Mom Jiving to iPod Music
My mother never had a bucket list, and if she had one, jiving to “Life is Like a Mountain Railroad” on my iPod would not have been on it. My mother grew up on a dairy farm near Lititz, Pennsylvania, the oldest daughter in a family of six. Her own mother, Grandma Sadie Landis Metzler, died when she was nine, and because she was needed at home, her own education ended with the eighth grade. What intellectual curiosity I have comes from my Dad’s side, but I thank my mother for constant demonstrations of the social graces, including cooking and entertaining. She equates food with love of friends and family around her mahogany Duncan Phyfe table but that’s another story. These stories show below give a glimpse of her personality.
Mom’s Other Men
Growing up, I noticed my Mother had a lot of men in her life. None of these men competed with Daddy though, and there was no jealousy between them that I could detect. She didn’t have a driver’s license, but life came to her door in the olden days. The Milkman aka Hertzler’s Dairy appeared twice a week and deposited 2 quarts of milk in an insulated metal can with a hinged top. The Stroehmann’s Bread Man walked into the house with his baked goods on a flat tray strapped about his neck: bread, doughnuts, cookies, other sweets. Once a week, a step-van swung by with the Green Grocer huckstering produce of every description: lettuce, beans, other fresh vegetables. To keep it all chilled, the Ice Man came and put a block of ice on top of the refrigerator to cool the food stored below like an ice chest. Every so often the Stanley Man, like a Fuller Brush Man, delivers brushes, cleaning fluids, plastic containers, and shoe strings. The Scissors Man came too with tools to sharpen knives and scissors. Two of Mom’s helpers cruised by in their trucks. For example, Groff’s Meat Market truck came by each week and stopped at the Longenecker house, but only if Mom remembered to put the cardboard card spelling out “Groff Meats” in the living room window. Also, the Rag Man announced his arrival with a sing-song “Rags, old bags” litany as he cruised down Anchor Road with his window down. When Mom opened the door, he took her left-overs, stuffing cloth remnants from Mom’s sewing projects, along with her old wash rags, into his trunk. She had it good!
My Mother – All Things Even
My Mother says she clipped red, pink, and white peonies and set them out on the porch for Memorial Day pickings. Today she has called a neighbor and invited her to come over and take some to share with the other family in the duplex across the street, so everyone gets a chance to enjoy the beauty.
That’s my Mom, with everything fair and even. Like the story of “ The Three Bears“ —not too big, not too small, but just right. The spouses of two of her four children have left their mates. That’s one too many. Pearl and Mary Jean and Cecilia have only one of their children divorced–but not two, that’s excessive. Even one’s too much. Why can’t they “forgive and forget? I just don’t see it,” she says.
Then there’s the matter of the walkers at Bosslers Church. Becky and Sister-in-law Ruth each have a walker. That makes two in the church, so Mom walks in with a cane. “Why a cane when you usually use a walker when you leave your house?” I ask. “A walker would certainly give you more stability, maybe even keep you from falling. Besides, you are the oldest one of the lot. You’ll be 95 in July. People would certainly understand.”
“Oh, we can’t have three walkers at the church. Three walkers in the aisle at Bosslers Church? Tsk, tsk, that would be too many. I’ll just use my cane.” Is it pride, is it something else? No, she just wants things to be even.
Sometimes when I call my Mother, our conversation ends with my quoting Jude 24: “Now unto Him Who is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before his presence with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, to Him be glory, majesty, dominion, and power, both now and evermore. Amen.” Of course, I mean the verse to be applied literally. She gets the point. Last Christmas, though, the meaning of the verse slapped me in the face, yes, actually!
Please Keep Me from Falling
This Friday morning I have Teddy on his leash. Teddy is a cute, playful Cocker Spaniel that licks, jumps and snuggles all in the same minute. His parents and brothers are on vacation in PA, so I have volunteered to walk-pee-poop him around the block—well, several blocks.
