Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Zelt’

Happy birthday, Mom

Today would have been my mother’s 91st birthday, and so it’s fitting to repost a remembrance of her I wrote a few years ago:

Mom was born Edna Catherine Parr in 1919. She hated her first name, so her friends knew her as “Catherine” or “Kay.” She came from English and German stock. Her English family, the Parrs, I’ve traced back to the 18th century — a village in Suffolk called “Exning.” Her German ancestors, the Zelts, apparently came from Bavaria or Alsace early in the 19th century. My great-great-grandfather who came to America, Jacob Zelt, was a brewer in pre-Civil War Pennsylvania. Near as I can tell, he lied about his age to avoid being drafted into the Union Army. Sneaky devil. :)

Unlike her older brother and sister, Mom wasn’t an extraordinary student in school. By her own admission, she was “too interested in boys.” She was the editor of her senior class yearbook (San Bernardino High, 1937. I have a copy!), however. She met Dad soon after graduating, which lead to their marriage in 1938 and four children after that. (In case you’re wondering, my siblings Rick, Sharon, and Larry were 19, 15, and 13 when I was born in 1958.)

I can’t speak for my brothers and sister, but Mom and I were best friends. With her children grown and gone, I was a chance for her to have a second family. She had a very nuturing nature, and often said she wanted nothing more than to be a mother. (Those who slag stay-at-home moms, take note.) At the same time, she loved meeting people so, when we were old enough to be in school, she took part-time jobs in retail, which she loved. She had a marvellous way with customers.

She didn’t have the varied careers Dad did, but she was a rock of steadiness for us. A good Catholic, she refused to get a divorce, even though they were separated several times before I was born. (I should be grateful, since I wouldn’t be here to write this, otherwise!) She loved the Church, and always nattered at me that I should start going again. Sorry, Mom. :)

Mom was always very supportive of me, paradoxically being both over-protective and yet encouraging me to push myself. Her philosophy of raising children, “You don’t have to be the best. We’re proud of you if you just always try your best,” is something I want to pass on to my own, should I ever have any.

Lest anyone think she was a demure Donna Reed-type, forget it. Mom always encouraged her children to stand up for themselves. More than once in grammar school I was told “You never hit someone first. But, if someone hits you, you him them right back. Even if it’s a girl.” And if someone in any way threatened or attacked her family — watch out. The German in her came out, real quick. She may have been short, but she could have intimidated Andre the Giant. (What is it about our parents that, even when we’re bigger and stronger, they can put us in our place with one word or look?)

To give you an idea of what she was like, let me relate one story. When I was in the 6th or 7th grade, after we had moved to Sacramento, I was riding bikes with a friend on a Saturday afternoon. I don’t even remember the kid’s name – let’s call him “Mike. ” We got to my house, and I brought Mike in for lunch. Mom wasn’t expecting us, but she made us sandwiches and chips and sat and talked with us. Just doing the “Mom thing.” When we left, as we were getting on our bikes, Mike turned to me and said “I wish your Mom was my Mom.”

It didn’t hit me until years later, but, think about that. How sad was his life that he wanted someone else for a mother, and how lucky was I? I don’t have a quantifiable answer, but I do know I was damn lucky. Even late in her life, when I published my first book, she made over it like it was something she wanted to pin to the fridge with a magnet. And, you know what? I was glad.

So, happy birthday, Mom. I hope there were daffodils on the table and all your collies, from Queenie to Melody, were there with you.

Miss you.

Read Full Post »