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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Honoring My Mother - Revamp Series, Number One*

Many of you have been with me for quite a long time, and some of you may be reading my blog for the first time. You may not know that my mother died six weeks after my seventh birthday. I essentially lost both of my parents at that time since my father was imprisoned for beating her so severely that it resulted in her death two days later. It was a very formative experience for me. Not only did our family break apart, with the four children ending up in three different places; it scared and scarred all of us in different ways. As the years passed, I was shocked to realize how little I remembered from my childhood. I believe that sometimes the brain realizes that the trauma that is almost too much to bear, so it hides the memories very deep. The problem with this is that in some cases, the good things are forgotten along with the bad. In spite of this, I still do remember some things about my Mama.

A very strong memory is one that dates back to when I was four years old. My mother was sitting watching the tv (during the day!) and there was some kind of parade going on. It wasn't a fun parade, though. Everyone was dressed in black, and most of the people were crying. There was even someone walking next to a horse that was wearing a saddle and had boots in the stirrups that were facing backward. Mama was crying, too. I don't think I was used to seeing her cry, so I was scared and confused. I asked her what was wrong and she simply said that a very good man had died. It wasn't until years later that I realized that we had been watching the funeral of President John F. Kennedy. Although it is a sad memory, it is still precious. That day, I saw her in a way that children don't always get a chance to experience. Her emotions were raw, deep, and pure, and because of my youth and inexperience, I wasn't able to appreciate it until years later.

One emotion I fully understood was when when Mama got angry about something. I had been given a Mister Potato Head toy, and was enjoying putting the diffent facial features on his plastic potato body. While I was watching tv, a commercial came on that showed kids playing with their Mister Potato Heads. But they were using real potatoes! I got excited and ran to the kitchen to ask Mama for a potato to play with. I suspect my Mama may have thought for a moment that her youngest child was an idiot. She half-yelled at me that in this house, potatoes were food, not toys. We didn't have enough money to play with food! Food was for eating, not playing! I never asked her for food to play with after that. When my oldest sister Margit shared one of her memories with me years later, it made more sense. She said that once Mama had thrown her hands up in the air and told her, "I'm tired of this. You see if you can figure out how to feed six people with one potato." I don't think I need to say any more than that for you to understand why she was so upset with me.

The back of the house we lived in had sort of a utility area that was all walled and roofed but held a variety of things, including Mama's washing machine. It did run on electricity, but that was about as fancy as it got. It was barrel-shaped and had a cork on the bottom to drain the wash water, along with a hand-cranked wringer on the top. Mama would put some clothes in the soapy water, wring them out, and put them in a bathtub full of rinse water while she washed more clothes. The washing machine could be seen from the alley at the end of the back yard. One day, a man driving down the alley on a horse-drawn wagon told me to ask my mother if she wanted to sell the machine. Being an obedient child, I did what this adult told me to do. Mama was absolutely furious! She started yelling in Hungarian that it was a very good washing machine and she was not going to sell it to any junk man! I didn't have to translate this into English. The man on the wagon only had to hear her tone to know he needed to go away, and quickly. I doubt that he ever came back to our house again.

There are other fleeting memories, lots of them happening in the kitchen with Mama. Noodle-making day, and cookie baking at Christmastime. I had a very important job. I used a metal thimble to cut holes in the center of half of the circles of dough. When baked, they were put on top of a full circle that had been spread with jam or jelly. My mouth waters at the thought of them! I have shared some memories in other posts, and maybe I will write more about her. I hope these stories remind you of the importance of the little moments in life. Try to remember them and share them with others, because some day they are all that will be left to us.

In honor of my mother, Terez, known in the USA as Theresia Catherina. I barely knew her, but I still love her.

*Recently, I've taken to rereading some of my old blog posts. Over the course of these three years that I've been writing, I've covered a lot of subjects. On the other hand, you could say I have covered only one - life. The inspiration for these posts comes from my life, and my past, present, and future. Every so often I get the urge to write about something and find myself wondering if I have written that post already. That is why I was looking through my list of blog posts. By the way, there are times when I look at the title of a blog that I wrote a couple of years ago and find myself thinking, "What the heck is this one about?" 

In looking at these older bits of writing, I have discovered that my writing style has changed, and I hope perhaps improved. Because of this, I have decided to revisit and rewrite some of my earlier posts from time to time. I hope to make them more enjoyable for both you and for me. What better time and subject to start with on this weekend than mothers? I hope that my work will live up to my wishes, and I hope that you will enjoy the results.

-The Lunatic