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  • Writer's pictureRhaine Della Bosca

Ode to My Mom on Her Birthday

Memories can be like buried treasure. The longer it's been tucked away, the more valuable it becomes.

Some musings and memories from the past and an Ode to my Mom on her Birthday. Both she and John are gone now. She would have been 89.

I remember when my father went away. I was maybe 10. It was more like he disappeared and didn’t come back. It’s kind of foggy now, thinking back. But what I do remember how hard it was on my mother to be a single Mom. It was just the 3 of us; my mother, my little sister and I. I remember Mom took a job that was far away. She got up in the middle of the night and car-pooled with two other women who worked at the same place. I remember she bought a tear gas gun for protection. She let me see it once. I thought it looked like a dime store play gun made of heavy plastic but I had never seen a real gun before. But I still thought she was brave. A superhero.

I remember when she started dating John, the man who lived a couple of trailers over. And then one day she told my sister and I that they were getting married, and we would live with him and his 3 boys in his bigger, newer trailer.

I remember the day we became a big family of 7 from a small family of 3 and how it felt to live in a trailer that was made for four.

I remember we were almost like the Brady Bunch except the baby didn’t have a sibling his age. I remember they talked about adopting so it would be an even 2, 2, 2 of kids and that the ages would match. But it didn’t happen.

I remember the creative, ingenious ways Mom and John thought about our new life. It made our crammed existence more like an adventure. I remember John building a snack bar at the side of the kitchen beneath the small, slatted windows so we could be in the same room to have a meal. I remember the boys complaining that they had to sit at the snack bar instead at of the table with Mom John and the baby. New rule: Girls and Boys would rotate each week between the table and snack bar. Which ever set (boys or girls) were at the table, they also scraped plates and loaded the dishwasher. The other set, whoever was at the snack bar, would unload the dishwasher.

I remember my sister and I sleeping on the pull out sofa in the living room. The boys were in the back bedroom on bunkbeds and Mom and John were in the second bedroom.

I remember Mom saying it was a lot of laundry – to wash cloths for 7 people. She came up with the idea of embroidering each kid’s initials on a towel. Rule: the towel with our initials was the one we used – always. Towels were washed once a week.

I remember Mom and John realizing with so many kids and such tight living quarters, that we needed individual spaces to call our own, to cultivate and nurture our individuality. These spaces were called “cubby holes” which made it magical. What it amounted to were cabinets sacrificed for the wellbeing of the kids. Rule: A cubby hole was one’s own personal space. No one else had permission to get in the other’s cubby hole.

The baby’s cubby hole was in the kitchen. It was the bottom most cabinet under the oven. A space of 2’ x 2’ x 3’ deep - that’s where all his toys were kept. He was so small and usually on or near the ground, it was easy for him to get to it. My sister’s cubby hole was a cabinet under the bathroom sink and the largest cubby hole of the five. It was decided that she had the most stuff: dolls, stuffed animals, papers, keepsakes so it was logical. The 3 remaining cubby holes were cabinets, also in the bathroom, that would have been the normal resting place for linens in an ordinary family – but this was no ordinary family. I bought some Mod-looking contact paper with babysitting money and thought it was pretty rad that I could decorate it and have a place to organize my newly purchased beauty products like Noxzema and Cover Girl makeup.

I remember our large, white, long-hair cat named Puff. We moved 6 times in 5 years across 3 states and Puff always adapted. Even when he was 12 years old and went blind. He still went outside, moved around the neighborhood doing things cats do and would come in at night. Until one day dogs ganged up on him and Puff was no more.

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