One day last week, city editor Karen Petersen mentioned that her mother would soon be turning 65 and that what she wanted for her birthday was “memories.”
As in, she wanted her two children to jot down some mom-related recollections.
Karen said she was really having a hard time coming up with something befitting a mother she obviously loves a great deal.
“Well,” I said, “if my mom asked that of me, I know some of the things I would write about.”
And so, in the hope of priming the pump for Karen, I told her about three special memories I have of my 86-year-old mother, who was a single parent after my dad died when I was 11, and reminded her of one other memory that wasn’t exactly special, unless by special you mean nightmarish.
And just for the heck of it, I’ve decided to tell you, the loyal readers, about them too, in no particular order:
– Starting from the time I was quite young, my mom would take me to the public library in downtown Milwaukie pretty much whenever I wanted to go. I’ve always loved to read and in fact can’t remember not knowing how to read, though I can remember being a new reader and struggling to sound out long words.
Anyway, she would bring me to the library and then show what now seems like tremendous patience as I looked through all the books in the children’s section, which was in the basement, on the various topics I was deeply interested in: Sports, whales, frontier heroes, mountains and tornadoes were the leaders. If memory serves, you could check out seven books at a time, so that’s what I usually did, some of them many, many times. “Kings of the Home Run,” by Arthur Daley, came to our house a lot. At the time the book was written, the top four on the HR list were Babe Ruth, Jimmy Foxx, Ted Williams and Mel Ott, and anyone with more than 300 jacks made the book. Anymore, a book containing bios on everyone with 300 would be “War and Peace” size.
But the bottom line is, reading and learning were important to my mom, and thus she never complained a bit about these library expeditions.
– Sports, meanwhile, weren’t overly important to her beyond the fact that her husband and sons liked them, so she managed to learn quite a bit about them too. She always supported my baseball efforts — with the exception of that freshman game at West Linn in which I struck out in the first inning and my mom, seated down the right field line, yelled “Hey, what happened up there?” as I ran to my position in right field.
Beyond always attending my games, a few times a year my mom would upon my request bring me to the now-defunct Caplan’s Sporting Goods in downtown Portland and patiently look on as I pawed through the hundreds of baseball bats on the shelves in Caplan’s beneath-the-sidewalk storage area (it was actually accessed by a sidewalk elevator, though stairs inside the store were an option too).
A pro stock Louisville Slugger went for about $7 back then, and if I’d scraped up enough quarters and found a stick I really liked after hefting virtually all of them, I’d get it. Over the years, I bought probably 10 bats there. I still have every one.
I love those old pieces of sporting equipment, and they also serve to remind me to, when necessary, show the kind of patience and selflessness my mom displayed on those Caplan’s basement excursions.
– I’ve always loved animals and also have always been sort of a farmer at heart (my mom, in fact, grew up on a Minnesota dairy) even though I was raised in a Brady Bunch/Wonder Years sort of neighborhood. Knowing how much I enjoyed interacting with critters, my mother would every now and then bring me to this small farm — near downtown Milwaukie, of all places — where from the sidewalk, through a chain-link fence, you could feed bread crumbs to sheep and ducks and all kinds of other creatures. I absolutely loved going there and feeding those animals.
I don’t think it would take much effort to come up with lots of other special memories of my mom, including all the clothes she lovingly mended for me. Do people even sew torn clothes anymore, or just get rid of them and get new stuff?
Anyway, thanks, Mom, for those trips to the library, Caplan’s and that little farm, and for everything else. I know you always aimed to do your best for me, and outings like that prove it.