Thursday, December 20, 2018

Gifts from my mom

The day before my mother died, some one randomly asked me if I was artistic all my life.  Did you always like art things, even when you were young like the elementary students?  I had never thought about it like that, because I don't remember anyone ever saying I was artistic.  But I do know that when I was in 4th grade my mom taught me how to draw horses and that was it.  That was a defining moment of that part of my life.  

This is my mother wishing I hadn't been given a camera! Lol

When I start thinking that through, there are several concepts that pop to my mind.  First of all, apparently my mom knew how to draw.  She was very creative, though she would never have said that out loud and she never defined herself as such.  I can see the proof of that as I think back through my childhood, when she was able to do things as she wished, she could transform a room, sew clothes, knit things, and even did hand photo coloring.  Her work was not displayed prominently, but if you knew where to look her subtle influence was everywhere, while my father's taste were loud and apparent. Second, if she took the time to show me how to draw that first horse, that means I apparently was interested in art.  I remember that I drew a lot, and I tell you it wasn't because of the series of (mostly) bad art teachers I had- but that is for a whole different post someday, or not. I know I practiced and practiced and got attention for it from my peers.  Then only a few years later, she gifted me with a camera.  

I can't imagine why she didnt want us sneaking up on her with a camera
My mom gave me so many gifts that I share with others.  Many of them  came to be through the luck of genetics and many were from the way she lived.  I know my gift of art was a combination of her and my dad.  They were both very gifted people in many ways, but when you spend a good part of your life with a lot of little kids and not a lot of money, you don't have the luxury of creating.  For my dad that came later in life and for my mom, it was sprinkled through out in tiny little pieces. She didn't have a lot to work with (money-wise)  but my mom shared the gift of time and teaching with me- I remember where I was and what she showed me so clearly and it opened up a whole new world. And so I learned to draw.

Mom and Dad and 

My mother didn't like having her picture taken, which is why there are not a lot of them for us to choose from as we begin this final stage of her life.  She took some of the pictures, of course, but when she got me a camera when I was about 12 years old, she usually managed to avoid being in them.***  I wonder if my mom had any idea how she opened up a new world to me when she gave me that little film camera?  It was one of those flat ones with the little bulbs on the top that had 4 sides?  I took so many pictures with it, most of them just bad snapshots, but once in a while I would get a good one and it would give me enough reinforcement to do more.  Plus she kept buying me film and flashbulbs when there wasn't a whole lot of money to spare..... so I started to learn how to take pictures.

Debi and mom and Rosie 

My mom really didn't like to cook all that much, but when  you have 4 little kids  within 5 years, that is what you end up doing.  She also had a variety of other people that she cooked for for various reasons, plus the farm house we lived in had plenty of room for all the relatives that descended on us on any given holiday or celebration, which we loved.   When I  showed interest in learning to cook you can bet that I got a cookbook for Christmas.  I believe the year before I had gotten not one but 2 Easy-Bake baking sets (note- not the oven, which I was a little irritated about, just the cooking sets- we used the big oven, which in retrospect was fine) and thanks to Uncle David for stealing my moms thunder on Christmas Eve, when he gave me the same exact set that mom had  under the tree for me.  Whoops.  I was thrilled to get the second one, let me tell you.  My mom stepped back after making sure I wouldn't burn myself or the house down and let me at it.  Other having ingredients on hand, she rarely intervened.  I was allowed free range of the kitchen.  Eventually it was not only encouraged but expected, but that is how we worked together on things.  Idk what the rest of those deadbeats (lol) did while I was cooking, but they at least had to help with the dishes. She encouraged me to experiment, to try things and rarely did anyone complain.  My mom always was in the background if I needed help and bailed me out more than once...  She might have gotten mad, but I sure don't remember that.  I was free to try.  And I learned to cook.

My mom took care of many, many people. The farm house had a bathroom on the first floor, which was not the case in many houses back in the day, she helped rehab a lot of people.  She also didn't have a job outside the home, which also was not unusual.  My mom was raised by very loving and giving parents, and so she continued that legacy.  She cared for my Grandma Kutz with diabetes at times, a few of my uncles,  later in life my dad, fed a great uncle and his son for 2 years when that uncle lost his wife.  She did so much for them, and I never really felt resentment in her.  I know she got exasperated and annoyed, especially with my grandma, her mother-in-law, but she never really complained.  She opened the house to her parents who at times would stay for a few weeks during corn picking time when Grandpa Oberley would drive the corn truck.  So many people, and it just seemed normal, it was fun for us kids.  I loved having people around then, they were so interesting and I knew they loved me. My mom made everything seem so normal and easy... And I learned to give myself to others.

