While my three brothers, The Sister, and I experienced a magical time for those seven years growing up on Flamingo Street, a big part of that magic-making came from our mom.
It isn’t the fact that we took her for granted — don’t think any of us did that. Mom was just Mom — a constant in all our lives. She was always there to give comfort for when we had booboo’s, appear at our bedside to drive away bad dreams, and cook some of the best food we ever ate. The older we got, the more she did somehow.
Years later in life as I became self-aware enough to see my parents as people, I started to understand Mom was so much more than just a caretaker for us five kids. What she did for our family was both amazing and impossible.
While living on Flamingo, none of us kids really had any idea about all she did and how difficult and taxing it must’ve been on her. By taking care of our two granddaughters, Little One and Sweet Caroline, since they were born, the veil of ignorance has been lifted, allowing me the rare opportunity to look into the life of being Mom and ask the question, “How in the world did she do that?”
Before disposable diapers, there was our mom. When Twin Brother Mark and I came around, Mom was already taking care of our two older brothers and The Sister. She now had five kids, three still in cloth diapers — amounting to about 40 diaper changes a day. That alone would be a full-time job for anyone. I have many memories of our time spent on Flamingo, but diaper changes aren’t one of them. But yet, they were done.
Mom had balance. One of my first memories of Mom was when I was injured riding a cardboard box down the basement steps with Mark. We crashed into the wall upon reaching the bottom step. Our wailing summoned Mom from the kitchen, and she immediately rendered aid, comfort and just a little scolding.
When Dad was around and any of us kids were injured, things went in a much different order. After making sure there were no broken bones, he went straight to scolding and then lectured us on how expensive it was to replace whatever we’d just broken or the cost of constantly patching holes we wore in the knees of our blue jeans.
Hugs from Dad were few and far between, but hugs from Mom, even with five kids vying for her attention, were always warm and endless. A Mom hug made us feel better and let us know that everything was going to be all right.
Mom helped Dad build a business that paid for all our needs and eventually sent us all to college. With Mom’s guidance, they amassed a small fortune. She was the rudder to his boat, guiding him through the troubled waters of life and business. Many years after her passing, without her guidance, I witnessed him lose almost all of it.
In all my life, I only saw Mom cry twice. The first was when Older Brother Richard died. That day us four kids were the ones giving hugs to her and trying to make her feel better. Still, in all of her grief, always thinking of others first, she made time to sit with each of us that night until we drifted off to sleep.
The second time, I was carrying her cradled in my arms down the steps to the waiting ambulance. Cancer had ravaged her and she could no longer speak. She looked up at me as a single tear leaked from gray eyes that would soon close for the last time. It was her last hug to her baby boy telling me that everything was going to be all right. That was 38 years ago and it seems just like yesterday.
This Mother’s Day give your Mom a hug and don’t let go. Later in life, if you have children and possibly grandchildren, you will understand. You can never give her enough hugs to say thank you for helping you become you.
I would give anything to give one last hug to mine and say, “Thank you for everything. Come, meet your great granddaughters, I’ve told them all about you.”
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]