“Mirror, mirror on the wall, I am my mother after all.”
This little plaque is mounted predominantly beneath my bathroom vanity mirror and is a constant reminder of who I have become. As if the familiar reflection staring back at me was not enough, I added an extra layer of reinforcement.
Martha was only 19 years old when I was born, inexperienced and probably scared to death of the responsibility of a helpless human being. My mother, with her fair skin, light brown hair, and eyes the color of a cloudless day, gazed upon this dark-haired, olive-skinned baby girl and immediately knew that I had inherited my father’s complexion and black tresses, minus the much-desired curls.
Despite her attempts to curl my hair throughout my life, it refused to cooperate. There were many home permanents, futile trips to the beauty salon, but nothing seemed to work on the straight locks adorning my head.
It was she who guided my first steps and taught me how to read. With her persistence, I mastered potty training, and learned about the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny.
Not a patient person by nature, she just left it up to Daddy to teach me to ride my bike, and later to drive a stick shift automobile. In retrospect, that was a very wise decision for all three of us.
She was her own person, raised by a railroad worker and a clerk-typist. With two younger brothers, it became her responsibility to oversee them after they all got home from school, and she learned to make dinner for the family at a young age. Her father’s sister was known for her cornbread, chicken and dumplings, and signature buttermilk pies. She shared those skills with Mama who was a fantastic cook that never wrote down a recipe.
Like most teenagers, I thought my parents were old-fashioned and didn’t know what was going on in my world. Only after I had my own family did I realize how much wisdom they possessed.
I never viewed them as two impulsive teenagers who, despite their parents’ objections, eloped when they were only 18. They had their first home together in an upstairs apartment of my Daddy’s older sister’s home and everyone soon knew that Martha was a fastidious housekeeper. This trait, that I sadly lack, was a part of her identity. My brother and I were not allowed to sit, lay, or lounge on our beds after they were made every morning, and to this day, I cannot bring myself to sit on my own bed.
Outspoken to a fault, witty, and as high strung as a frisky colt, my mother always spoke her mind, often too loudly to suit me. If you didn’t want to know the truth, you learned not to ask her about anything. Now at times, when I open my mouth, she pops out in all her glory, and I cannot control her.
As an only child for the first 11 years of my life, I longed to have brothers and sisters, and secretly envied my friends who had some of each. After several failed attempts at making me the “big sister,” my brother came into our hearts and lives.
I insisted that his baby bed be put into my bedroom so I could take care of him. After three sleepless nights, I recanted and sent him downstairs.
Mama always said I got physically ill shortly after I had to share the spotlight at home, but I have no recollection of this happening. She always accused me of having “selective memory.”
Our tastes were not alike at all. She loved Victorian antiques, a fact that was reflected in our seldom used living room. Nobody ever sat in those ornate chairs that she treasured or put a glass atop the marble-topped tables. It was an unspoken rule that the den was the family area, but the living room was Mama’s territory.
I leaned more towards Early American décor with lots of family friendly chairs and sturdy maple tables that accommodated cereal bowls, baby bottles, and sippy cups.
My mother and I were polar opposites when I was younger, but after she passed away at the unthinkable age of 59, I have morphed into her in many ways. On Mothers’ Day, I feel the pangs of loss as I long to send her a Victorian themed card expressing how very much I love and miss her to this day.
Copyright © 2023 Mary Margaret Lambert