My Mother’s Day

Waldine Ellen was my mother’s name, although her friends at the middle school lunchroom where she was the cook called her Wally. This was in Key West in the 60’s and 70’s. Years later after she had passed, I found her birth certificate. On it her name was Ellen Waldine born in Key West in 1921. So what happened to Ellen? So where did Waldine come from? I have no idea.

At my mother’s funeral, a lady who I did not know came to me and said she was a childhood friend of my mother. She told me that my grandfather who was a fisherman would have friends and family to a fish stew lunch every Saturday and she used to attend against her grandmother’s expressed admonitions.

My mother told me that when she was a child and playing she fell down and dislocated her arm and was crying and a neighbor man called her over and popped the arm back into place; no hospital, no doctor’s fees. Also she told me that when she was a child they had an outhouse. I told her that that must have been awful. She said it wasn’t so bad, because you never had to clean the bathroom and someone else came around and mucked it out every once in a while. My mother, always the optimist and never a complainer.

My mother barely finished 7th grade. Her mother had died young leaving my mother, the oldest, with two younger sisters and a brother, the youngest. I don’t know how my mother managed to care for everyone, but she did and never talked to me much about it.

She met my father and married him in 1941. He was 17 years her senior and shortly afterward was drafted into the army at age 36. He spent the next three years in Africa and Italy in the Engineering Corps. While he was gone, my mother made pretty good money working at the Navy Yard but spent most of it on her younger siblings. My father on the other hand gambled a lot and had amassed a nice little nest egg. He was not happy with my mother.

My Aunt Nellie lived with us and my mother took care of her until she died in the early fifties. It was then that my mother went to work in the middle school lunchroom, which was directly across from our house. It was hard work for my mother, but she enjoyed the camaraderie, as she was by nature pretty much a loner and did not make friends easily. She worked there for many years.

In spite of my mother barely finishing 7th grade she was an avid reader, reading almost anything she could get her hands on. So she had a pretty good vocabulary, but didn’t know how to properly pronounce the words even though she used them appropriately. It was a great source of amusement for us, and she never minded us correcting her.

My mother was kind and smart, and though not well educated, she was wise. If someone she knew came to our door, she would invite them in and offer refreshment, even if only a cold drink of water, a container of which was always in the icebox, which is what we called the refrigerator back then. My mother was also a very prideful person. At her funeral, her brother told me that it was her only fault. I had never thought of it as a fault. She once told me that she would rather starve to death than use food stamps, so maybe it could be.

My mother and father had a large age difference and came from two different worlds, but as with most of our parents, they did what they had to do. My parents celebrated their Fiftieth anniversary in 1991. Even though he was much older than my mother, he outlived her by five years; and in the forgetfulness of his last years he always asked for her. She was his center.


2 thoughts on “My Mother’s Day”

  1. What a remarkable, strong woman your mother was! I see you in some of your descriptions of her. Thanks for sharing this nice tribute to her.
    Happy Mothers’ Day to you. Please have Pete give you a hug from us!

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