Mom was a a party girl. Not a loose, bamboozling trollop but a really fun-loving person. She was weighed down much of her adult life with the labors attendant on raising a brood of eleven children but for all the challenges those demands placed on her her love of life remained.
Mom was an English major in college and loved literature, and while her tastes slid towards the romance novels in my teen years (escaping the demands of little children?) her books of poetry and Reader’s Digest condensed novels filled wall to wall shelves in our second floor closet. Mom left some of those volumes around the house, readings for spare moments she carved out in her day.
When I was still quite small I remember Mom taking her brood, in my mind resembling the ducks in Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings, to the public library. I loved the library and everything about it; I still do. I loved playing in the donut shaped seats but more, looking and reading through the children’s picture books. And from those early beginnings, like Mom, I became a life long lover of books and the worlds they opened to me.
Mom also loved all things beautiful and I grew up flipping through the Reader’s Digest copy of Beautiful America, large picture books of our national parks, and coffee table sized books of famous art from around the world. These were purchased or borrowed from the library, but they were always around.
Mom also loved music, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette McDonald were among her favorites, though happily in my mind, she also called the classics her friends. No one had to tell me Mozart was great, because from my early years Mozart waltzed through my brain, his classical strains heard from our oversized, furniture piece/stereo. I loved the rousing music and canon fire of Tchaikovsky’s War of 1812 as much as I did the growing strains of drums in the Rolling Stone’s Ruby Tuesday my older brother and sisters played.
My own family used to check out framed prints from the same library I grew up in, when the library still did that. (Like free shipping on books checked out online, framed prints are a thing of the past now.) Raef Vaughan Williams and “Lark Ascending”, New Age standards on the Windham Hill label, and children’s books on tape lit my girls imagination just as Mom and the public library lit mine.
My first book of poetry was stolen. Mom had a copy of “101 Famous Poems” in her secretary. I’d seen it there for some time so when a 7th grade literature class required poetry, I knew just where to go. I took the book off her shelf to do my assignment— and never returned it. That book sat in my college dorm room and in my family’s first apartment. It accompanied me on hiking trips through the Rocky Mountains. It’s pages became love worn as they shared with me Kipling and Shelley, Byron and Guest. I glued cardboard to the cracked and torn covers to protect the pages inside.
Two broken and repaired porcelain mallard ducks now adorn our dining room. They’re not much to look at but they have a history. They adorned my paternal grandparents home when my Dad was growing up. When Mom and Dad were cleaning house and divesting family treasures Mom asked me what I wanted. “Nothing” was my quick reply, assuming Mom understood I meant it was people, not things, that were to be most treasured. But Mom was sharp in her response. She valued the folksy mallards, sitting there among the treasures to be distributed, as well as their home spun, handsome beauty, because they were ties to our family, and ties to my father’s past. Their beauty was more inferred than visible, because of who they were attached to.
Mom taught me that beauty was both intrinsic as well as applied. I have my own well worn treasures that have a beauty others can’t readily see. I hope that should they be doled out to my children, or grandchildren, they see at least a rustic beauty because of the value they held to one they might hold dear.
I loved my Mom. And I loved and still appreciate the ways she passed on her love of beauty to a young boy too busy and full of himself to realize in those busy moments the value of God’s gift of beauty in both the rude and rustic, as well as the sublime.
Mom was a beautiful person, outside and in. And her beauty, to me at least, was tied to the fact that she loved what was beautiful, and passed on that love of the beautiful to others, and to me.
(Pass it On, 1: https://appliedheart.com/2013/10/04/pass-it-on/ )