I was a mommy’s boy. Being the youngest, with little interest from dad, my mother was my reference point from family.
I was also a crybaby. I’d cry to get attention and it worked.
So with that little history, who was this person I called “Mom”?
Who was this girl who turned into my ‘Mom’?
Her given name was Marguerite. Marguerite is the French form of a female given name (English Margaret, Spanish Margarita) which derives from the Greek Μαργαρίτης meaning “pearl”). I only heard her mother call her that name while everyone else called her “Kay”. I called her “Mommy” until I cut it short to “Mom”.
So what I know, she was born to an ever-growing family back in the early 1900s. Her hometown was a backwater little railroad stop grown from a trading post on a river, but close enough to the ocean to become a filming Mecca. So while her mother was always producing more brothers and sisters, she helped out with family chores, played jump rope and hop scotch with the neighborhood kids, going to school studying cursive writing (there was no email) and feeding the chickens in the backyard. Not everyone had a telephone and there were few cars. The radio and newspaper were the entertainment other than the piano. With a large family, gatherings were song feast with enough harmonies to go around. She attended church, but I believe she had a bit of the devil in her.
She definitely liked attention. Whether she was in school plays or sang in church, I don’t know, but she enjoyed the spotlight. I can only guess with a family that size, a girl can get lost in the crowd.
As I recall there was one movie theatre downtown and few restaurants so a girl had to make her own entertainment. Dancing and hanging out at the beach are the only history the old duo-tone photos tell.
Her interaction with her siblings is still a mystery. Of the ones sired by Mam’ma and Mr. Mac, she was the eldest, but there were two older stepsisters. What did Myrtle and Thelma think of their father marrying a teenager and raising another family?
I was told very few stories from her past. I did hear her impression of meeting my father that I found fascinating. From her point of view in the storytelling, my father was having an audition for a singer with his newly formed band (watch the 1977 film “New York, New York”). Being like a rock star to the eyes of young hopefuls, dad and his entourage swaggered into a beach dancehall to listen to the contestants. Some how, the two who would be later known to me as “Mom” and “Dad”, made the connection and she won the position but he had to ask for her mother’s permission before taking a seventeen year old on the road in a bus full of college boys.
Oh, what an adventure that must have been traveling up and down the east coast and out to the west singing the latest tunes to adoring crowds. Living in hotels and spending evening in smoked filled speakeasy clubs. She was young enough to get modeling jobs in Chicago and even get married before my dad was “Dad”.
The life of a semi-famous star must have been heady stuff to suddenly have a war interrupt her fantasy career. Reality changed and along came my brother.
The next few years seems my future family was bouncing around trying to find work and the music was long gone. Her siblings had married soldiers and sailors and started their own family, but I must assume, there was a family reunion every year at the beach since that tradition lasted years after I arrived.
My mom was the spokesman for how the house and thus my life were run. I was a spoiled brat and could get away with it because my mom always was taking care of me.
When I had my tonsils taken out, my mother sat by my bed feeding me sips of cold water and ice cream. When my appendix burst and I almost died, she was right there. After I fell out of a tree or off my bike and split open my face, she was making fun of the stitches and massive band-aid. She was also the one who found me in bed with a ‘girl’ and rather than reprimand me, told my father to have ‘the talk’. A little too late pops.
She would try and be the mother her mother was, but it just wasn’t in her DNA. I did get distraction from her and have attention deficit but no cigarette burns on the carpet.
Much later I found out she was always there for me with the girlfriends. She stayed in touch with my ex long after and would tell girls I was dating that they shouldn’t hang out with me.
At the same time she taught me how to tell time, tie a tie, hold a fork and write thank you letters. When I started playing in bands she may have had an inkling of a previous life but never let on.
She did all the ‘motherly role’ of life like all the other mothers but it did not fit her. She was attached to her family but no so sure about ours. She did her duty as a mother and I respect her for not leaving the dull humdrum of ‘a housewife’ for the glitz and glamour.
Mom, wherever you are, we went through some good times and some rough spots, but I’ll always remember being swirled around in the ocean with you singing.
We only get one mother.