Mother Longenecker still lives in the same house she and Daddy bought soon after they got married in 1940. Their bedroom looked the same for decades, but it’s changed over the years. Here’s what is missing . . . and what I remember from so long ago.
1. The Art Deco inlaid-wood vanity where Mother sits on a bench to comb her long, glossy black hair before twisting it into a bun topped with a Mennonite covering.
2. A matching wardrobe smelling of moth balls and a copy of Sane Sex Life, with a dust cover of scarlet red and white. Black and white pen illustrations included. Eyes wide in wonder.
3. The chenille bedspread. I love the fluffy texture and the furry feeling under the pillows when I smooth the spread as I make my parents’ bed.
4. A skinny box with a silky slip inside wrapped in white tissue, brought home from a shopping trip to Hagar’s, Garvins, or Watt & Shand in Lancaster. We sometimes call them petticoats.
5. Evening in Paris cologne. Did Mom buy it for herself or was it a birthday gift from Daddy?
6. A jar of Noxzema. Sticking a finger deep in and gouging out a spoon of cleansing cream that feels cold on my skin even in the summertime. Can you smell the camphor and menthol just now? Maybe a touch of eucalyptus?
7. Daddy. He died in 1985.
Postcript: What is still there? Hanging on the wall above a highboy, a framed pastel-tinted print by Wallace Nutting. The title on the left reads “Wig Wag Churning” (girl seated churning butter). A phrase on the right: “Wallace Nutting.” As a youngster, I kept looking for a boy named Wallace cracking nuts. Much later I figure out Mr. Nutting must be the artist.
What images or scents do you associate with your mother?
Another loved one?
Two black and white photo portraits of my parents in their twenties. My mother has long 1940\’s wavy hair and my dad is wearing a white shirt with a casual look as it is open collared. Both are smiling broadly and carefree, not formal at all. Then there\’s a silver oval framed picture of my mother\’s father, the grandfather I never met. Scent? Blue grass by Elizabeth Arden.
And I am sure you will cherish these photos always, especially the memories associated with them. Blue Grass by Elizabeth Arden has now turned into Red Door. I guess I won\’t read too much into that! Thanks again, Georgette, for being No. 1 again in posting today.
Another perfect post. (And sad–Daddy gone.) Wallace nutting tops it all.
Susan, probably each one of us an tell a tale of some misunderstanding of words in songs or confusion about images that puzzled us as children. Thanks for the compliment and the comment, dear follower.
Another poignant post full of memories. My treasured memories are also black and white photos of my folks, but treasured above them all is a birthday card to mom from dad. On the back the most beautiful prose expressing his love for her. Finding it among mom\’s things was the first clue as to where my love of writing had come from.
Sherrey, Cliff and I both have received gifts from parents that were less than perfect: he, a sense of humor and artistic ability, and me, love of music and intellectual curiosity. There is always something to be thankful for as you point out.Your Dad sounds like a sweetheart though. Thanks for stopping by today.
It\’s neat that you have photos of some of the missing things, and, wonderful that you can still visit your mother at home.
Both my parents have crossed the threshold, my mother Mary at age 94 at 2010, and my father, Cecil at age 90 in 2004. My parents moved from the farm to a nursing home in 2002. Three of my siblings and I are selling the farm, incrementally, to two brothers who faithfully keep the farm going. I try to visit at least once a year. In 2011 I wrote this poem during a visit. My mother\’s apron carried the most scent–earthy, body smells.
Here, as left,
Your apron hangs in the hallway,
And, on the hook, waits Papa\’s winter town cap.
Recipe books and cards still in the drawers,
Tractor sounds from the north field.
It\’s as though you stepped out.
\”Gone to Sewing Circle,\” or
\”Went to Clinton with Aunt Rachel,\”
are messages we might expect.
Going on 20 years is near the truth.
Ten summers ago was your last garden,
your last time picking and canning peaches.
Yet all seems well, and life means all it ever meant.
Out of sight can never mean you\’re out of mind.
Your rhubarb flourishes where planted.
Marble roller delights grandchildren.
Monuments to talent and taste.
Could this be the way for all of us–
To slip away as you have done,
while seeming to be near,
Leaving scents on air; in the next room,
Perhaps, somewhere about the house?
Wonderful sensory detail, Dolores. I especially like your phrase \” the most scent–earthy, body smells.\” My Dad\’s old shoes, the aroma of my mother\’s night clothes come to mind also.
In my older generation, only my Aunt Ruthie (age 95), now in a retirement home and my mother Ruth, almost 96 are still living. But neither they nor I will live forever. I sense that our mortality is one of the reasons I feel compelled to tell our stories now. The poetry is touching and true. Thank you!
