This weekend marks the 11th anniversary of my Mother’s death. She was a gentle soul with a will of iron, and she passed over in a gentle way- in her sleep. Her family was her life, and her life was a good one. I left Detroit when I was 28, and so my life was not as intertwined as my siblings. I think they struggle more often than I, since they live in the setting that she inhabited. My great grief has given way to just missing her, and an appreciation for her many gifts. When I was in Detroit for my brother’s surgery, I stayed at my sister, Marie’s house. This is the house I grew up in. So many times I was caught thinking of my childhood- fighting with my sister over closet space, tip-toeing past my parent’s door after curfew (unsuccessfully), and getting dressed while crouching so Philip Lowman would not get a quick view of my flat chest. Every Sunday the Joliat kids would march into Shrine Church for 7:30 Mass, and God help us if we had a bad moment. Dad ushered, conveniently abandoning the troops. Mom became the Mistress of the chilly look. One giggle meant we would be stuck doing some extra chores. We were the model of decorum.
Marie has followed one of Mom’s pastimes: she is taking adult education classes. (There must be something in the air at the house) She has tackled floral arranging, and her house is made beautiful with her skills. Mom did cake decoration, decoupage, glass cutting, crewel embroidery, and millinery. All of us kids rued the hat classes: Mom was in a Cold War with Mrs. O’Hara over who could have the most eye catching toppers. The yellow beehive of nylon net with a smattering of chenille bees would have taken the cake- but Mrs. O’Hara countered with giant feathers. Mom could not convince herself to wear birds, and so that era closed. The Vatican helped by eliminating the edict that women cover their heads in church. All of us were glad, because Mom’s hats were giggle producing, and as I stated, giggles resulted in a world of hurt.