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I Remember Mama

            One of the films that I enjoyed watching with my mother was the delightful 1948 movie about Norwegian immigrants “I Remember Mama.”  Remembering our parents and being grateful for them is not only an aspect of obeying the fifth commandment to honor our father and mother but also is critical to our emotional health.  I’d like to remember my mother, who, though not dead, is struggling these days.

            I remember Mama as a neighbor that you could count on.  When a dazed and confused Mrs. Hoffmeyer found her husband slumped in a chair, my mother was the first person she called.  Mom went over, looked calmly at Mr. Hoffmeyer and then delicately told her neighbor that her husband was dead.  She then called the minister and waited for him to arrive and stayed with the shocked Mrs. Hoffmeyer. 

            I remember Mama as a fanatical basketball fan who with my father drove us all over the state of Indiana to see high school and college games.  After a particularly poorly officiated Butler-Ohio State game, she chewed out Fred Taylor, the Ohio State coach.  At the end of her tirade, Coach Taylor smiled and asked, “Are you satisfied now, ma’am?”  Mom began to laugh and they parted on good terms.

            I remember Mama as someone who delighted in entertaining her family.  When she was in her sixties, she began subscribing to Gourmet Magazine.  Every week she would send me to the Atlas Grocery, the only place in Indianapolis where the rare ingredients could be found.  On Friday night my folks, my sister’s family and mine would have a meal that culminated with one of her impossibly rich desserts.

            I remember Mama as a person who practiced hospitality.  When one of my friends was kicked out of his relatives’ house because of drug use, Mom put him up in a spare bedroom.  A divorcée who had lost her home stayed with us for several weeks until she could find a place of her own.

            I remember Mama as a Christian who did not tolerate racial barriers.  She would drive alone into some tough intercity neighborhoods to pick up children for our church’s Pioneer Club and was not at all pleased when those children were criticized by the club leader, who probably didn’t want them there.  For years she maintained contact with some of those girls as they went on to college and made successful lives for themselves.

            I especially remember Mama as a wise and strict disciplinarian.  One Sunday after church my friend Kenny and I were walking in an alley on our way home.  We both spied a metal rod and with the instant agreement that only boys can have without even saying a word we threw it over the wall.  When we heard the crash, we took off running.  Unfortunately, my sister was with us and slow of foot.  The owner recognized her and contacted Kenny’s parents and mine.  We had broken a ten dollar statuette.  Kenny’s mom paid the lady his portion, but not my mom.  She made me take my fifty-cent allowance for the next ten weeks to the lady and get a receipt.  No condemned criminal could have dreaded jail more than I did those meetings.  At the end of the ten weeks, Mom asked me if I knew why she had made me do it.  I muttered something, but she told me firmly, “I did it because I wanted them to know that you are a good boy.”  Her discipline had made me never want to do something like that again and at the same time made me feel loved.

            It is difficult to believe that Mom, who is so passive now and lacking in energy and interest in life, is the same woman who was the good neighbor, the basketball fanatic, the gourmet dessert cook, the one generous to the down and out and who crossed racial divides, and the loving and firm disciplinarian that my sister and I grew up with.  It is all too easy to allow her declining days to erase from our memory those wonderful traits that made her what she was and, to a large extent, have made my sister and me and our children, what we are.  That is why it is important for us and for any who are caring for aged parents to call to mind who they were and what they have done for us.

            Yes, I remember Mama.

16 thoughts on “I Remember Mama

  1. Billy ,
    Great article . Hope everything is ok with Aunt Teenie. Please keep me


  2. Bill, this is just wonderful.

    It brings to mind a memory I have of you preaching at Escazú Christian Fellowship. You were speaking about your father with similar tenderness and you choked up behind the pulpit as you did so.

    By the way, L.E. Isley & Sons is still our go-to for pluming needs around this old house.

    Thanks for sharing about your amazing mother.


    1. Thanks, Dave. I came to realize a good while back what a tremendous blessing I had having both my parents. I’m glad to hear that you still use Isleys, but sorry to hear that you need to!

  3. 2 corrections to “I Remember Mama.” I feel strongly that, as is typical of you, I have not been given proper credit in your essay. First, you forgot to note that, as Mother was comforting Mrs Hoffmeyer, your first grade sister was making the mile long trek to School 59 with the Hoffmeyer’s kindergarten daughter. I was learning at my mother’s feet about compassion. Well,actually, we just skipped along like carefree kids without even a mention of her father’s death. Second, I do not even remember being a witness to your property damage problem. And, by the way, I continue to be “slow of foot.”
    Thanks so much for your reminder about Mom’s character. As her primary caregiver,it is good to remember her compassion and wisdom. Today, when her paid caregiver arrives, before she works with cranky Mom at 90, I will have her read this essay. Hopefully she will understand why Mom’s entire family desires to care for her with the love and respect in which she cared for all of us. Thanks, billy.

    1. Thanks, Judy. I would say that neither are corrections. The first is an interesting addition that I don’t remember or maybe didn’t even know about. The second is an admission of forgetfulness. Probably the incident was not burned into your psyche as it was in mine! That’s a great idea to let the paid caregiver read the essay. We’re all praying that things would improve. Love you.

  4. Just loved this Bill. Lots of great info about your mother and your childhood. My mother had many of the same wonderful attributes, very tough but just as loving. I cried happy tears and I thank you.

  5. Bill,

    This is lovely tribute to your mother. She indeed sounded like a pretty great gal! You are a gifted writer and what I enjoy most, especially nowadays (all things quarantine reports), is that you write about things that matter. Things that have a positive impact on your readers and challenge us to keep thinking and growing. I hope on this first Mother’s Day without your mom here, you are flooded with these sweet memories and a heart full of hope for your one day reunion with her in heaven.

  6. Just wanted you and Judy and your families to know how much your parents mean to me
    They were like a second set of parents. They opened their house up after CHS games where a life time of memories occurred.

  7. I love this. It reminds me of a sermon I heard a long time ago from a minister who told how his best friend was such an influence on his 3 sons. He thought as a father, he would be the greatest influence on them. Turns out it his friend who was a doctor was. I can’t remember if it was 2 or all 3 became doctors but it stuck with me. He said we could all be spiritual aunts and uncles. Your family is exactly that. From day one when my son asked Robin to be his friend he has always been accepted, no matter what. I admire and love you all. Teeny and Bill were such wonderful examples. I have never been a sports fan and how fun was it to hear my son talk about watching some game, alone with Teeny. We all have the potential to fill in the gaps that family doesn’t fill. What better legacy could there be?

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