Marian, this was a wonderful, creative, way to bring back memories. \”No ideas but in things!\” Things that stood out for me: the feel of the chenille under the pillows as you made the bed. And the sex book! I remember a red book in the nightstand and a sense that it was something I wasn\’t supposed to see, but I don\’t think it was illustrated! Shocking.
You are so good at sensory detail. I think you covered all the senses, including the sixth one, in this post!
Reading your comment, I have to wonder now whether the red book actually did have illustrations. I\’ve heard other writers of memoir comment about the confusion between the real and the imagined at times. Did you have such sensations as you wrote BLUSH? Thanks for reading and responding with helpful observations as always, Shirley.
Yes to the issue of what we know and what we imagine. I can only be responsible for what I think I remember and do my best to check with others. The internet is invaluable for that purpose, as you demonstrate very well with your own posts.
The scent that I remember associated with my mother was Jergens hand lotion – that original sweet almond sent. She rarely left home without me. I was the baby in the family with two brothers 8 and 10 years older than me. On those rare occasions when she went to an EMC function with my father, she would use the Jergens Lotion. I remember the feeling of loneliness that would creep in just as soon as I smelled the scent, knowing that she would be gone. I know my big brothers loved me, but as older brothers are, they had no tolerance for a little sister who was frightened by the creaking of the old house as the night air cooled the house down. I still prefer Jergens Lotion, and remember my mother with so much love.
This is a beautiful tribute to your mother, who obviously prized her only daughter, and the baby of the family. People who know such things say that scent is the most direct way to access memory, and I believe it is true. Thank you for stopping by to share this special memory, Fay.
I really like this post. My parents, also married in the 40\’s, also died in the bedroom they moved into in 1955. Number 7, so unexpected, so sad! Q.
Thank you, Qathy! I can tell from your blog site you have a sense of humor, hence the \”Q.\” Also, we share some similar events and memories. Thank you so much for reading and commenting today.
What a beautiful way to honor both of your parents. Marian. Your words and the photos truly brought out all the senses. The comments are beautiful too.
Interesting how your photos are usually of the great outdoors and mine are of interiors. Together we have a great balance. Thanks for the comment, Patti, once again.
That is a great balance, I never though of it like that. If you ever need a nature photo, just holler! 🙂
Thanks, Patti! I will–your photos are superb.
Nana R. always kept noxema and vicks by her bed; she put Vicks on her lips every night, especially in the winter. I have a bottle of Vicks by the bed for the very same reason! lol
Welcome again, Jenn. To this day, Mother has a jar of Vicks on her dresser. But I think hers goes into her nostrils, not her lips. However, in either case the strong scent gets into the sinuses where it works its magic. Thanks for the reminder.
Growing up my mother always soaked in bathtub with skin-so-soft by avon I believe I\’m the only one of her eight children to continue that trait. My daughters love soaking and my granddaughters also enjoy the peaceful soak. Gloria
Sent from my iPhone
The Avon – Maybe that is why you have such beautiful skin, Gloria. I have heard Skin So Soft is good for repelling mosquitoes too.
You have seen Mother\’s bedroom more recently than I have, and you probably remember how it looked in the olden days–ha! By the way, I have printed some of the photos you sent me and have mailed them already to Mom. Soon I want to do a post on Mother and her ministry with New Life for Girls and may want to \”talk\” to you about that–maybe by email. She is so happy you all visited her and still care about her so much after all these years. Thank you so much for reading & posting today.
I love the erotic tone of the memories of things past, Marian–mirror, bedspread, perfume, silky slip, book about sexuality, and of course your dad. Even the smell of Noxema to soothe and beautify our skin. Most missing from my bedroom of 40 years? My husband Vic. Thank you for the beautiful images of your mother\’s inner world.
With gratitude, Elaine
That\’s the marvelous thing about feed-back on blog posts: Readers like you get me to see things I miss. I know you must miss Vic terribly. The blog world is a safe place to express yourself, encourage others, and find healing. Blessings, Elaine. And Thank You!
Hand-painted dishes will always make me think of Mom, as will blueberry tea. Made from scratch dumplings make me think of my Grandma, and scuppernongs make me remember my granddaddy. Notice how many of my memories are wrapped in foods!
Food, fragrances, family heirlooms–all are tied to memory. As for food, it is often shared around a table, where we rehearse our family stories, especially so when was younger, maybe you too.
What great fun to discover you with your blog. Hope to see you at the writers\’ festival. Mary Sue
Oh, Mary Sue. How wonderful to meet you again and here on my blog in the comments column. Yes, I have switched from academic writing to blogging and learning the craft of memoir.
I have even used the metaphor of the convent to describe my first year of teaching. I\’m sure you can relate to some of the details: http://plainandfancygirl.com/2015/09/09/my-year-in-a-convent/
Yes, I do look forward to seeing you again at the Festival!