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Memories of mom: Get your feet off the sofa

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Column by Jim Clark

Mother’s Day always brings back memories, some good, some sad, of my mother, who died in 1997. I still think of her a lot, especially on the anniversary of something involving her.
This Sunday, May 8, is Mother’s Day.
One of my earliest memories of celebrating this day was going to church and wearing a carnation. I was raised in northern New Jersey, and almost everyone going to Sunday Mass wore a flower.
If your mother was alive, you wore a red carnation; if your mother was dead, you wore a white one. The florists loved that day, and always had single carnations available.
The year 1951 sticks in my mind. My grandmother had died on March 2 that year, so that was the Mother’s Day that my mother switched from a red flower to a white carnation, and I remember it was very emotional, even for a 7-year-old.
But it has always seemed to me to be the one day that brings back more details of my youth than any other. Those were the days when almost all mothers were the key in the formation of the future of the child.
Some of the memories, as I look back, were kind of funny, but didn’t seem so then. I remember the time I sat in the living room and stretched out on the couch, which wasn’t allowed. Suddenly I heard my mother’s voice, “Get your feet off the sofa.” I looked around and she was nowhere in sight. She was in the kitchen, so how did she know? It was years before I found out there was a strategically placed mirror that enabled her to see me.
I remember in my preschool years when my dad was teaching her how to drive. She was brought up in New York City, and rode the subway everywhere, so there was no need for a car. But after our move to the suburbs, it became a necessity. I sat in the back seat as she traveled around a deserted parking lot on a Sunday, where she learned how to maneuver the large gas-guzzler. I couldn’t understand why she was so frustrated sometimes, but eventually it all worked out.
I remember both my folks being proud on Mother’s Day, 1950, when I received my First Communion. Who knew that a year later we’d be mourning the loss of my grandmother.
My grandparents on my mother’s side came to the U.S. through Ellis Island after the turn of the century. Shortly after that my mother was born. My grandmother, who I called “babcia,” Polish for grandmother, lived across the street with my aunt and uncle. I remember that morning when my mom got the word early in the day, and broke down crying. I had never seen her cry before, and at my age I didn’t know how to act.
I also remember the last time I saw her. It was January 1997, and I was working out of town, but was here in Ocala for a visit. We had gone somewhere, maybe to eat, and when we got home, I got out and she was getting out of another seat. I stretched out my hand to help her, and a look passed between us. Somehow, even though her death was about a week away, she knew that this was the last time we would see each other. Shortly after that I left to drive back to where I was working, and as I got away from the house, I started crying. I, too, sensed the unspoken message between us.
Our family is blessed that my wife’s mother is age 95 and doing well in a local long-term care facility. We tried to take care of her at home, but couldn’t. We’ll be celebrating Mother’s Day with her and with her two other daughters, who are coming down from up North (where at times they are still shivering).
I encourage all of you to at least talk (no e-mails, etc.) to your mother if she’s still with us. And I hope for all of you that your children will contact you on this day.
I’ll enjoy the day, but a lot of memories will keep coming back for me. And one of the most prominent will be that phrase, “Get your feet off the sofa.”

Jim Clark is the editor of the West Marion Messenger and the South Marion Citizen.