THOSE WERE THE DAYS continuing story….


Mom, who was our grandmother, but insisted that her grandchildren call her mom, was a major force in my mother’s family and therefore in our family as well.  As a result of having to call her mom, we had to call my mother, mother.

When we were children, we often went to visit Mom with my mother.  She lived several blocks away and since we did not have a car, walking would have to do.  Three of mom’s daughters, she had eight, lived with her at the time.  And a few had married and had their own homes and families.  Two became teachers and the rest worked in the silk mills in the area and turned in their pay to mom as long as they were living at home.  Mom used some of the money to send two of the youngest girls to Teacher’s College.  Mom was very progressive especially being she was from the “Old Country”.

We, my sisters and I, were shy and would hide behind my mother if we were asked any questions when we visited.  Mom would comment on how bashful we were and my mother would scoff and say, “They are not that way at home!  Can’t keep them quiet there.”  Which of course, made us more bashful when we were out..

We kids enjoyed playing in mom’s large backyard where she kept chickens and had a vegetable garden.  We made up our own games and were usually pretty tired when mother would call us in for a snack of lemonade and cookies that mom had made.  Usually oatmeal and raisin cookies and the lemonade was so cool and refreshing that we guzzled it down.

After all the playing and then walking home we kids were pretty tired and usually took a nap, giving mother a brief respite and maybe a visit with her friend and neighbor, Mrs. Kelly.  Mrs. Kelly lived right next door to us and had a large yard in which were planted all manner of vegetables.  She used to give us vegetables on a regular basis, anywhere from carrots to tomatoes and onions.  My mother would make wonderful stews with chunks of meat and always potatoes added.  My mother had a small garden and even some chickens but with four children, was always grateful for donations of food especially around the holidays.

Mrs. Kelly, in addition to being very helpful to us, was also a bad influence on my mother, teaching her to smoke and sometimes drink alcohol.  But mother never became a big drinker and she never became a heavy smoker either, in spite of Mrs. Kelly.  But they did have a good time when they got together.  They both loved hearing and telling a good story.  There was always a lot of laughing when they got together.

To be continued.

18 Day of NaBloPoMo/The Wake/The Wake Continues

Anna and MarionThe Wake

Mother and I went into the parlor and stood by the casket to say a prayer for Aunt Mamie. A shudder ran through me as I gazed at her lying on the pink satin lining of the coffin.  She looked so alive!  That part of the Wake I didn’t like, looking at the body and some people even kissed the corpse.  When I was little I will never forget  my Mother making me kiss my Grandmother in her casket. When my lips touched the cold skin, I screamed so loud everyone was holding their ears.  So of course Mother did not try to make me kiss any more corpses.

Aunt Mamie had makeup on for the first time in her life and she was dead.  She was also wearing her best dress even though she wasn’t going anywhere.  Except maybe to Heaven which I thought was doubtful.  The dress was black and of course and my Mother remarked that she looked better in death than she ever had in life.

After viewing the body, we went into the kitchen where the rest of the family and a few friends were sitting around the big wooden table.  A few of the women were setting the table with plates and silverware.  My Grandmother was slicing a big ham that someone had brought and there were assorted salads including macaroni and potato salad.  All kinds of cakes and cookies were piled on the table and of course the children were hovering around that area.  Mother went to help the other women putting the food out and I ran outside to play with all my cousins who by the sound of it were having a merry time.

In the big yard a was an outhouse that we sometimes used for hiding when we played hide and seek.  Of course you had to hold your nose for as long as you could stand it in there.  It was a great hiding place as no one ever found you there.  Or maybe they just didn’t want to come in there.  As we were playing, I noticed through the fence that Father Kelly was coming up the walk.  He was going to lead everyone in saying the Rosary for Aunt Mamie.  I think we kids were exempt, thank goodness.  After that much time on my knees, they would be really sore.  We played outside until dusk and then were called in to eat.  By that time everyone was ravenous and we noisily started chomping on whatever was put in front of us.  After everyone was done eating, there was still quite a bit left.

It was very dark out by this time but a few neighbors were still coming in, mostly for the food I think.  I was still at the table finishing off a cookie but when I looked around I realized, I had not seen my father or Uncle John for all the time we had been there. I noticed the parlor, where the casket was, appeared very dark with a slight glow emanating from the doorway.

Just as I was biting into the cookie, a strange noise coming from the parlor made me jump and drop the cookie.  Tripping over each other, a few women ran to the doorway to the parlor and they let out a shriek.  I ran over to the doorway where my Mother was standing with her mouth open in shock, but she blocked the way saying, “This is not something you need to see.”  Most of the mothers there kept their children from the parlor until they left for the night.

Mother told me later that Himself, who was very drunk, was holding Aunt Mamie up in a sitting position and Uncle John, who was also drunk, was trying to pour whiskey down her throat.  They were both saying, “You old witch, you never took a drink when you were alive, so bottom’s up!”  Then they dropped her back down into the coffin as they danced a jig around the room!