Monday, May 7, 2012

Lilacs and Blueberry Pie

Originally titled "Sidekick," this post was published on my blog last Mother's Day.

The little girl lying face up on the living room floor is me. My mother is lying beside me and we are both pedaling away on invisible bicycle wheels.The radio is on and I must like the song cause I'm smiling. Later on we'll bake blueberry pies; my mother's normal size and mine a miniature. When Aunt Winnie, Uncle Fred, and their son visit, I beat up my cousin Donnie because he called my mother "fat." Afterwards, my mother kept asking, "Why? Why were you hitting Donnie?" I wouldn't tell and was sent to my room.

Snow days my brother Bobby and I skated on Alley Pond in Queens, New York, and came home to hot chocolate with marshmallows, and our mother rubbing our feet to warm them. Spring and summer days were spent in our own private recreational park designed by my father -- basketball court, swing set, and croquet field. As Bobby was older than me, he started school before I did. This was the time my mother and I were sidekicks of a stellar sort, listening to radio shows, playing goofy kid games, baking, shopping together. Sad things happen later on but they are eclipsed by these pastel memories of long ago. Once school started for me, Bobby and I used to jump into my parents' bed after my father left for the office and plead to stay home. It was raining or snowing and couldn't we "Please, please stay home!" We didn't have to beg long; my mother was a pushover when it came to being a truant accomplice. She wrote fraudulent notes to my teacher the next day that always said exactly the same thing, "Dear Sister, Please forgive Barbara's absence from school yesterday. She was not feeling well. Sincerely, Irene M. Smith." Once, she forgot to date a note and the nun forgot to ask for it. I kept this backup note as a secret treasure in case I needed it one day though where I was planning on going on my own at seven years old I can't exactly say.

The youngest of three sisters, Irene Monica Smith, a true New Yorker, was born in a house on East 77th Street in Manhattan. Her father Henry Brautigan was of German descent and somewhat stern. Anna Langan, her mother, was gentle and dear in a way Irish women often are.

My mother sang at family gatherings in her beautiful, confident voice. "Melancholy Baby," "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling," and "My Buddy" were special favorites. I think of her whenever I see lilacs because she loved them so or oddly, when folding laundry. "Barbara, you fold those towels so perfectly." And I hear her teasing me when I took a long time to slice a piece of cake because I always wanted everyone's share so same and fair. "Honey, just cut the cake, people can always come back for more." These are the memories that echo this Mother's Day, gentle and comforting, and like daughters everywhere, I know I can always come back for more.

Happy Mother's Day!


  1. Oh, Barbara, what honor you pay to your mother, and your mother-daughter relationship in this blog entry. It is beautiful. It brought a smile to my face (especially when you beat up your cousin for saying your mother was fat! and when you saved the "back up" sick-note, just in case).
    And, at the end, your lovely, loving writing brought tears. Thank you for introducing me to your mother with such tender and touching words!

    1. Thank you, Sunny. You are always so generous. It really is amazing how these long ago memories stay the course. I can still see me tucking that child size blueberry pie in the oven.