July 27. 1957
As I mentioned above, we were for the most part, the party givers at our house.  I am not positive how my mom felt about this on any given day, but my dad loved having relatives around.  Our farm house was the family house, where my dad's brothers and sisters grew up and it was pretty big.  And so with a huge living room, dining room and kitchen it was the logical location for get togethers.  I have so many many memories of these parties.  We would have food cooking on the stove, the aunties would bring in the pies and salads and we would store things on the counters, on top of the washer and dryer, in the fridge and out on the steps in the unheated garage.  Little kids were running around and when we got a little older, my sister and I would do "fancy" things and serve people trays of snacks and such.  Again my mom let us do this, bought the things we needed, allowed us our chance to try new things, while she worked in the background making turkey or ham or whatever else needed to be done.  She was so good at orchestrating those meals.   I remember sitting in the kitchen after dinner, listening to mom and my aunties talk, going into the living room to find an uncle to sit by and get hugged, playing with my cousins, surrounded with love.  And I learned how I fit in.

We had a huge garden when growing up, something my dad took particular pride in, and I know my mom was not all that thrilled with.  However, we grew the food, mom got us out in the garden early in the morning before it got too hot to weed it and keep our dad from yelling at us.  She had us all pitch in at least part of the time with the canning and freezing of all this, and while we complained we helped any way. It was a pain, but we would shuck corn or snap beans or dig potatoes and talk and laugh and work together.  My mom kept us after it. We were always hoping she didn't choose us to go into the basement where the potatoes were stored and stick out hands into that dark metal bin.  After we grew up, there was very little garden and I know that she was happy not to ever can again, but putting food up - as they say- is a memory that runs through my childhood.  And I learned about persistence.

My  mom and my favorite kitty

I was admittedly not a very pleasant teenager- in the morning particularly.  I know I was ornery as hell, and I knew that my mom sort of ignored me most of the time when I was like that.  But she tried to get us up for school in a variety of ways that included sending the border collie in to wake us up, which was awesome- and she would some days she would put her head in the door and say the dreaded words: Rise and Shine.  I hated getting woken up by that phrase.  I wonder if she did it to bug the crap out of me, or if she was trying to be positive.  I can respect both of those reasons, really. I am sure that I was not kind to my mother when I was between the ages of 14 and 18, those mornings were horrible, I just didn't want to interact -ever- until after like 9 am.  But having so much experience with teenagers now, I understand what my problem was- I was a teenager.  Years later, when I had kids- not once did she wish a child just like me on me, or roll her eyes at me or anything. She would listen patiently to all the things I wanted to complain about and I loved her for it  I talked to my mom every weekend for at least 30 years. She took my good with my bad and I always knew I could tell her everything.  And I learned about love.

Ella and grandmas
The last time I saw my mom she was very confused but she still knew me.  At least for a while- she got mixed up later and thought I worked there, but as I was leaving I told her that I was afraid  that she wouldn't know who I was.  She looked into my eyes and told me Debi, I will always know you.

I posted a couple of photos on Facebook and am overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from all. I so so appreciate all of your thoughts for me and us.  They are overwhelmingly touching.  The comments from some of my former students affected me the most. My high school students that were with me for one semester or 4 years - all of them are special to me.  I love them unconditionally, I know that they are good people who just need to be accepted.  I know that they needed to not be asked to change who they are,  they just need to be encouraged to be the good person they are meant to be.  Even when they were difficult, they didn't mean to be hurtful.  They just needed someone to listen and teach and encourage, and they turned into wonderful adults.....  And that is how I pass what I have learned  from my mom along to others who need me the most.

If you know anything about me, you know that I do love my presents.  When I look back at the gifts I have gotten from my mom, I don't know how I could do anything else other than anticipate more. From a little camera and a drawing lesson, to experiencing the gift of unconditional love, the presents I have gotten from my mother are some of the most precious of all. 

*** I want to say if you do that- avoid the camera because you are "shy" or don't like the way you look or what have you- quit that.  Relax and smile and let your loved ones have pictures- they love you for you.  Not if your clothes look a certain way or whatever- no one important will care. Not a comment against my mom, I have known enough people who regret not getting more pictures of a loved one who "didn't like it".   You still have a chance- do it


  1. Beautiful tribute. I have so many fond memories of your parents -- your whole family -- I cherish them all!