My mother would have been 98 today.
She was born Millard Harriet Ford in 1922. In a case of what were they thinking? the Millard came from a contraction of her parents' first names -- MILdred and BernARD. Luckily, she went by Harriette (some time along the way, she added the final T and E; "It's Harriette, with two Ts and an E." Her father died tragically in a gas explosion when she was seven; by that time her mother had another baby. As far as I can tell, her mother was a bit of a scatterbrain. She decided to move herself and the two girls from Massachusetts to Florida. That's when my great-grandmother, Celia, put her foot down, saying that Harriette was staying with her. And so she did, she was raised by Celia who was a retired school teachers and one of the first female members of a town school board in the state -- so learning was of a high value in that household. (It should be noted that Celia was not her actual grandmother; she was a relative who took in Mildred when she was young and raised her -- something that was not uncommon with extended families of that time. Celia was always "Ma" to my mother and to us.}
My mother grew up as a pretty, giggly, and popular girl, but the feeling of being deserted by her own mother never left her. After high school she studied nursing but gave it up when she married my father when she was 19. My father worked on a local farm run by an old bachelor and later become a full partner in the farm. My mother moved onto the farm with my father, the bachelor and two maiden aunts. It was not the happiest time for her; there was some isolation and money was tight. Her first child was my sister, Linda, followed by three miscarriages. Then I came along, a sickly infant due to the Rh factor (the reason for the three miscarriages), and was the first baby to live with this factor in the area, due to a lot of blood transfusions. I became healthy and went home. My younger brother, Kenny, was not as fortunate; he was kept in the hospital as the doctors worked to save him until they finally sent him home to die. Spoiler Alert! He didn't and grew up healthy.
Around the same time, my father began building houses in his spare time. eventually growing the business and becoming a leading building contractor in the area. My mother's social world expanded, mixing well with others in the town. My father had a strong, outgoing personality and he and Peg (his nickname for her -- "Peg o' My Heart") made a great combination.
Through it all, my mother remained bothered by her mother's desertion. She was timid and afraid to speak her mind, bowed to the will of others (especially doctors and lawyers), more willing to follow than to lead. She could be a snob. She was afraid to drive and only got her license the day before she turned 36. Still she was a good mother, kind at heart, and a mother figure to many of their younger friends.
She was also a bit of a hypochondriac, with good reason. She had a bout of cancer when we were young. For a while she shuffled along, causing my brother to name her "Scoots" -- a name that followed her until the day she died.
She was 58 when my father died from a horrifying accident. She went into a shell for a while and only got out of it when she started dating a widower friend. They spent over twenty years together.
A few weeks before she died, she had my father's leather chair recovered in some godawful color called sea foam. She was so proud of that. The chair is now with my daughter Jessie.
My mother had a hard life. She also had a good life, thanks to my father. He adored her and made her both proud and happy. As kids, we were basically ignorant of the hard times and just a little less ignorant of the good times -- kids live in their own world, not their parents' world. As we got older. we became more aware of her painful past, but that never held a candle to her feelings for us. She was a good mother, loved us and was proud of her kids, and allowed us to grow up as independent people and thinkers.
Two other things come to mind: She had a great voice and was a pretty good piano player.
And at her funeral, her gentleman friend's son-in-law, a Baptist minister, was scheduled to speak for just a few minutes. The sonuvabitch railed on for over half an hour with a hellfire and brimstone sermon that had little to nothing to do with my mother. I'll never forgive the miserable bastard for that.
My mother was a good person who worked hard to overcome the tragedies of her childhood. As with many of us, she did the very best she could. I'm proud of her and I miss her.
Happy birthday, Scoots!