Once again The Red Room challenges its authors and members to blog on a specific topic. How interesting that they should choose "Heroes." I've recently been lamenting the fact that there are no heroes today. Not in the sense that there were in the past, larger than life people who unselfishly gave of themselves to help others, who made a real difference. Mainly there have been unsung heroes. Certainly we're not looking to celebrities or sports figures today. Even if we thought we could in the past, one look at today's assortment is, for the most part, enough to make me cringe. And may I add that I'm not interested in their political opinions. They need to get over themselves.
Heroes. Well, if you're thinking of famous people then you will lament my choice, my very personal choice. My choice is my mother. Born in Portsmouth, NH, she was someone of great talent and modesty in equal amounts. She went to work in high school, first as an usherette in a movie theatre where there was live entertainment on the bill in those days, and then in a department store where she was plucked from behind the counter to model for the store. In those days it was considered unseemly by her parents, aunts and uncles. At least one newspaper clipping is buried in a bottom drawer. This is a woman who would not allow any photographs of herself to be displayed in the house. Anyone and everyone else, yes; mother, no.
She wanted to design hats, be a milliner but there was no money for further education or to allow her to go elsewhere to study. A gifted violinist who was offered an orchestra contract, she chose instead to marry, working side-by-side with my father, building the business. She remembered in later years how my father came home delighted that he'd managed to get their deposit into the bank just as they were closing. They never opened again. That was the start of The Great Depression.
When World War II came along, all available young men went off to fight. It was left to my mother to work in the store, drive the truck, make deliveries and try to collect bills.The business: fish. Her hands, those hands that created paintings and music and designed hats, were plunged into ice and learned to fillet fish. She never ever complained. She remembered the retail customers with some affection.
Those were years when she did without, when she put cardboard into her boots because the soles had worn out and there was no money for a new pair no matter how drastic the New England Winter; when she went without so she could feed her family. By the time I came along, after the War, she worked 2 more years and then retired.
Everything went to her children; every bit of scraped together money was spent on them, she lavished love and attention and care. No one fell out of apartment windows, no one ate lead paint. Amazing anyone survived if you listen to today's news stories.
Mainly I remember her reminders to always be a lady, to be polite, that all things that happened were "private." I remember the ballet lessons, the voice lessons, the acting lessons, the pride in accomplishments. I remember the fun, the laughter, the museum trips, the ballet, the theatre, the drives to New York when we made up our own lyrics to songs and laughed all the way, and the ultimate lesson of unconditional love.
I remember that my animals were the only ones who sent Grandparents Day cards. I remember how she loved them and how disappointed she was by the human version. Pouring love that wasn't returned unless there was something wanted from her, some payoff. Yet she held her head high, held onto hope.
She gave with an open hand and an open heart. When she invited someone to dinner, they never left without food to take home. No, not doggy bags; I called them elephant bags because she never wanted anyone to go hungry so she gave in more than full measure.
When someone needed something, a ride to the store, their kid picked up at school, a trip through a snowstorm to bring them cigarettes, she did it. When she needed something, well, they weren't there; they were too busy.
When she died, three years ago, she and I were alone. I told her I loved her. She told me, "You're a wonderful girl." My world fell apart but her gifts remain. I wish I could be a fraction of the woman that she was. I wish I could be as loving and giving, as uncomplaining. She deserved so much more out of life. God knows, she more than earned it. And that's another lesson I learned: life is unfair. Would she specifically teach me that? No. She saw the cup as half full. I see injustice and rail against it, mainly to no avail.
My mother is, indeed, my hero. Laugh if you will. I really don't care. I only care that she lived, loved, cared. She left me an amazing legacy and shoes that I wouldn't, couldn't, even begin to fill.
Causes Darlene Arden Supports
The Marcia Polimer Abrams Fund for Canine Behavior Studies at the AKC Canine Health Foundation