Mesmerized, I loved to watch her hands at work. It didn't matter if she kneaded bread, guided bits of cloth through the sewing machine creating a new dress, or if they flew across the keys of the organ. If I positioned myself just right, I could observe her feet keeping time on the organ pedals while wondering how she could make her fingers hit the perfect notes to recreate, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." No, she never got to live there, but it was still her favorite song and I recall many trips visiting friends and family in the vicinity of the Golden Gate Bridge. For me, so much of my memories of Mom include an image of her hands.
|San Francisco (photo credit: Deborah Ganz)|
Usually she worked on her manicure some time during the week, favoring vibrant pinks with hints of red. However, shortly after all her work either her gardening or cooking would chip up those carefully made up nails. I don't recall seeing her working on them too often, but she found time in her busy schedule to include this detail. Probably just before getting together with her girlfriends to play bridge while we were off to school.
Most of my childhood she played in two bowling leagues, a morning group for the Moms and a couples' evening group that both she and Dad participated in. Mom usually played a leadership role in these groups, treasurer or president. I remember her counting out the dues money and placing different amounts in little manila envelopes for First through Fifth place winners. There usually was a Booby Prize too for the person who did the worst in the league.
When I turned into a teenager, we moved back to Ft. Wayne, Indiana and I became her oldest child living at home. This changed our relationship since Mom had none of my nine older brothers and sisters nearby to talk to about things. So when I returned from spending the summer with my older sister Joyce's family, Mom stopped in my bedroom one night as I was getting ready for bed.
She had been working as a real estate lady in California for about a year just before an earthquake unsettled my dad and he made us move back to Indiana. She liked working after spending 30+ years being a housewife and mother of dozen kids. Before she took up real estate, Mom cooked, cleaned and looked after our family with few diversions and distractions
But when we relocated to Indiana, she learned that the real estate licensing laws were a bit different for those in California. She had taken courses at a vocational school in the San Fernando Valley about a year before we moved and passed her real estate licensing exam on the first try. However Indiana required her to take college courses which had her very concerned.
"What's the problem, Mom? You're the smartest person I know. You'll be a whiz at those college classes."
"I'm not worried about the classes," she explained, "It's the application to take the classes."
"The application," I asked, "Why should that be a problem?"
"They want to know what high school I graduated from..." she trailed off leaving me completely puzzled.
"Well just fill in what high school you graduated from," seemed simple enough to me.
"Well the high school burned down and all the records were lost," she replied.
Now Mother had just celebrated her 58th birthday and all of this discussion about high school seemed just ridiculous to me.
"I don't see the problem, Mom, you are way smarter than the high schoolers I go to school with. Just fill in the high school and let them figure out the records." There, solved, no muss, no fuss.
She looked away and fessed up what the real problem on her mind was. "It's just that I never got to graduate from high school." She stared out the bedroom window, looking much like the 16-year-old in me felt.
"You never graduated?" This took a moment to sink in for me. Education came highly prized in this household with my parents usually springing extra money that was tight to send us to parochial school from first through twelfth grade.
"No, Mom and Dad made me quit because Mom was so sick and needed me to stay home and help with the younger kids." I had never met my grandmother on Mom's side because she had passed away from cancer long before I was born.
"And the high school you went to burned down and all the records were lost?"
"Yes, so it's a real problem," she said.
"So they can't even check the records?" my mind began spinning with possibilities. "Mom just put down that you went to that high school and graduated. They can't check and you will be able to get your real estate license again!"
"You really think I should?"
"You'll do great in those classes. Get yourself enrolled and take that licensing exam as soon as you can." And she did. When the semester ended, she had aced all her classes and before we had been in Indiana for a year, went back to selling real estate. I felt so proud of her.
|Mom's picture for her real estate flyers|
By the following summer, we sat across for one another at the dining room table organizing her Multiple Listing Services real estate books. "Now, Mom, tell me more about when you were a kid, and learning about music, and taking care of your younger brothers and sisters."
Proverbs 31:25-30 ESV
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” ...