Here we gooooo—whoooooooosh! We shoot out of the gate full throttle and down the first block, inspecting Christmas decorations, licking interesting morsels here and there. Oh, here I see some fern fronds that would look good in the vase on my kitchen window sill to garnish the pink & white camellias. I twist the stem and pluck it: Left hand, dog leash—right hand, fern frond. We turn the corner; the sun is shining brighter, the dog scampering left and right enjoying the brisk morning air.
My foot hits a concrete abutment on the sidewalk. Now I find myself in a weird posture, one I typically use only in Power-Pump on Mondays and Fridays at the gym with a 5-pound weight: I’m at a 45 degree angle propelled by the uneven pavement, and I’m falling—I mean really faaaaaalll-ing. Like stills in a movie, my body moves forward in jerky, slow motion. For a split second I think I can right myself, but NO, I’m going down for the count with both hands extended, unleashing the pet, my glasses, the frond and all my uprightness. Blood spurts from both knees, my hands are scraped too; I’m really banged up!
My uprightness—there’s a thought. Always longing for a balance in mood, sense of spirituality, level of energy, not being upset. How many times have I quoted verse 24 from Jude to my 94-year-old Mom: “Now unto him who is able to keep you from falling . . . .”
Indeed, I lost my balance and my dignity for a moment. But, it could have been so much worse: The dog didn’t run off, I am ambulatory despite scrapes on both knees and hands. Where were the angels? My brush with the sidewalk, I could assume, is to remind me that the law of gravity still works and—I am human and therefore subject to its laws. Yet, this time it was ordained that I recover, pick myself up, avoiding a visit to the emergency room with the need for X-rays, a doctor’s diagnosis, splints, or crutches. Who can discern “ Eternal Providence, / And justifie the wayes of God to men”?
You probably have a story about a quirky relative, your mother or someone else. Share it here.
Something else you thought about as you were reading?
God has blessed you with the gift of writing. I have really enjoyed your reading your essays. Keep them coming.
You are a good story-teller, and I love this story. I share a similar memory of my Grandpa Longenecker’s funeral. In PA during that era it was also the custom to display the deceased in his coffin in the living room. At age 5, what I remember are two lamps, each with a pinkish glow at either end of the casket, and adults around me speaking in hushed tones.
My grandmother lived on a small farm in Georgia and when my grandfather died, it was the custom of the day to keep the deceased in his coffin in the living room!
My mother, sisters and I stayed the night before the funeral with my grandmother. I was only 7-8 yrs old and it didn’t bother me because I got to sleep with my grandmother.
My mother and sisters slept in the other bed in the room with us and as is wont to happen when there is a death people tend to laugh easily because you can take only so much sorrow, so mother started talking about grandad getting up and wanting his bed! THAT WAS THE BED I WAS IN!
In a few minutes they were all laughing except me! My grandmother admonished them “Stop that now, you are going to make this poor child wet the bed!”
I have never forgotten that experience and today, at 66 yrs old can still see my grandpa in that coffin. Parents who think taking a young child to a funeral will leave scars shouldn’t worry. Death is a part of life and I have been to more funerals than I can remember.
I didn’t have bad dreams that night or any time I have been to a funeral. Some are sadder than others and I believe the fact I had my gramdmother next to me made all the difference!
Our memories of the “other men” in our mother’s lives coincide. One of the chapters in my book is about food and all the special deliveries made to our house by the men we children looked forward to seeing every week. You’ve given the story a lovely twist. And, of course, the traveling salesman and the farmer’s daughter are two joke themes that required this kind of rural setting. Today neither of them work as well because the “other men” and the “earthy women” don’t encounter each other in the same way.
I don’t believe I mentioned that Mother had free grocery delivery too. She didn’t drive in those days, and Daddy was always busy at the shop, so she made a grocery list, called Boyer’s Store in Rheems, read off her list, and–presto!–had the items delivered to her kitchen table at no extra charge that I can recall. A question I recall her always asking the store clerk at the close of the conversation was “Are you coming up this way?” implying that she’d call Daddy if they were too busy to deliver. Unbelievable!