She met us at the Red Owl grocery store that night in 1972 like every Tuesday night after work for her weekly food shopping venture. She never showed it, but she must have had just a little dread seeing two or three of us boys waiting there for her to ride on the front of her cart, annoyingly so, or to beg her to get the expensive sugared cereals because they had the best prizes inside. She smiles and says, "Hello Jimmers, Pauly Wally, and Reuben," her nicknames for each of us boys.
Paul rides on the front of the cart facing Mom while Rob and I tag along and give advice when Mom asks what kind of cookies to get. "Get the Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Pinwheels, please?" we plead.
"No, those are always gone on the first day, then you have nothing. Pick out two other kinds," she says.
Mom is on a tight budget and more often she shops for bulk rather than taste. With six kids, many of them teenagers, trips to the store mean a cart piled high and, on some occasions a second partially filled cart. This brings dirty looks from some of the holier than thous who think big families are a travesty.
While she picks and chooses her items according to her extensive coupon library held in a billfold type case, we nag her about getting advances on our allowance, or how the dog vomited on the carpet, again. She seems distracted as she says "Oh yeah? Hmmm..." to most of our constant badgering. The rigors of a single parent life are hard to look straight in the eye when you're trying to determine whether your budget will allow you to get ground chuck instead of ground beef, because it's a better cut. Usually it fell to ground beef.
As self-absorbed boys, for the most part we are clueless to how this litany of nags, demands and home headlines must be slowly sucking the life out of Mom after an eight hour day at the Medical Center. She just keeps pushing the cart, pinching the pennies and grinding it out.
After we checkout, she pulls the forest green Chevy Impala around to the grocery pickup lane. The bag boys put the groceries in the trunk and it spills around us boys in the back seat. Mom thanks him and we drive the four blocks home. She puts us all to work running groceries to the house. Before she can unload them, we seek out the Quisp and Captain Crunch. We open them greedily, bow them out, shake them and dig up to our forearms to get the nineteen cent prize at the bottom.
"Oh, I wish you guys wouldn't do that," Mom pleads. It falls on deaf ears, as we do it week after week.
When she is done putting the groceries away, she changes into her nightgown, even though it's only seven o'clock at night. Then she wraps her beehive hairdo in toilet paper and covers it with a hair net thing - because everyone knows that that combination is magic and keeps the beehive hived. After a television show or two, she and the rest of us head up to bed.
Tomorrow she wakes up to grind it out again. Car troubles, pet woes, sick kids, bounced checks, appliances on the fritz, a kid struggling with grades, and all of the angst and emotional turmoil that comes with teenagers and grade school children.
This was our life. And to a certain extent, parts of it probably were (or are) your life. We were fortunate to have a mother who loved us, cared for our wounds - both physical and emotional, and met the demands of six kids. I am also fortunate to have a wife who did the same for our kids. She, in turn had a mother who did the same for her.
As a kid, moms kinda make the world go round. I know I am blessed to know a ton of good moms and have heard enough about a few bad ones to know how lucky I am.
So on this Mother's Day, I want to give a shout out to the mother of 1972 who continues to be a role model to me and my own kids. I also want to recognize those who are in the throes of motherhood and give you accolades and tell you to keep grinding it out. It is so worth it down the road. And finally, I want to let those that aren't mothers either by choice or fate that I love them for the women they are, be it aunties, sisters, mentors, teachers, girlfriends and pet moms.
Happy Mothers Day to my mom, my wife, and my Mother in Law. I love you all!