Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mom's Memorial Speech

Mom was a private person in many respects & didn't like to call too much attention to herself. This is not to say that she wasn't fiercely independent, tough as nails & honest to a fault, while also being extremely intuitive, sensitive & loyal. I never doubted for one moment where I stood with her, although at times she really did surprise me with her ability to support who I was & stuck up for me when I was sure she wouldn't.

We moved back to the Island when I was 16, which is a fun age for most parents all around. I'm sure they would have rather left me behind with my first serious boyfriend & I pretty much made their lives miserable from then on. My pay back was skipping school & generally being a pain in the ass. One day I was leaning inside a school door & talking to some one with a lit cigaret in my hand. Just then the Vice Principle walked around the corner & a wide smile crossed his lips. He cheerfully hauled me down to office & called mom. Just as quickly his face visibly fell & it was a very short conversation because all mom said was, "Ok, send her home."
I thought for sure it was going to be bad news for me, but I when I walked in the door, she said, "I wasn't going to give that smug guy the satisfaction, but stick to the smoking area from now on." (This was the 70's by the way & I think she was just grateful I wasn't smoking pot at the time & had been arrested.)

Many of us here today & especially her children, knew as much about moms background as can be expected, yet as it was with my dad, when that twilight place came, the memories went further back & her younger self emerged, while the present faded away.

My grandfather, who sadly I never met, was born in Crief, Scotland & after the first World War,(where he was with The Black Watch, serving in Mesopotamia), traveled down to find work in Newcastle upon Tyne. There he met my grandmother at the Green Grocer, (Co-op), where they both worked & then married in 1925. Mom & 3 other children soon followed, 2 years apart; two boys & two girls & as the depression loomed closer, so did the lack of work. Mom told us that granddad didn't have steady work for nine years & things were as tough as the coal mining town they lived in. Two Aunts took the girls in off & on over several years, while the boys stayed at home. Mom quickly became responsible for getting herself & her younger sister on & off trains & back & forth to visit home. The Aunt my mom stayed with was childless & wealthy, while the other was a bit more from the rugged side of the tracks. Mom loved to tell the story about coming to the home dinner table with her own high tea manners, while her sister sat there, swearing like a sailor.

Mom left school at 14, which was not at all unusual, worked in a shoe store & even saw Vivian Leigh & Lawrence Olivia live at the local Royal Theater. She then left home by 17 to join the RAF as the second war wound down, meeting & soon marrying dad. Derek, then Karen were born & soon came the day when dad began talking about immigration to Canada, where he had done some of his flight training. Neither had lived far from their home villages before, but she packed up the children, got on a boat with 2 large trunks, & landed in Ontario, Canada. (I always envied her fortitude & appreciated that whenever we wanted to travel later on, she was always all for it.) I was the third child & little did she know at the time that a move to New Jersey & then Long Island, where Janice was born, was in her future.

All of these moves occurred before I was six years old, which was stressful on all of us, but when dad wanted to make the move to work for Boeing in Seattle, she put her foot down, firmly telling him she was done moving. I guess it took almost a year for her to agree to come, AFTER dads boss called & said she really should at least come for a visit.

We did eventually move here obviously & except for a few years back east again after the SST failed, we made our home here & her children never lived far away. Mom loved the Island & had many good friends & family close by. She always had a full & busy social calendar.

When I was about 9 or 10, summer came & I was ready to go swimming & be an all around lazy kid, when mom announced we were going to volunteer with Head Start in the Central District of Seattle, which at the time had the highest crime area of the city. We took the bus downtown & were literally the only white folks there. This experience as a young volunteer had a huge influence on me & I believe later led me to my work for many years with Head Start.

It was not always easy to be around mom, while knowing she was doing the best she could with what she had. She truly believed her children's lives were 'a walk in the park' compared to her own childhood & she was probably right. I gained a deep love of learning from her & dad, along with the ability to endure, with strength & tenacity, the road ahead.

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