Mother’s Day was beautiful here in Oregon. The kind of day where my mom and I would have headed out for brunch, then headed for the coast, hit the iris gardens, or wandered through a nursery. But my mom is gone, so I had brunch with a friend instead.
Standing in the buffet line, I happened to see a woman at a table in the grip of helpless laughter. She was shaking all over and was holding her hand over her mouth as if her shout of laughter would rock the restaurant. I found myself smiling just to see her. And I remembered my mom, her laughter, her joy in laughing, and her joy in making others laugh.
Both my parents loved to laugh. Dad was great with stories and jokes. He knew a million of ‘em. But mom was a clown. She loved being silly. I don’t think I ever saw her embarrassed. One Halloween night, when I was in high school, we decided—she decided—to go trick-or-treating to our neighbors. We put on my dad’s big coats and boots, and pulled stockings over our heads. Looking back, we probably looked very sinister. We thought we looked so dopey, and we had such a hard time walking in dad’s boots, that we were in stitches before we were out the front door. We literally leaned on each other as we stumbled down the street to our good friends, Vivian and Al. We staggered up to their porch, and rang the bell. Mom struck a devil-may-care pose leaning, one hand on hip, against one half of the double doors. This just made us laugh until neither of us could breathe.
Trouble was, when Al opened the door, he opened the half mom was leaning on. She immediately fell over the sill and lay sprawled on their hallway floor. That absolutely did us in. Al had no clue what was going on until I managed to gasp something out and he recognized my voice. It took us both to get mom off the floor, she was still laughing so hard.
Then there was the time we decided to make strawberry jam. We had three recipes. They said to cook and stir for 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and 30 minutes, until it thickened. Well, we cooked and stirred, and cooked and stirred, and nothing thickened. We finally figured we were doing something wrong, and turned off the heat. Almost immediately, the jam hardened until we couldn’t pull the spoon out. When my dad walked in, mom was leaning on one counter and I was leaning on the other, both in helpless gales of laughter, mom gasping, “I’m going to wet my pants.” My father took one look at us and said, “I don’t want to know,” and walked back out. And that sent us off again.
After Mom died, my brother John and I were sorting out things for the estate sale. Like anyone, my mom had things in her kitchen the purpose of which only she knew. At one point, John came to me with something in the palm of his hand. “What is this?” he asked. I stared at it. I hadn’t even the vaguest idea. Before I could say a thing, John said, “Gift with purchase?” I broke up. He broke up. And we could both hear Mom, still laughing with us.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. From both of us.