Friday, April 10, 2009

Today I Understand - I Wish I had Then

Mother & Maven

My Mother came from a privileged family and married into what her Mother considered abject poverty. I don't know if I could have lived my Mother's life. Moving from the excitement of Carnegie Hall to wringing the necks of chickens in a coop in nowhere Missouri.

Both she and my father had a quiet dignity. What they believed, they lived. My Mother and Father did not believe in credit or debt. If you could not pay cash for something then you couldn't afford the thing you wanted.

That belief was tested so many times in my Mother's life. One of the most memorable was an occasion that touches me as a family historian. Our family needed a car. We were dirt poor and certainly not the type of debt risk any car dealer in our area would consider even if my parents would.

I remember my Mother and Father discussing their options late one night at the dining room table. We had little or nothing of value. My Great Grandmother Salter had died and left my Mother a mink coat, a bracelet, and a diamond cocktail ring.

A mink coat had so many applications for use on a farm in rural Missouri. They could certainly rid themselves of that, but for the fact I had cut a large chunk out of the coat to make doll clothes.

The simple bracelet was beautiful, but certainly not worth enough to buy a car. I remember my Mother wearing that bracelet every day of my life. My Father would not consider the bracelet.

So my Mother offered my Father the only other valuable possession she owned, the cocktail ring. The worth of the ring meant nothing to her, but the value of the connection to her Grandmother, to the life she once led, to the woman she once was meant everything. And still she offered the ring. It was their only option.

My Father took the ring to the local car dealer; a very wealthy man with a wife who belonged to the country club and was, by local standards, very social. A trade was made. A car for the ring. The man gave the ring to his wife as a gift. The ring had once belonged to the wife of the Superintendent of Carnegie Hall. The car dealer's wife immediately fell in love with my Great Grandmother's ring and its history.

My Mother never mentioned the ring again. I caught a glimpse of the ring several times as a teenager having become a friend of the car dealer's son. Even then I remember being sad seeing it. I never touched the ring. I never asked to try it on. I should have. I'm certain the car dealer's wife would have obliged.

"It was a fair trade," was the most either of my parents ever said about the ring when asked, until my family got word the car dealer's wife had died. Then my Mother contacted the dealer and asked if she could buy back her Grandmother's ring. He refused. The ring was buried with his wife as she had loved the ring. My Mother gracefully accepted the refusal, but it hurt her and she could not hide the fact.

I now realize that until that moment my Mother had held on to the hope that she would be reunited with her history, her heritage, her Grandmother's ring. Someday. Today, I understand what this sacrifice meant to my Mother.

A life that is worthy of those who came before and those who follow after.
A Life filled with small but courageous acts; filled with love and honor.
A simple life, an ordinary life, A Noble Life.

Smile For The Camera

22 Comments:

Blogger Dorene from Ohio said...

What a beautiful, sad story!

April 10, 2009 at 12:53 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Such a moving and sad story... A noble life, indeed. And beautifully written as always, fM.

April 10, 2009 at 1:05 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Thank you Dorene and Rebecca.

It is a difficult story to bring to memory. My mother had only two pieces of jewelry she wore in her life. The bracelet and a pair of earrings given to her by my Godmother's son.

I have the earrings, the bracelet disappeared shortly before my Mother's death.

Rather than the loss, I prefer to remember her small but courageous act.

-fM

April 10, 2009 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger Becky said...

Heart wrenching. Now, please tell me how to get that lump out of my throat... Beautiful...mother, daughter, and the story.

April 10, 2009 at 2:51 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Thanks Becky. I have no cure for the lump. It's created by life's little sacrifices; the ones every family experiences. We need to honor them. The lump is a good thing.

-fM

April 10, 2009 at 3:03 PM  
Blogger Dorene from Ohio said...

Did your parents ever have happy times?

April 10, 2009 at 4:45 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Dorene:

Try this post on for size. My Ancestors Didn't Raise No Fools.

-fM

April 10, 2009 at 4:54 PM  
Blogger lindalee said...

Your story has brought up thoughts of my own "family" possessions, primarily given to me by my mother. I think the most prized is my grandmother's engagement ring which she gave me for my 50th birthday. I broke my right ring finger a month ago and the ring had to be cut off. It can be repaired, but I miss seeing it on my hand. Unfortunately my finger is too swollen to wear it right now. It is a beautiful link to my mother and her mother. What a loving sacrifice your mother made for your family. I don't know if I could be as noble.

April 10, 2009 at 4:56 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Lindalee:

Trust me, I could not be that noble. I'd put it on the credit card. But then isn't that what got our country into its recent mess?

No credit, no debt; maybe my parents were on to something.

-fM

April 10, 2009 at 5:01 PM  
Blogger TheGeneticGenealogist said...

What a powerful story! Thank you so much for sharing such a personal part of your family history.

April 10, 2009 at 5:51 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Dr. DNA:

Good to hear from you, and thank you for the kind words.

It's in the genes I'm afraid. I have to tell the stories.

-fM

April 10, 2009 at 6:12 PM  
Blogger Debbie said...

A beautiful, touching story!

April 10, 2009 at 9:22 PM  
Blogger Greta Koehl said...

This story is so touching. It reminds me of the time right after my mother died when I had to sort through her things and dispose of them. When I came to her jewelry box, I picked out a few items that I remembered from childhood and gave the rest to my aunt, her sister, who had taken such care of Mom through the years.

April 11, 2009 at 5:38 AM  
Blogger Family Curator said...

Thank you fM, for sharing your memory and reminding us of the strong connection between "things" and people. It is a powerful and touching story.

April 11, 2009 at 9:02 AM  
Blogger Nikki-ann said...

A very toughing story, FM, thank you for sharing it with us.

April 12, 2009 at 4:14 AM  
Blogger Midge Frazel said...

I am very taken with the lovely mother-daughter photo.

April 12, 2009 at 4:25 AM  
Blogger Larry Lehmer said...

Love it, love it, love it. Thank you.

April 14, 2009 at 4:54 AM  
Blogger Brett Payne said...

What a wonderful story, fM. I am more convinced than ever that you create these Smile Carnival themes specifically around your own family photographs! Thank you.

April 16, 2009 at 3:25 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Debbie, Greta, Nikki-ann:

Thank you. And thank you to everyone who didn't mention I cut up a mink coat for doll clothes.

-fM

April 16, 2009 at 3:42 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Denise:

Sometimes when our family is not a close physical presence, things become our touchstones.

-fM

April 16, 2009 at 3:43 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Midge - It's one of my favorite photos.

Larry - As the pro, I'm very pleased you "loved" this story.

-fM

April 16, 2009 at 3:45 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Brett:

I always pick the theme before the photograph. Sort of tricking myself, as I want a fresh look at the word prompt. Honest!

-fM

April 16, 2009 at 3:48 PM  

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