Mothers Day and my birthday are the hardest day of the year for me. My mother has passed on and though it has been 10 years since she passed, it is still difficult at best for me to be in the stores and see the Mothers Day cards, hear the radio and see the TV ads for celebrating the day.
My mother was a complicated woman yet very simple did she want her life to be. Complicated by the way she grew up between family members and without her parents, and yet all she ever really wanted was her own family, home with the white picket fence and to be loved.
Mom was a truly wonderful daughter her parents missed out on but her grandmother, whom she called “mama” was able to enjoy. She was a granddaughter, niece, sister, wife, mother, aunt, grandmother and great grandmother to three before her death. She was a mighty fine cook, loved to bowl, went crazy over the Redskins and Washington Senator baseball teams. She was a great card player and loved scrabble and other games. On occasion she would have some wine and be very funny.
Mom loved her friends and was a fierce supporter of them. She trusted, a bit too easily sometimes and always giving the opportunity to earn her trust back. She met several people over the years that touched her heart and she felt she had adopted them into her family, from favorite waitresses to Priests. Once her friend you could always count on her.
I remember how mom made birthdays special from the gift she bought, the card she picked out and the dinner she would create. Mom had a knack for picking out the best card for you, and heaven help you on an important date like your 30th, 40th, 50th, etc. You would start to receive cards about a month out from your birthday, each one more hysterical than the last. She and her sister actually traded the same card for years, each year writing to the other. Since her birthday was in July and her sister in Jan, they had the card on their fridge for 6 months out of each year. I still have a stack of cards that she sent to me. For any and all reasons, but mostly to tell me she loved me and was proud. This is why my birthday is so hard, she always knew just what to do for me, get me or tell me.
I remember a few years I gave mom a roll of stamps and a Hallmark gift certificate for her birthday or Mothers Day, because that is what made her so happy. She could spend hours in a card store and you knew just where she was for you could hear her laughing as she read each card. I was sure Hallmark wondered why their sales suddenly decreased so much after her death!
My grand kids all know about Maw-Maw or will learn about her as they grow older. Two photos of her with some mini yellow roses are in my living room so that she is always a part of the family gatherings. My family tree wall has several photos of her
(there are so many more photos now but this is how it began, my family is never far away…)
And a poster of photos of her hangs above my study desk and she resides in my heart so she is never away from me. I wish I could tell her how much she meant to me, I pray she knows and can see me even now.
Another person in my life that was important to me was Aunt Ellen. My father’s mother, Lenore, passed away in September 1954 from a car accident. I have always felt sad that we never met.
Lenore had an older brother Hervey and an older sister, Ellen. Aunt Ellen was like a grandmother to me.
Sisters, Lenore (left) and Ellen Rouse
Ellen never married. She stayed home and took care of her widowed mother, Gramma Sallie, and her brother who in Gramma Sallie’s words was sometimes a “bad boy”, meaning he liked to drink now and then. Gramma Sallie died in 1966 and Hervey, who also never married, died in 1969 from lung cancer. That left Aunt Ellen alone with just my Dad as her family.
Aunt Ellen would always welcome our visits and was famous for her chocolate cake. Not sure to this day exactly how she made it, but you needed at least a 16oz glass of ice cold milk or iced tea to go along with what had to be the driest cake on earth, and yet a visit to Aunt Ellen would never feel as good without a slice of her cake. I miss her too very much, she passed away 2 years after my mother. It was like my heart was ripped again, the feeling of loss was so sharp. Another constant in my life gone. Ellen and I had written to each other from the time I was in high school and she and I both kept each others letters and I am grateful I have most of them! The lessons she taught me are also always with me. Aunt Ellen taught me to remember who I came from and to honor the past for the future.
And finally, and never least. Gramma Frew. This woman who became a widow while still with young children at home, including a granddaughter, was so much in and a part of my life that she too has played an important part in my study of life.
Gramma Frew with us in Virginia Beach, abt 1962
Gramma Frew, Susan & David Burgess abt 1964-1965
This is me on my wedding day 1978, my mother Sheila, her mother Janet and her grandmother Ellen. Janet was in & out of mom’s life as an adult, this was one of the better times.
Ellen Ada Schofield Frew, born in Oldham, England, was a slight woman, whose mother-in-law said she would not be any good at giving birth, brought into this world 9 living children, and only one died in infancy. She also helped to raise grandchildren and was adored by her very large family.
She was always with her children, helping to bring new generations into the world, caring for the younger and I imagine worrying about them always. Her children married, divorced, became widowed and went on to raise their own families always with Gramma to center the family.
Wise woman know that raising a family or being a part of one can do more good for the world than anything else. I am forever grateful that I had strong and imperfect woman in my life that showed me that nothing is for sure, life is to be treasured and blessings can be found when we least expect them.
To all my special mothers, you are to be honored, respected and loved by myself and my future generations.