Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My Mother Never Drove A Car

I was enthralled with this post, so I felt like I had to do my own. In a sense its a gift to my daughter who did not know her well.

My mother never drove a car. When she did go out to shop she was always dressed well, hair done and makeup on.  Sometimes she walked to a local grocery store, she'd bring her groceries home in one of those carts on wheels.

My mother liked her beer, but not out of the bottle, it was poured into a Pilsner glass. Whiskey touched her lips too along with occasional wine.  She would add Chianti to her spaghetti sauce, which took six hours to cook. There was always fun in our kitchen.

Her name was Rita and I was named after her in a sense.  She was Rita Catherine and I was named Kathleen Rita. I always liked that. She raised six children, three boys and three girls.

As child of Irish immigrants she felt tragedy at a young age. Two brothers and a sister died very young from tuberculosis, only her older sister Margaret remained.  She spent 3 years in the hospital with an ulcer in her eye. She had limited vision her whole life but it never stopped her.

She played the piano and sang beautifully, that was her gift. She had the notion that men were more important so she never pursued a professional career as a singer.  She once told me if she had been a man she would have.  I thought that was sort of sad. I will always remember her singing Sunrise Sunset at my brothers wedding.

In her early twenties she was on the equivalent to American Idol.  She traveled to NewYork City and performed on the Major Bowes radio show.  Alas she lost to a dog act.  I wonder how must that have felt. She never told any of us kids about it.  

My mother never went swimming with us kids because she always said that her bathing suit had a hole in the knee. She would say comical things like that. When we went out for ice cream as a kid, she would take our cones when they were dripping too much and when we got them back they were considerably smaller.  She did love her ice scream.

She played pinochle with a group of women I called the card club ladies. When it was her turn to host, we cleaned the  house and bought treats including bridge mix.  Seven ladies came over and we had to stay in our rooms. Sometimes I would sneak out to see what they were doing.  Just playing and talking, it was not that interesting for a young girl. I just wanted some of the special treats.

She made all her clothes from Vogue patterns. She always had a style about her.  She loved the color red and wore it a lot. She wore hats and she looked great in them. She seemed to be made for a different life than the one she lived.

Pavarotti was her favorite singer at her death, but our childhood was filled with Mario Lanza.  Be My Love is a song we sang and sang.  She loved musicals too. Carousel and the King and I were performed along with the housework.  To this day my sisters and I can sing all the songs from Carousel by heart.  She wore a dress and an apron to clean in the early years.  When pants became the fashion she embraced them and was also excited to throw out her girdle.

My mother had a nervous breakdown and all her hair fell out. She wore a wig for years and then it all grew back.  She was allergic to the Sun or at least she thought so. It turned out to be caused by the medicine she was taking.  In the summer she would wear long pants and a long sleeve Nehru type shirt.  It was the 60's after all.   She went down to the YMCA and took Yoga lessons and studied Edgar Cayce and Ruth Montgomery, I saw it as her search for a spirituality that might fit her. 

My mother had long black hair with a streak of white at the top.  For Halloween she would dress up as a witch and scare the little kids. She went round the neighborhood, and would stop in and visit our neighbors and get a drink instead of candy. She stopped doing it when kids thought she was a real witch and became mean to her.

My memories of her also include tea time, it was a daily ritual.  We’d have tea after dinner. In her blue danube china she’d pour us a cup or two and sometimes even read our tea leaves. She taught me how to prime the pot and have a pot of proper Irish tea.

I miss her greatly,  I would love to have another cup of tea with her and share what my life is like now. It would be a great tale to tell, but she was always a good listener.


  1. This is such a beautiful tribute to your mother, Kate, just in the describing of the details, because it shares who she was and what you now remember of her, uniquely special to you and a person in her own right also. It's the showing, not the telling, that makes it what it is--love it! xoO

  2. what a wonderful story, a beautiful tribute. i would love to sit down with this woman, your mother, and have a cup of tea. or a glass of wine. :-) she sounds like a person we should all miss the presence of.

  3. Kate,
    I miss her also. She would be so happy with the Great Grandchildren. They will never know what a great person she was.
    In fact, I remember going over there every Friday night with my parents. Her and Popsie would play pinochle and with them and they had the best times. She would always what card was lead, even though there was only 1 card on the table. She would always blame it on the vision, even though she could see well at that time. Even when she asked, a straight face couldn't be held because she knew right then and there she was caught.
    You mentioned tea time. We always had tea time. She gave me my own cup and saucer and we had the best time. I would dressup in her 1 of many hats and sit down and have a "Spot of tea." Now, since my daughter is almost 4, she loves to play with her tea set. It brings me back to Tootsie every time she takes them out.
    This was a very nice article and it brought me back.

  4. Kate, this is such a wonderful tribute to your mother. I loved reading about her. She sounds like an interesting person and a good mom.

  5. Beautiful, such a wonderfully, loving tribute to your mother.
    Thank you for sharing... apart of yourself with us! ((hugs))

  6. Kate...this is a wonderful story about your mother. She sounds like she was a lot of fun and you have some very good memories of the things you did together. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Kate, you and Janet inspired me to do a post on my Mother. Your Mom sounds like a very talented lady. Sometimes Moms give up a dream or two for the family they love. I enjoyed every word. You must have been a real happy kid. Love, Mary

  8. What a character your mom was! I love reading profiles of great women. Thanks for sharing her with us!


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