It's Mama's birthday, but no way am I going to discuss her age. On her 40th birthday, she was so depressed that she spent most of the day in bed, reading and smoking cigarettes. Around 4:00, she started calculating and figured out that she was only 39. So she got up and made dinner, like always.
Over time she shaved off a few more years, so I can't say that I know her real age, anyway.
Mama was very beautiful and athletic. That's her on the right.
Mama met my father at the water cooler at work. She always said she fell in love with him the first time she saw him in tennis shorts. Apparently she really liked his knees. I bet he liked her knees, too. (Here, she has a hat, he doesn't.)
They made a handsome couple. First in California, where they met.
Later in Florida.
Mama was head of the altar guild for a while (she's second from the left) and she and my dad were part of a fancy social set. One time the Premier of Antigua visited my father's business and they threw a big party for him. My mother got out her Emily Post book and handled everything herself, including all the protocol. Not bad for the daughter of a railroad engineer from Peoria, Illinois.
Mama never worked outside the home after she married my dad. She made a beautiful house for us instead. We always had a full dinner, with china, candles and fresh flowers from the yard on the table. And when my dad traveled for work, our big indulgence was to get Kentucky Fried Chicken and eat in front of the t.v.
Mama sewed all our curtains and slipcovers. She made fabulous Barbie clothes. She made almost all of my clothes, too, even when I was in my 20's. She made my wedding dress.
I think Mama missed having a career, though. I think she wanted to be a lawyer, because she sure wanted me to be one. "Or at least marry one," as she used to say. College was required, not optional.
When Mama got lung cancer, she didn't go to the doctor until it was very advanced, and she didn't fight very hard. Her two dearest friends had already died from it, after having surgery and some very primitive kinds of chemotherapy and radiation that amounted to torture.
Mama thought she saw the writing on the wall when she got it, too. She died within a month of her diagnosis, and she never even got signed up with hospice.
I was 26 and had been off to college, and then married and moved away. I was just getting to know her, without all the teenage mother-daughter push-pull. I thought there was plenty of time.