their parent’s pain. I’m grateful that we were able to salvage a good relationship without too much work – I just learned to set some boundaries within myself so that she would not know every little detail about me as she wanted to know when I was young. Everyone needs private space inside, right?

  6. in the midst of my own grieving, I walk this road with you
    extending my hand and my heart
    and offering love

  7. It is a wonderful and very odd thing to fully understand our moms … which means we can appreciate (at least remember) their great strengths and their faults. I like it that you talk about both.

    This is a beautiful piece, Diana. I loved reading it. I hadn’t seen the second awesome picture.


    • Thank you, Glenda. I think it’s important to know their strengths and weaknesses so that we can better understand our own, you know? Mothers are such pivotal people in our lives!

  8. What a beautiful tribute. Loving words about a mom and daughter relationship that some of us weren’t able to experience. But I’m glad to I’ve vicariously with us 🙂

    • Thank you, Sandy. I do count myself blessed in my relationship with my mom, even though it is complicated and laced with both her pain and my own. She was (and is) a great mom.

  9. Diana,
    Your eloquent description of your mother reminds me of my precious mother who has been in Heaven for two years now. She, too, had dementia. One of her final lessons to me was how to accept the aging process, including dementia, with grace, beauty and dignity. Blessings to you and your mother.

  10. Heart-touching and instructive, Diana. You’ve given us a model to follow as we age: to continue learning, wondering, and seeking, hungry for God and goodness–just like your delightful mother.

  11. What a beautiful tribute, Diana. I wonder if there’s a daughter alive who hasn’t had a complicated relationship with her mother? I know I have, and overall, I’d say we’ve always gotten along swell. I love that photo of you and your mom back to back. Was that photoshopped? Or were you actually there together?

    • That picture was taken about 35 years ago, when we both went to the same hairdresser. He wanted photos for a show he was doing at a hairstylist’s convention, so he had a photographer come in and take this. NO photo shopping back then. :>)

  12. Interesting how your mother is still sooo pretty. Is that genes, I wonder, or the result of how she took care of herself and apparently cultivated beauty all her life?

  13. There is both beauty and bittersweet in this, but in each case, the kind that gives you hope. I love that you both love well in your unique ways. The devotion of your relationship is a treasure. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Such a beautiful portrait you’ve created, Diana. Thank you for sharing this. I’m very much an introvert, just as my mother was. My father, on the other hand, would probably have been classed as an extrovert, but a quiet, affable one. My mother and I didn’t get along well during my adolescence, while my father and I were the buddies. He gradually became more distant after mom died and he remarried. It wasn’t until his last few years that I realized how much of his changes had been due to the start of Alzheimer’s.

    I think I should go hunt up a few old photos now. I don’t have many of me with my parents — or with my children, since, like you, I’m always the photographer — but there are probably many memories trapped between the pages of the albums. Ones that I should revisit. :\

    • Great idea to take a little trip down memory lane, Carol. Alzheimer’s does such cruel things to people – minds and personalities both. Hope you enjoy your trip and find some photos that surprise you.

  15. You must have had tears in writing this because I had them in reading it.
    Wonderful photos and pictures painted with words. I have a similar photo (or maybe it’s just a picture in my head?) of my mom and I sitting on the patio at assisted living with our sun hats and visors. Loved seeing yours! Loved reading your memories and characterization of her with her 100-watt smile.


    • I came close to tears, yes. I’ve already cried so many of them over this last, hard piece of her journey. But I’m trying to write it down, as faithfully as I can. Thanks for coming by and reading with empathy, my friend. Been missing you of late!

  16. Such a lovely tribute to an amazing mother. Even in her golden years her sweet personality of grace shown brightly!

  17. i love what you said about your mom loving you and most of the time liking you. I think that would describe my relationship with my mom. Sometimes i do wonder if she liked me in those earlier days where her exactness/my randomness – her introvertedness/my extrovertedness – her attention to detail/my undiagnosed ADHD ran head to head. In the end she was proud of me and i felt it & I loved her and didn’t understand her very well. Slowly after the difficult days of her difficult dying as time goes by, and I do some of my own “work” I am able to start remembering the good things and times. thank you for sharing your own journey. I think most of us have tangled journeys with at least one parent dont’ you think…and that probably includes our kids. yikes.

    • I’m glad you’re coming home to your mom, now, Carol. I find it a really helpful exercise – almost a spiritual discipline, actually, to write down some of the good stuff and some of the hard stuff about our long and complicated relationship. She is a remarkable woman in so many ways and I love her very much.