Published on May 6th, 2013 | by Karin Jenkins0
Finding Beauty Through my Mother’s Voice
This May marks a very significant Mother’s Day in my life. It is my first one without my own mother. I will be honest, it hasn’t been easy. A whole year of “firsts” without my mom to talk to, celebrate with, share ideas with, or even to just get her confession of which key ingredient she “accidentally” left off of her holiday recipe cards.
I needed her to promise me I would survive menopause this year and so would everyone else that came in contact with me. She still needed to be on the other end of the phone every time I reached out to call her with a question or to just talk about the type of day it was. I needed her by my side in the hospital assuring me that everything was going to be okay and I was going to make it. She left me with no warning and I felt like I still wasn’t prepared to fully graduate into being the woman she had spent all my life preparing me to be.
She used to always tell me “be still and really listen from within your own heart, an angel will be there to guide you.” She was right. So many times this year I needed to hear her voice for guidance, telling me what to do…and I did. I think we all need to understand that we have this power within each of us to continue to hear our loved ones from the other side. This past Christmas, when I got to the part in the recipe that was “missing,” I would get a feeling of my mom enjoying my frustrated moment and then that ingredient would miraculously pop into my mind. I have realized that we still talk – just on another level now.
My mom taught me to be strong and independent and stand up for what I believed in. She let me fight my own battles, but I knew she always had my back. Through my school years, when times seemed tough or unfair, she would sit with me in the kitchen and we would have a cup of her famous hot Russian Tea and all my troubles would seem to disappear by the time my cup was empty. She taught me to laugh at myself and not take life too seriously. To quote her, “The greatest gift in life is a sense of humor. Being able to laugh at yourself is a talent.”
She would make me repeat that every time I did something stupid or embarrassing, which, if you know me, could be quite often. Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit all of my mom’s great talents. She could sew and design amazing costumes and clothes. I was asked to leave the Singer Sewing class she put me in when I was a young teen, due to the pair of “crotch-less” pants I turned out before the two week course ended. She never could quite get over where she went wrong with my sewing skills, or lack thereof.
My mom taught me how to be respectful of myself and the world around me. To know how important it was to love and accept yourself before you could truly love others even though that was something she battled within her own self most of her life. She would tell me to never do anything that would make it difficult for me to look at myself in the mirror or not be able to sleep at night.
She was my “cheerleader” when everyone else said I couldn’t do it – whatever that “it” happened to be. She taught me how to cook, clean, and be the perfect hostess. She also taught me that ordering out, hiring help, and meeting your friends at a restaurant was okay too. We loved to shop together and be the first to sport (or risk) a new style of hair, makeup or clothing. She allowed me to find myself and realize that finding ways to do what you love and get paid to do it was success.
Before I got married, her advice to me was, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. The way to let him know if he was in trouble is also through his stomach.” She then proceeded to give me the recipe for her “Tomato Ding-Ding.” It was an awful concoction of stewed tomatoes and boiled hot dogs. It was disgusting. If my dad got that for dinner, well, enough said. I have been married almost 32 years and David still hasn’t done anything quite bad enough to warrant the dreaded “Tomato Ding-Ding.”
Our favorite food when we were alone together was a bologna sandwich with smashed potato chips on fresh white bread while watching our favorite movie, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?” My best car ride memories were when we were alone and cranked up the volume on the 8-Track tape to Glen Campbell’s Greatest Hits and sang at the top of our lungs.
When we were left alone too long, we would get in big trouble by trying to color each other’s hair. She taught me to always keep a wig in your closet that you could wear until your hairdresser could un-do the “at-home” beautification mess you got yourself into. She taught me so many important little life lessons like the best way to eat a tomato – grow it yourself and when it was ripe, knock the dirt off it and eat it right there in the middle of the garden.
She would always say, “Try everything once. It’s better to say I am glad I did than to say, I wish I had.” She started so many family traditions that I carried on with my own children and now see them continue to carry on in their own homes. Life really does go on – taking the best parts of the past and the people we loved right along for the journey.
My mom, Jean Dewey, was one of a kind. She married my dad three days after high school and he was her one and only true love (except for 50’s Teen Idol singing star Pat Boone, whom she said my dad was aware of and cool with). She raised two daughters – me and my sister, Julie. We were a handful and often times challenging, but she loved us for our spunk and uniqueness and embraced whatever we got ourselves into. The two most dangerous words we could say to our mother was “I’m bored”. She would fix that situation real quick with some ugly job. I don’t believe we repeated that mistake more than once.
She was a talented interior decorator, gardener and even got her pilot’s license despite being terrified to fly alone. She did it once and then checked it off her list. Same with theatre – when we moved to Florida in 1987, from Oberlin, Ohio, we auditioned and got the two female leads in a play called “Three Men on a Horse” at the Little Theatre of New Smyrna Beach. Her theatre debut and career ended with that one show, but that one glorious mother/daughter moment in time will live on in my heart forever.
Her favorite color was green, her favorite song was “Jean” by Rod McKuen, and her favorite television show was “Jeopardy” where she always rocked the “potent potables” category. She loved to travel, fish and read books about everything. She believed the musical “Mame” was written about her and she treated life much like the lead character of that story.
My mother. My teacher. My angel. I miss you, but I do hear your voice loud and clear and it sounds more beautiful than ever.
Happy Mother’s Day to my mom and to all moms on earth and in heaven.