mom

Grandma Visits – Memories of Mom

I remember the numerous times my mother came to visit my young family. She would come for Christmases, Baptisms, First Holy Communions, or when asked to babysit. These were special times for my kids, because that meant there were treats, presents and lunches out. Mom became a widow early in her life, so when she was around her grand kids it was up to her to spoil them all herself.

These memories are especially important to me now that I am a grandmother to two adorable and energetic grandsons who bring me much joy. When I get on the floor and play cars with Oliver, the four year old, or when Duke, the 20 month old gets ecstatic when we play with any ball shaped object, I remember how excited my mother was to be with my kids. Each time I visit my grandsons, I feel inspired by my mother’s example to be involved in my grand kids lives.

My mom did not live close to us, but always made the journey to come see us no matter where we lived at the time. Depending on how old my kids were, when she arrived she would slip them some money for their piggy banks, and usually had a piece of candy in her purse for them. When at her house and not able to see them often enough, she would call and ask to speak to each of them individually. On their birthday, there would be that special phone call when she would sing them Happy Birsday to U.  With her Polish accent she was never able to make the th sound, which produced giggles from the kids. She would also send holiday cards to the kids, with a special note which she signed, “Grandma loves you.” The birthday call was a favorite memory my kids have of their Polish grandmother.

A few times I asked her to come and stay with the kids when Alan and I went away for business meetings. Those visits had to have been very difficult on her since she was away from her home and the familiarity of her environment. In fact mom would start to pack even weeks before her trip, which was an anxious reflex. She was nonetheless willing to embrace our surrounds and became familiar with our local shopping and could walk to the important places to both entertain the kids and get all the necessities. When mom came to visit us in Illinois, she would make sure she took the older ones out to lunch at a local restaurant, which was close enough to walk to, followed by grocery shopping at the neighborhood store. That would mean a special snack may make it into the shopping cart along with what groceries needed to be purchased. Since they walked, only the groceries that could be carried home could be purchased. The kids had to pull their weight and help carry the bags home.

She was a very selfless grandma which I appreciated then but never understood the gravity of her sacrifice. Because she had the persona of a strong no nonsense person, I viewed her as a mighty force that should be able to handle all the needs of my kids single-handed. Car pool friends would pick up the kids and take them where they needed to be and all should be fine. Even though she did help a few times, mom became resistant to do more once we moved away from Illinois. She did say that being responsible for her grand kids and doing it alone was too much for her physically and emotionally.

Holidays and special occasions were different. Mom would come and stay a short while just to visit. Since we dotted the countryside with several moves, to visit us was a new adventure for her as well. The beauty of these trips was that once over she got to go back to her home, which was sacred territory.

I admire her even more now for what she did for my family.

The Blazer Lady, Memories of Mom

Shopping in suburban Chicago can be quite an adventure when you are from a small town in Western Pennsylvania. In fact I had made all my own clothes for years and even taught my best friend how to tailor a blazer. When my husband Alan and I were first married, and moved around for a while, we settled in Sewickley, outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, my home town. We were financially destitute so I made him a wool suite one Christmas and then a leisure suite, which were popular back then. I am dating myself with the leisure suite comment. The clothes I sewed for myself were for work, even maternity clothes when needed. My mom had taught me how to sew when I was in junior high, and after graduating high school, before going off to college, I made some dresses for a friend of mine. Growing up my mom sewed just about all my clothes.

After Alan and I moved away from Pittsburgh and entered the sizable Chicago shopping market, I discovered Marshalls, the off price store. It became clear that I no longer needed to sew my own clothes. The selection and the discounted prices were phenomenal. It would be more expensive to sew than to buy. And the time savings! That was added value. In the middle 1980’s, the town where we settled, Arlington Heights, got a Lord and Taylor Sales Store, which was a shopping extravaganza.  Periodically they had fabulous sales on top of their already discounted prices. Suburban Chicago became a shopping mecca for me.

When my mom would come to visit in the 1980’s, we of course would go shopping. Mom was a widow and very frugal, so every penny was important to her. She enjoyed and took pride in being a smart dresser. We would go into a Marshalls and she was amazed at the inventory and the prices. There were no such stores in and around Sewickley or even Pittsburgh at the time. She would repeat each time she entered a Marshalls, that she was like a homing pigeon. She would gravitate to the blazer and jacket section immediately. She loved her tailored clothes. At home she would do the same, but the only stores she could afford where she lived were resale shops.

So when shopping with me she would do a lot of looking and enjoyed the experience but rarely bought a blazer. The looking was half the fun. The other half was to buy some other small item and to enjoy the time. To this day, when I need my fix, even if I need absolutely nothing, I go shopping. The fun is in the hunt for whatever is on sale and while browsing you buy something to complete the adventure.

After mom had her stroke, while she was living in a nursing home in Arlington Heights, my brother Andrew and I decided it was time to sell her house in Sewickley. My daughter Stephanie and I drove to my home town on the Ohio River to see what we should keep and what to give away. For someone who was frugal, and who told me that she periodically gave bags and bags of clothes away to the charity clothing box at church, mom still had a lot of clothes for us to dispose. We also gave away bags upon bags to the clothing collection box at her church.

Stephanie and I put together one outfit which of course included a blazer with broach, accompanied by a stylish blouse and pants, as her funeral outfit, even though there was a chance she could be cremated. When she died over a year later, she was cremated, so there was no need for burial clothes. But I still have the outfit as a memory of mom and her blazers.blazer