Diana Edwards writes from Charlottesville, Virginia.
Ten years ago this month I lost my mother and yet the fragrance of her attar of roses is as real now as though she’d left moments ago. ‘Your father bought this for me,’ she would say as she dabbed a drop behind each ear. The thought of that rose scented oil has the power to conjure up a myriad of memories that represent Mother.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I smile as I remember the sheer number of flowered handkerchiefs from the local Five & Dime Mother had stashed away; and I wonder how she managed to use up all those small bottles of Trushay hand lotion that accompanied our meager Mother’s Day gifts. Year after year she would delight us with a look of utter surprise at being presented with a hand-picked bouquet of violets. Spring still finds me looking for violets. Her favorite flowers were reflected in her wardrobe of fuchsias and pinks.
Mother spent less time in the kitchen than most women raising children in the 1950s, but she could plan an elegant event right down to the flowers for the table, and she always arranged them herself. While honing culinary skills didn’t appeal to her, she did master a few menu items that are still favorites of mine. Date squares are one. Mother called them Date squates (rhymes with plates) because she loved being a little bit exotic in her language and style. We were always arriving ‘entourage’; her grandchildren knew her as Grandmamma. If my father’s perspective on something seemed pessimistic, she would predictably declare ‘For Heaven’s sake, stop hanging crepe!’
Optimism was her strong suit. She learned from her mistakes, and didn’t spend a lot of time looking back. She believed in creating opportunities, and she was not easily intimidated. Since my father was an antiquarian bookseller, mother traded books for the school’s library in exchange for our tuition at boarding school. She taught us that education was lifelong learning; one of her pet directives was ‘Pay attention!’ She travelled to Europe, South America and the Caribbean, sometimes making those trips alone, and always returning with keepsakes or gifts that spoke of the countries she’d visited.
She loved silver and antiques and she turned her passion for both into a source of income as an antique dealer when she was widowed in her fifties. If she was afraid of striking out on her own, she didn’t tell us.
Mother was courageous in life and love. She buried one daughter and guided another through a life tormented with the ravages of schizophrenia. At the age of eighty, after nearly fifty years in the northeast, she packed up and moved to Virginia – away from the long New England winters. She was sharp right up to the end, and she outlived three husbands before leaving quietly at the age of ninety-six. Carpe diem! That was my mother. As a young woman from Iowa, Mother crafted a full and interesting life by finding a perfect blend of joie de vivre and Yankee ingenuity.