By Kate Prado
I was thirty-one years old when my mother passed away. It was in September and my parents had just celebrated their forty-fifth wedding anniversary.
As a child I would watch mother comb out her long dark hair. She would make a couple of quick twists and place it all into a neat bun held together with a decorated comb. Her eyes were emerald green, always expressing more then she would have spoken, and to hug her was to be wrapped in the sweet smell white gardenias. No wonder my father adored mom so and always called her, "his bride."
The quality I admired the most about mother, was how she always carried both her beauty and intellect as if neither existed. She had worked at the Smithsonian as a young woman and loved to read. Mom had to improvise after becoming a mother of eight though, often times propping one of her books about archeology up on the kitchen counter, as she cooked for her massive family.
She had undergone an operation on her throat before I was born. The removal of a large goiter left her with a very soft voice. For all the men reading this, I hear what you're saying. A beautiful woman who couldn't talk above a whisper would be any man's dream come true, but my mother was a person of few words anyway. As my father later wrote, "Some people, no matter how old they get, never loose their beauty...they merely move it into their hearts." I believe this was for mother.
When I was growing up, the televisions were in big bulky boxes with tiny screens. There were only a few channels and everything was in black and white. At some point each evening my mother would come into the living room, press the little "off" bottom at the front of the TV and announce, "Go get a book and read. You all have had enough television for one night." (Mom was our very own walking remote control.)
Dating was also a challenge with her around. If you made the mistake of taking too long to tell a boyfriend goodnight, while sneaking a last kiss on the front porch, the door would open and out would come mother's arm. Her hushed voice then announced the date was over and a quick jerk to the back of your collar would instantly end the evening. Since my father was the other half of the tag team, it is a wonder any of their six girls ended up married.
I let many years go by before I drifted back in my mind to take stock of the emotions of burying my mother that sunny September afternoon. I kept seeing mom as a lovely butterfly that never had a chance to break forth from the cocoon, spread the fragile painted wings God had given her and soar above the clouds. I was saddened for her dying with her dreams of digging among the pyramids, or pursuing her own passions, but then it hit me what she was all about.
I remembered my father having taken mom and me to lunch a couple of weeks before she became ill and died. Dad asked her what she would do differently if she could live life all over again. She answered him by simply saying, "I wouldn't change any part of my life. I would do all of it the same."
I recall thinking maybe she was only saying this as to not hurt our feelings, but mother was never one to be over emotional. She was a woman grounded by her faith in God and part of this was speaking the truth.
Mom hadn't missed the mark by any means in her own thinking. By her not "soaring" as she could have, she was there for her children. It was her choice and she never complained while doing it.
When the quiet part of me takes over and I go and curl up with a book instead of watching television, I remember my mother. If the melody of an opera surfaces sometimes while I am cleaning my place, I think of mom putting a record on while we all did our chores. For the hundreds of times she quoted Shakespeare when she wanted to get a point across, I can only chuckle. I often thought she was too distant, said too little, but the joke was on me. She had crept softly into my soul, gave me a lifetime of lessons in my thirty-one years of being around her, and I didn't even know it. What a special gift she passed on to both her children and grandchildren.