Sunday, April 06, 2008

Two stories about my mother

I heard these for the first time today.

My mother grew up in Los Angeles. When she was young, the valley was one big orchard, and she walked through the orange trees to go to school. One day, as she was on her way, she saw an elephant. Since that made no sense to her at all, she just kept on going and forgot all about it. Until she got home, and saw the newspaper article about the elephant that had walked away from the circus that morning.

Years later she was telling this story to some friends, and no one could believe she could just forget about having seen an elephant.

Another time, when she was eight or nine, the merchants in her community were having a coloring contest, similar to the kind you still see in grocery stores today. They distributed black and white drawings for kids to color in, using two colors only. The lucky kids who happened to choose the correct colors for the week would win a prize. Apparently they had prizes for all the winners, and my mom remembers being in a movie theater where it was down to her and a boy to choose from the last two prizes. The prizes? A doll and a croquet set. They gave my mom first choice, and she went for the croquet set. If that seems unremarkable to you, remember that this was the 1930s, and certain gender roles were fairly rigidly enforced. Wouldn't she really rather have the nice doll? No. No amount of argumentation could shake her from her choice, either, and eventually she went home with the croquet set.

This last story illustrates a few things for me. First of all, what an extremely hard-headed family we are. I think it takes a fair amount of guts for a young child to stick to an unpopular choice in the face of opposition from adults. (I swear though, this family breeds children who stand up to adults like it was nothing. I could tell you stories about my cousins ....)

Secondly, what a non-traditional kind of mom I really have. I've often listened to women talk about the kind of pressure they get from their moms to look a certain way, or to keep their house to a certain standard, and sometimes I just feel like I'm from Mars or something, because I got none of that at all. What I remember instead are the times she made little alligators and turtles out of bread dough that puffed up so beautifully when she baked them, and the cupcakes with green coconut grass that had jelly bean easter eggs hidden in them that she made every year at Easter. And I remember a mom who was able to let us know she loved us. I've never felt unwanted or unappreciated. I know I'm often critical about things in my upbringing I think should have been handled differently, but when I look back on it now, I realize how truly lucky I have always been.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Lesley said...

Isn't fun when you learn something new about someone you've known your entire life!

9:42 AM  
Blogger Vivian said...

What a loving story. On the other hand, Sarah, I constantly wonder what else we don't know about YOU. There must be many more "elephant" stories that you thought nothing of, but would make others gasp.

1:35 PM  
Blogger zelda said...

I love the elephant story. LOVE.

2:12 PM  

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