I was sitting at Starbucks this rainy afternoon enjoying a hot chocolate with whipped cream when I noticed a mother and her daughter sitting across the coffee table from me in the two high backed comfy chairs. The little girl may have been 3 or 4 and was beside herself with pure joy that she could have a cup of hot chocolate and some alone time with her Mommy.
They talked and laughed and hugged and played some sort of hand-clapping game. This little girl’s Mother was the sort of Mother any little girl would be blessed to have. She was soft-spoken and totally involved with this adorable little girl, but not to the point that the child was spoiled or thought she ruled the world. The little girl was well-spoken, quiet, and had manners that I thought no longer existed in little children.
They sat on these chairs totally involved in conversation oblivious to what was happening around them. When it started to get a little damp with all the rain – this Mother took of her coat and wrapped it around her little girl with such love and affection. All you could see of this little girl was her precious face peering out from her Mother’s raincoat. They stayed this way for about a half hour. Talking, laughing, and then just being quiet enjoying being together, understanding that it’s not always necessary to talk. Sometimes silence can express as much as loud conversation, maybe more. It was wonderful to see a child who didn’t have a video game in her face and a Mother not attached to her phone. I didn’t want to intrude on their conversation or their time together, however, it was hard not to watch the loving interaction between the two of them.
In watching this mother and daughter I found myself feeling envious of this obvious closeness and wishing my Mother and I had had more time, more chances to connect with one another when I was a little girl.
My Mother was a product of her environment. She was born in 1928 and her Mother died when she was 9. She was left to take care of siblings and a Father, go to school, do the work around the house, etc. I’m not sure she ever knew the joys of being a child. She was from a generation that just expected women to do whatever the times dictated women should do. She never questioned anything and I never once heard her complain. It was simply what one did.
We lived in an apartment above a restaurant until I was eleven. Mother worked in the restaurant from early in the morning until around dinner time for 50 cents an hour plus tips. The restaurant was in a small conservative town in southern Pennsylvania where everyone knew everyone, and Big Band music was always playing on the Jukebox. None of that Elvis Presley stuff – these folks wanted to stay in the 1940’s. Those who came into the restaurant on a daily basis sat in the same seats, ordered the same food, and watched me grow from a baby to a toddler to an ornery little spitfire (I believe that’s what they called me)
My Mother knew everyone, and everyone knew my Mother. She was good at what she did and I watched her work nonstop as she took orders, poured coffee, rattled orders off to the cook. I would sit on the stool at the end of the counter, and she would wink at me as she passed by, or pull my hair or give me a quick smile as she passed by. I felt at home in that little restaurant. As I got older I helped her fill coffee cups and sugar shakers, and water glasses. I learned a certain work ethic from her just by watching her every day.
She wasn’t much for showing affection but I knew she loved me. She would read to me every night. American History stories – and stories of England. She would show me pictures of Stonehenge and conjure up these tales of how the stones got there. When I stood in front of the circle of stones at Stonehenge in September of this year, I wept. First, I never thought I would ever be physically standing at what I had seen in those pictures all those years ago, and second, I heard my Mother’s voice telling me these tales of “the rocks.” It was a moment I don’t believe I will ever forget.
Sadly my Mother is in an assisted living facility suffering with dementia. We lost my Dad a year and a half ago, and in some ways the dementia is a blessing. She doesn’t remember, so she doesn’t live in the past. When we talk and she recognizes my voice, in that moment she is happy, she is glad to talk to me. She may forget it a few moments later – but in that moment that she remembers – we are both happy, both Mother and her little spitfire…